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Australia is obsessed with sport. It's a country that believes - in the words of one popular comic duo - that too much sport is barely enough.

Take football, for example, which is represented by not one but at least four codes: soccer, rugby union, rugby league and our very own 'Aussie rules'.

We've hosted the summer Olympic Games twice - in 1956 in Melbourne and in 2000 in Sydney - and cling to a record that sees us regularly in the top ten countries in the overall Olympic medal tally each games, despite being below 50th in world rankings in population size.

So, in a nation where sports people are elevated almost to demi-gods, it's not surprising that they are also a popular subject for Australia's favourite portrait competition - the Archibald Prize - which is held annually at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney.

These portraits must have been painted in the 12 months leading up to the competition, and must be painted from life, which means the person who is the subject must have had at least one 'sitting' with the artist.

First awarded in 1921, the prize was established by journalist and Bulletin magazine founder JF Archibald (1856-1919), with the aim of fostering portraiture, supporting artists and perpetuating the memory of great Australians.

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