Australia Links Olympians Past & Present Through Inspirational Letters

In an effort to not only motivate its 2016 Olympic Swimming Team, but also further cultivate the connection between past and present, the Australian Swimmers’ Association devised a homegrown, unique initiative. Daniel Kowalski, General Manager of the Australian Swimmers’ Association, worked with his leadership team in recruiting past Australian Olympic swimming stars to write personalized, motivational letters to the 2016 squad set to compete in Rio.

Hand-written letters were devised by such greats as Leisel Jones, Ian Thorpe, Susan O’Neill and Kieren Perkins to provide inspiration, insight and encouragement to the swimmers currently training away at their pre-Rio staging camp in Auburn, Alabama. Each swimmer received his/her personalized letter over the weekend, with Kowalski communicating the idea behind the coordinated gesture via Facetime.

Kowalski recently spoke with SwimSwam about the special event, including how the Australian athletes reacted to the unique experience.

Retta: Can you please tell me more about how the letter-writing initiative came about and who initiated it?

Kowalski: Having been in the role as GM of the Australian Swimmers’ Association since 2010, along with my Executive, we have experienced the rollercoaster our sport has endured, particularly post London. As a sport, collectively we have discussed  in detail the importance of culture, history and tradition and as the body that are here for retired swimmers we wanted to do all we can to better connect the history with the current and future. So, post trials I engaged with our retired swimmers, pairing up today’s team with past Dolphins as best I could and the rest is history.

Retta: Were the past athletes all receptive to the idea and eager to jump on board?

Kowalski: I said the other day, in these situations I am a total fanboy, it is such an honour to get to engage with our past and they were ALL SO receptive, excited, honoured and even nervous. I thought it was awesome how engaged they were, comments like- what if it isn’t long enough, I don’t know what to say, what if they don’t even know who I am. All of this was ironic to me because they have been in this very position As the letters came in I thought we need to do more to make it even more special. ASA President Marieke D’Cruz wrote a welcome to the ‘club’ letter  and Alice Tait (Mills) wrote an amazing poem, all of this went along with the swimmers letter and presented in a special keepsake binder which was adorned with the swimmer’s name and Dolphin number.

Retta: Tell us about the process of giving the letters to the 2016 Olympians. What were the athletes’ reactions/comments/initial responses?

Kowalski: Team psychologist Georgia Ridler, who has worked very closely with the Team leadership group and the ASA in this space organised for me to FaceTime and explain to the team the premise & intent behind the letters. Hand on my heart, it was one of the most precious things from a professional and personal point of view to be able to do on behalf of my Executive and members. These swimmers are so inspiring, such great role models, I am so proud of them. I heard from Team Management how well the letters were received, and from the ASA point of view, we couldn’t be happier or prouder.

Retta: What was your goal with the letters? Do you think this ‘mission’ was accomplished?

Kowalski: As we have a few members on our Executive on the team this year we had to secretly do this and I think all would agree it was a success. In this country, swimming is a sport steeped in history and tradition, the past are who drive and inspire the future generations, so to be able to engage them, on behalf of all those who have come before this team is huge. So based on that it’s definitely a success.

Below is a list of the current Olympian paired with the corresponding athlete of Aussie swimming past who wrote their specific letter:

Jessica Ashwood – Jenny Wetton

Bronte Barratt – Michelle Ford

Georgia Bohl – Samantha Riley

Bronte Campbell – Sarah Ryan

Cate Campbell – Jodie Henry

Tamsin Cook – Hayley Lewis

Alicia Coutts -Tracey Stockwell

Brittany Elmslie – Susan O’Neill

Blair Evans – Dill Macky

Madeline Groves – Felicity Lemke

Belinda Hocking – Leigh Habler

Emma McKeon – Giaan Rooney

Taylor McKeown – Leisel Jones

Keryn McMaster – Lara Carroll

Leah Neale – Jacinta van Lint

Kotuku Ngawati – Alice Tait

Emily Seebohm – Nicole Livingstone

Brianna Throssell – Petria Thomas

Madison Wilson – Lisa Forrest

Matthew Abood – Brett Hawke

Joshua Beaver – Matt Welsh

Kyle Chalmers – Ian Thorpe

Thomas Fraser-Holmes – Robert Bruce

Jacob Hansford – Bill Kirby

Mack Horton – Jodi Rose

Grant Irvine – Martin Roberts

Mitch Larkin – David Theile

Travis Mahoney – Matthew Dunn

Cameron McEvoy – Mark Stockwell

David McKeon – Michael Wenden

Jack McLoughlin – Kieren Perkins

David Morgan – Jon Sieben

Jake Packard – Ryan Mitchell

Joshua Palmer – Brenton Rickard

Daniel Smith – Deane Pieters

James Magnussen – John Devitt

James Roberts – Michael Klim

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Tracy Stockwell, nee Caulkins.

King in da norf

I noticed that.
But who’s Jodi Rose?
Murray Rose’s wife? Daughter?


His wife


Great match up .I consider Mack to be a man of style & poise. Here’ hoping Jodi convinces him to take up ballet .He could lift girls instead of weights.


Awesome idea and some fantastic match ups.

Not In The Know

David Thiele, what a boss.

About Loretta Race

Loretta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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