The 18-year-old, who is about to sit her HSC at Pymble Ladies’ College, is ditching exams and heading to South America, just four days before the Games kick off on Friday (Saturday morning our time). While everyone else in her event has had time to acclimatise to Rio, train on the ground, get over their jet lag and continue their routine, O’Brien was busy getting back into the swing of things at school.
On Saturday, she was just another teenager in North Sydney. Today, she’s an Olympian.
O’Brien receieved the news in the early hours of Sunday morning. “I was still half asleep, so it took a few minutes to process. But once I realised what was happening, I was obviously so excited and overwhelmed," told the Sydney Morning Herald.
She’s not the only Aussie athletes to receive an incredible 11th hour call-up to compete. The women’s rowing eight heard news mid last week that they had qualified for the games after the IOC ruled the Russian women’s eight ineligible due to the country’s doping scandal.
The inclusion of the womens’ eight pushes Australia’s gender balance in favour of the females for the first time in the history of the game. The balance is now 50.42% in favour of women, with some 212 women and 207 men heading to Rio to compete for Australia.
For the rest of us – the armchair cheer squad – the action kicks off on Saturday morning at about 6AM, when Rio’s opening ceremony begins. It has all the promise of a proper Rio carnival-cum-bacchanal, ahem. From then on, you can find us setting the alarm clock for the middle of the night to watch the dressage heats and the archery finals. Nothing like the Olympics to ignite a fire in the belly.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!