Australian swimmers have been thrown a financial lifeline with the promise of a minimum war chest of Aus$10m over the next four years from The Georgina Hope Foundation Swimmers Support Scheme.
The Foundation was established after talks between Georgina Hope Foundation Chairman, Gina Rinehart, and Swimming Australia.
Georgina Hope "Gina" Rinehart, 58, is an Australian mining tycoon. She is the heiress of Hancock Prospecting and the daughter of the late Lang Hancock and Hope Margaret Nicholas. Of late, Rinehart became the largest shareholder in Fairfax Media and took a significant share in the Ten Network Holdings. In 2011, both Forbes Asia and Business Review Weekly reported that Rinehart was Australia's wealthiest person. In May 2012, BRW named her as the world's richest woman, her wealth having surpassed that of Christy Walton.
Good move then for Australia as it fights back at a time when China throws down much more money than Australia can afford so that Chinese swimmers can be coached for part of the year by leading Aussie coaches who are not producing the same kind of success among their own domestic charges in world waters.
From January 1 2013, the new Foundation will support "elite and targeted development swimmers, including swimmers with a disability and open water competitors, as they prepare and compete at major national and international championships over the next four years", said the federations.
Rinehart added: “The Georgina Hope Foundation Swimmers Support Scheme will help support high performance pathways for Australian swimmers and is pleased to have been associated with supporting swimming in Australia since 1992."
The detailed structure of the scheme is yet to be determined, an announcement due before the end of the year. “It will be a performance-based tiered structure, and will include support for young up-and-coming swimmers as well. We also intend to increase the number of swimmers who can be supported through the Foundation,” said Swimming Australia President Barclay Nettlefold.
Former world champion and Olympic medallist Daniel Kowalski, Australian Swimming Association General Manager, said the establishment of the Foundation marked an historic day for the sport and aquatic athletes Down Under: "On behalf of all our members, we thank and congratulate Mrs Rinehart for her vision and support. The Foundation will have an enormous positive impact on current, aspiring and future elite swimmers."
Rinehart said: "The Foundation will focus on providing subsistence funding, squad funding, scholarship funding and performance funding. Historically, Australian swimmers have performed exceptionally at Olympic, Paralympic, World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, and the Foundation will ensure they have every opportunity to train and compete at the highest possible level."
Nettlefold said: “The Board of Swimming Australia, the Australian Swimmers Association, its member swimmers, the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association and the wider swimming community, are extremely grateful to have a businesswoman of Mrs Rinehart’s global stature involved in our sport.
"The establishment of the Georgina Hope Foundation Swimmers Support Scheme provides a tremendous incentive and financial support for our swimmers to strive and seek excellence, at a time where the swimming world has lifted the performance bar."
Nettlefold explained that the Foundation will also assist leading Australian coaches and state bodies with additional funds flowing into these key areas of the sport. “As a result of the Foundation, revenue from Swimming Australia’s commercial areas will now be freed up and be able to be directed into further assisting our leading coaches and member state associations,” he said.
Ron McKeon, Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association President, welcomed the funding scheme, saying: “Any initiative that aids elite swimmers in training and preparing to the best of their ability is a real positive for the sport, and I’m sure this Foundation will have some great flow on benefits. As coaches, athletes, state associations, clubs and administrative bodies, an increase in funding and assistance can only help in developing high performing athletes to achieve success on the world stage."