Shortage of gold medals is 'frustrating'
Experts believe Australian coaches are not being looked after while fans think "something has to change".PT4M33S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-23xl4 620 349 August 10, 2012
SUSIE O'Neill has blamed work ethic, Shane Gould says science has been prioritised over people, while John Coates says sports science in Australian swimming has fallen behind.
Don Talbot agrees the swimmers have become complacent, while the coaches feel irrelevant, losing talented charges to a centralised program.
Intriguingly, Kevin Neil, the sport's chief executive, has refused to address publicly what has happened to a sport that for the past three Olympics has challenged the best in the world and provided Australians with a golden start at the Games.
Swimming Australia chairman David Urquart, who is heading home early, admits the team could have had a leadership void in London.
Confirming that he would cut short his Olympics to begin laying the framework for a radical review of swimming, Urquart said: "We had an enormous hit when we lost Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, and Libby Trickett retired."
Urquart also issued a plea to the frustrated parents of Australian swimmers not to air their dirty linen in public. "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't had a few phone calls from them." said Urquart of the disenchantment among the families of a largely despondent Olympic squad. "I've read their comments, but I wish they'd come to me."
Stressing that every senior position in swimming, including Neil's, would be reviewed, Urquart denied reports that the sport faced a massive payout should Neil depart. The CEO has been a largely invisible presence in London and refused to comment after the review was announced on Monday with O'Neill and renowned coach Bill Sweetnam playing key roles.
While the chairman did not deny that Neil had in June had his contract extended five years, Urquart said the deal was not binding.
The review was announced after AOC boss John Coates made it clear that Swimming Australia needed to take action and take it quickly. It also revealed divisions between the sport — funded over the past year by the federal government to the tune of more than $12 million — and the AOC.
The prevailing view outside Swimming Australia's top echelon is that if Nick Green overreacted by deciding to send them home early then the sport itself dropped the ball after the Nick D'Arcy-Kenrick Monk online gun controversy — or rather handballed it to the AOC. Swimming boss Neil was quick to depart when D'Arcy and Monk faced the media in June.
Urquart said the entire D'Arcy affair was "something we didn't need" but denied his sport had ever been part of a deal that would allow the swimmer to represent his country if he promised not to legally challenge the body.
If D'Arcy's selection divided the country, as Coates said, then his presence in London did the same. Several more experienced competitors didn't want him in the village. "I don't want to comment on that," said Urquart.
If there is a concern with the process it is whether O'Neil, for all her blunt commentary on Fox Sports in recent days, and Sweetnam, who remains closely connected professionally to the sport's hierarchy, will take the radical hard-headed approach required.
D'Arcy aside, the camaraderie in the swimming team was mediocre with far less support at the pool from fellow swimmers. As well as less united they were also less disciplined, a failing that requires examination from the top.
Emily Seebohm stopped short of blaming social media for distracting her before a final she was hot favourite to win, but it was interesting that some sports banned Facebook and Twitter. This is not a criticism of Beijing veterans such as Stephanie Rice and Eamon Sullivan but not every talented sportsman or woman is a strong leader.
More demoralising was Thorpe's despondent commentary on the BBC. It is understood that while Swimming Australia justified Thorpe's comeback bid with the exposure he gave the sport out of season, the AOC wanted Thorpe in the team because it identified that the squad lacked strong leaders.