Aussie Recap: After Gold-Less Final Night In Rio, Team Set To Regroup

The Australian squad didn’t quite have the redemptive Olympics for which it was hoping, leading the coaching staff to already begin discussions on new tactics moving forward.

After a promising start to the Games in the form of the green and gold women dominating the 4×100 freestyle relay night 1 in a new World Record time, the remainder of the competition saw some of Aussies’ biggest stars underperform.

The fastest 100m freestyler in a textile suit just months ago, Cameron McEvoy, came up short in the event, finishing 6th overall in a time over a second behind his recent personal best. He also missed reaching the 50m freestyle final all together.

Although true to form on their relay legs through the Games, the Campbell sisters, Bronte and Cate, performed well beneath expectations individually, scoring out of the medal mix across both sprint events. Backstroker Emily Seebohm, who carried a streak of international wins in both the 100m and 200m distances headed into Rio, was a non-factor in the 100m final and missed even making the final race in the longer event.

With Mack Horton‘s gold in the 400m freestyle event, Kyle Chalmers‘ outstanding performance in the men’s 100m freestyle race for gold, and Emma McKeon‘s solid bronze in the women’s 200m freestyle behind freestyle aces Katie Ledecky (USA) and Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), not all was doom and gloom.

But, with just 10 medals overall to America’s astounding 33, Swimming Australia is wasting no time pondering changes to be implemented over the next quadrennial. Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren to The Courier Mail, “We will debrief with the team, debrief with the individuals, look at plans and start planning for the next four years.”

“I think most importantly we look at four-year cycle as opposed to trying to be at our very best next year. I think the ship is moving in the right direction but it hasn’t left the harbour yet.”

Among possible ideas on the table is the notion of pre-selecting international teams as opposed to relying on just one selection trials meet.

Says Verhaeren, “There is definitely going to be something in place for that to avoid peak performance too often. If I’ve seen anything, maybe after 2012 the team felt we have a point to prove in 2013, in 2014, in 2015 and here. There has been almost no recovery or time to breathe.”

“We need to start thinking in four-year cycles, especially with the arrived athletes. I can’t reveal the whole thing yet because it’s still on the table. It is all to do with longevity of athletes, not pushing them to the limit every year. You can peak perform every year but the approach can be a little bit different.”

Whatever the changes and new steps to be taken moving forward, Verhaeren is slated to be at the helm. In December, Swimming Australia announced the Dutchman’s contract was extended through the next Olympic cycle ending 2020. That means any changes implemented under Verhaeren’s reign will be tested at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, the 2019 World Championships in South Korea and the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships in 2018, before 2020 Tokyo.

Australia Final Medal Table

Swimming
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Murica
6 years ago

Aussie ‘Role Models’ abandoned this generation. Between the greatest (Thorpe) leaving the sport way to early and being destroyed by Phelps, to Hackett’s antics the past decade, Aussies don’t have much to follow. USA on the other hand, have been shown by those before them time and time again how to make it happen.

Ozswim
6 years ago

TIPS FOR OZZIES

NEED NEW THINKING
Australian swimming’s plan didn’t work, in fact the plans for the last 4 Olympic bids have been below their own KPIs. OzSwim needs to shift its thinking big time.
ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT Vs TEAM DEVELOPMENT One pathway is not the right pathway for every athlete. Australian swimming actively dismisses Australian athletes in NCAA competition as a legitimate pathway. Yet it benefits some atheletes.
GO FOR DEPTH
Australia focuses on a very shallow talent pool. The Australian team does not even include the top two in each event. The Australian team is it (with all resources) everyone else is no-one. That in itself does not keep the swimmers competitive. The team are… Read more »

commonwombat
Reply to  Ozswim
6 years ago

Some truth in that, some exaggerations.

New Thinking; certainly but this has to be completely across the board encompassing the organisation itself & its operations; coach development & mindsets; funding mechanisms as well as the competition aspects.

Athlete Development: swimmers are NOT barred or discouraged from taking the NCAA path. The only thing they need to do to make the team in any given year is to enter and compete at Nationals and meet the selection criteria. They do NOT have to remain affiliated with an AUS club. Should more investigate this option; arguably yes but it depends on the individual’s specific circumstances. ARE the leading US swim colleges interested in recruiting Australians is another question ?

Depth: Some truth… Read more »

25METER_IM
6 years ago

Overall the situation was just weird. Aside from Mack Horton on Day 1, you saw no other Aussies striking a medal from a non-center lane in finals. Even several of the Aussies in Top 3 going into the Finals failed to medal.

I think people may be underestimating the impact of time zone differences. I’m from USA and not making excuses, but just pointing out that a 10-12 hour time difference could truly mess with many athletes far more than a 1-3 hour difference (i.e. USA), even after settling in for 1-2 weeks.

Michael W
6 years ago

So, I look at results for Australia and others and I wonder “what’s a good medal total?”

Australia (with less people than the state of Texas) did considerably better than China (with over a billion more available bodies). When you factor in total population for each country, technically Hungary was the best (7 medals for a population of just over 9 million), Australia 2nd, Denmark 3rd, Sweden 4th, Singapore 5th, the US 6th…and Russia & China pulling up the rear. But it’s not quite that simple, obviously.

So, I pose the question–how do you determine what the realistic expectations are for each country?

Jimswim
6 years ago

I assume the fast q times on other nations are there because the country can’t afford to send all qualified swimmers? Or do they really decide not to take swimmers because they decided it wasn’t ‘worth’ it? I am so glad that the USA has the luxury of both a well funded non government swim system and the knowledge that so many swimmers will be under the FINA A cut in every event.

commonwombat
Reply to  Jimswim
6 years ago

What countries outside of the USA could field two swimmers per international event making the FINA A time ? The only two possible candidates are AUS & CHN …… and even then its a stretch. USA can get away with just taking their top 2 from Trials for the simple reason their depth is such that not only will they be well inside the FINA A time but in most cases be medal contenders. No one else has that depth but rather possess strong niche strengths.

The AUS policy is that of make the AUS QT (in some cases significantly quicker than FINA A but not universally so) and finish 1-2. Do so & you have yourself a plane ticket… Read more »

Jimswim
Reply to  commonwombat
6 years ago

Part of my point is that having a faster q time than the FINA A cut is part of the rest of the worlds problem. most of the European teams and the Aussies would have left Penny, Simone, and Maya at home as to slow or limited the events they swam to eliminate the ‘weaker’ ones. Yet look at what they accomplished…WOW

commonwombat
Reply to  Jimswim
6 years ago

Sorry but no sale. They finished 1-2 in their respective events at THEIR National Trials. Would they finished 1-2 in their respective events at AUS Trials going off their Trials times (not their Rio times). Oleksiak would’ve in the 100fly & as part of the W4X100/prob W4X200 also as would DiRado in both IMs.. Sorry but FINA makes the rule about max 2 per nation per event with FINA, not the national federations.

Different countries have differing levels of depth in various events; whilst its cut-throat in almost all events at US Trials in other countries the quality may be non existant in some events whilst you may have an oversupply in others. Every nation have their own specific… Read more »

Bill G
6 years ago

Some thoughts …

A strong “winning is the only thing” culture in Australian swimming can create additional stress/nerves. From 1968, Canadian swimmer Elaine Tanner expressed the following sentiment: “Usually, before a race, you’re concentrating on strategy, the other swimmers, the race. But at Mexico all I could think about was the twenty million people who were expecting me to win”.

I think Tanner’s quote translates to the Aussies in Rio. While having athletes “happy to be there” is a derisive term (e.g., swim tourists), many Aussie swimmers looked like the last place they wanted to be was behind the blocks in an Olympic final. Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy’s quote comes to mind: “Where else would you rather be than… Read more »

jay ryan
6 years ago

No doubt. Plus, the OT selection for many countries was certainly not “fun”. When you win trials but do not make an arbitrary time standard (much faster than the Olympic A std) it casts a pall over the entire selection meet. I was at USOT and it was upbeat and exciting. The Aussies left both 200 breaststrokers at home, despite the fact that the winner at 2:09 was a young up and coming kid. Nick Schaffer who swims at Wisconsin took second at 2:10. I found the comments from Aussie fans that denigrated up and coming swimmers as “tourists” really off-putting. These breaststrokers could have made semis and gained international experience so they don’t choke next time. The French went… Read more »

commonwombat
Reply to  jay ryan
6 years ago

Whilst I can concur with quite a deal of what you say, there are a few points that I feel may need clarifying:

1. Whilst Matt Wilson probably SHOULD have been taken for the 200brs, selecting him and not others who missed the AUS QT would’ve exposed selectors to a number of appeals from others who missed AUS QT. Sadly he finished 3rd i/o 2nd in 100brs which took that escape hatch out of play. Nick Schafer has been around for a number of years and has never made the QTs; he has never warranted selection

2. Whilst the “tourist” tag can occaisionally be misused, I feel you have misinterpreted what it is describing and to whom. Its should never… Read more »

coacherik
Reply to  commonwombat
6 years ago

Adam Pine at one point was top 5 in the world and made their Olympic Team, hard to say he wasn’t top tier considering how good their flyers were when he was at his best.

commonwombat
Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

Yes, he made 3 Olympic teams, at least one was as a relay alternate. Absolutely no disrespect to him but he was never the no1 in his country in his pet event; at best only 2nd if that. I define “top tier” as being individual medallist at World/Olympic level, not just one high world ranking at one point on the calendar

Ozswim
Reply to  commonwombat
6 years ago

Who is responsible for feeding the media?

commonwombat
6 years ago

It IS heartening that at least they aren’t taking the soft option of sheeting the blame home to the foreigner, Verhaeren, rather than at the major areas of concerns.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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