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Don't be too harsh on young swim team: Coutts

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Lee Gaskin

Australia's Alicia Coutts holds her silver medal during the women's 200m individual medley victory ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Australia's Alicia Coutts holds her silver medal during the women's 200m individual medley victory ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: Reuters

Australia's most successful swimmer at this year's Olympic Games says criticism of the team's performance in London is ''harsh'' as the review into the sport begins.

And Coutts hopes the comprehensive review achieves what it has been set out to accomplish.

The Australian Sports Commission organised the review following the swimming team's disappointing and controversial Olympics Games campaign.

The lowly return of a solitary gold medal in the pool has been overshadowed by allegations of disharmony, bullying and favouritism.

Senior members of the six-man 4x100m freestyle relay squad - comprising Eamon Sullivan, Matt Targett, James Magnussen, James Roberts, Tomasso D'Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy - were reported to have had a bonding session using the sleeping medication Stilnox, which was banned by the Australian Olympic Committee.

There are also allegations some of those swimmers were door-knocking teammates in a late night prank and bullying other members of the team.

Coutts said she wasn't directly affected by what happened, but supported the review's objective of getting to the bottom of the incidents.

''I can't really comment on it because I wasn't someone who was getting phone calls,'' she said.

''Whatever they find, they find, and if they think it needs to be fixed, then fix it.''

Swimming greats Kieren Perkins and Petria Thomas, along with Commonwealth Games representative Tim Ford, are part of the independent review panel which will be chaired by former sports minister Warwick Smith.

The review was implemented after Australia's lowest gold medal return since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Coutts - who became just the third Australian swimmer to win five medals at a single Games and was a part of the victorious women's 4x100m freestyle relay - said expectations were unrealistic on the young team.

''In some aspects, people are being harsh for the reason that at the world championships last year we only had one individual gold medal,'' she said.

''You've got to look at the years leading into it. The US Olympic team had their oldest team ever and we had a lot of young swimmers.

''We're just in that lull at the moment where the young swimmers need to get the experience and it doesn't happen overnight.

''You can't just expect gold medals to appear out of nowhere when we have such young blood on the team.''

Coutts has resumed training at the AIS after taking a well-deserved rest, which included attending the AFL grand final and a holiday in Bali.

It's the 24-year-old's first break since the 2008 Beijing Games, and she conceded the pressure to perform heading into London was so intense that she considered giving the sport away if she didn't clear her head.

''If I didn't have a break I'd probably retire by the end of the year,'' she said.

''Honestly leading into London, the stress - it's not just mentally tough, it's physically tough.

''I even broke down a couple of weeks before and cried to my coach.''

Coutts said it is too early to decide whether she will continue on to the 2016 Olympic Games, with her focus on various state titles across Australia early next year.

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