Aussie Team Named Amid Storm Clouds
Sep 17, 2012 - Craig Lord
After short-course nationals came to a close in Perth, Australia announced a team of 19, 10 of them men, for the FINA World Short-Course Championships, to be staged in Istanbul, Turkey, in December. The team will be the first to race for Australia since an independent inquiry was called into the nation's efforts at London 2012.
The Australian squad:
Meanwhile, Australia continues to debate the way forward after falling shy of expectations Down Under at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Tomorrow evening, ABC1 TV will air Australian Story under the headline "Sink or Swim". The programme is billed as follows:
"... an investigation into allegations the Australian swim team is in disarray. High-profile swimmers speak out about allegations of ill-discipline, juvenile pranks, disunity and low morale. They reveal no one from Swimming Australia has spoken to them since the Olympics and they claim they haven't had a team psychologist since 2009. The swimmers are joined by gymnasts, runners and other Olympians who say that although big sums are going to their organisations, the money isn't trickling down to them individually and they're often forced to rely on their families for financial support. Guests include Libby Trickett and Daniel Kowalski."
Australian coaching of Chinese swimmers contributed to China overtaking Australia as world No2 in swimming, after the USA, in the elite race pool, at London 2012, just 14 years after scandalous scenes as the China swim team attempted to bring enough HGH through customs at Sydney airport to supply the whole squad on its way to the world championships in Perth that year.
If financial matters are highlighted as Australia debates the future, team culture is just as significant. Reporter Todd Balym and the Sunday Mail in Australia tell a tale of members of the Australian swimming team allegedly tormenting a team rookie with physical and verbal bullying at the London Games.
The paper reports that "Leisel Jones confronted two male swimmers over the way they were treating one of the younger men on the team during the staging camp in Manchester and at the Olympic Games in London. Jones reportedly reminded the swimmers they were meant to be team leaders, not a nuisance to other athletes". Jones did not respond to calls from the paper to confirm the story.
The swimmer allegedly being bullied is reported to have been called "fatty" and "chubby" and slapped around the head by older teammates. At one point the bullying became so severe that he responded, leading to an altercation in which T-shirts were torn, the paper reports.
The name of the "victim" is not revealed by the paper because the swimmer "is still denying the incidents took place", says the paper, adding: "But many people close to the team have confirmed the story and the details are expected to emerge during a forthcoming review of the performance of Australia's swimmers in London. The victim's coach confirmed there was an alleged altercation with another swimmer. The swimmers coach confirmed that there had been a problem but that it had been "just a little argy bargy, boys being boys".
But another team member tells the paper: "He was picked on by some of the other boys. He is such a nice kid, too. I'd have to say these boys seemed to have a hand in quite a lot of the negative issues."
The Australian Sports Commission named former federal sports minister Warwick Smith as the chair of an independent review into Australian swimming's setbacks.