Silver! Silver! Silver! for Australia

No-one remembers who comes second. If that old sporting maxim is correct, the 2012 Olympians will soon become the forgotten men and women of Australian sport, consigned to the dusty register of also-rans.

It's a harsh judgment on elite athletes who devote their lives to the pursuit of excellence, and rise to the lofty height of second best in the world, but one that often proves true.

Silver medals are raining on the Australian team in London, with long jumper Mitchell Watt the latest in a long line to come so close before finishing a runner-up.

As with so many before him, he came second to an athlete from the host nation, Greg Rutherford, on Saturday night as Great Britain celebrated what is shaping up as its greatest ever Games.

It was a similar story at the Olympic pool, where personal milestones for Alicia Coutts and Leisel Jones could do nothing to hide the grim fact that Australia's swim team turned in its poorest performance for 20 years.

The Australians have grown well used to taking silver at the 2012 Games, so it was no surprise when the women's 100m medley relay team finished second behind the world record-breaking Americans.

Their silver was the fifth medal of the Games for 24-year-old Coutts, equalling the Australian record held by Ian Thorpe and Shane Gould for the most medals at a single Olympics.

It was also the ninth career medal for Jones, equalling Thorpe's record for the most Olympic medals by an Australian.

James Magnussen brought the men's 100m medley team home for bronze in a race which gave American Michael Phelps one final gold medal - his 18th - in the last swim of his career.

But the Australian swimmers finished with just one gold medal, their lowest haul since Barcelona in 1992, and failed to win a single individual title for the first time since Montreal in 1976.

Further seconds and thirds predominated in other sports, too, leaving Australia with one gold, 12 silver and seven bronze at the halfway stage of the Games.

That was good enough only for 19th position, a long way short of the top five target they insist is still within their reach.

As three Australian athletes prepared to leave the Olympic village for disciplinary reasons - swimmers Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk bound for European holidays and rower Josh Booth for home - Erin Densham was maintaining Australia's proud record of winning a medal in every women's triathlon since the sport was introduced at Sydney in 2000.

But she could not stay with the leaders in the final sprint and finished third.

Rower Kim Crow added to her silver medal in the double sculls with bronze in the single sculls, the first time an Australian oarswoman has won a medal in the small-boat event.

But Australia finished the rowing regatta without a gold for the first time since Sydney in 2000.

Drew Ginn's men's four were beaten by defending champions Great Britain in the most-anticipated race of the regatta.

The triple gold medallist broke down in tears later as he gave the strongest indication his 16-year Olympic career is over.

"It takes a toll on your family and it takes a toll on your body," he said.

Australia's tennis campaign ended when Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur lost their mixed-doubles quarter-final to Great Britain pair Andy Murray and Laura Robson 6-3 3-6 10-8.

Former shooting gold medallist Suzy Balogh was in bronze medal position entering the women's trap final but could not reproduce her qualifying form and finished joint fifth.

Brighter news awaits Australia in the sailing regatta at Weymouth on England's south coast, where Tom Slingsby is assured of a silver medal and is on the brink of gold.

"I didn't come here for a silver so until I lock that (final) race away I'm not happy at all," said Slingsby, whose two latest victories mean he needs only to finish seventh or better in Monday's 10-boat final race to secure victory.

The nation's sailors remain on course to win four golds.

World champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen lead the 49er skiff class, world champions Malcolm Page and Mat Belcher were second overall in the men's 470 dinghy competition and Olivia Price is leading the women's match racing competition, with a quarter-final showdown to negotiate next week.