Bertrand Says Aussies “Aim To Be No. 1” By 2020

Australians take tremendous pride in the success of their national swimming team; Shane Gould, Dawn Fraser, Susie O’Neill, Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Murray Rose are sporting royalty and household names in the Land Down Under.

John Bertrand AM, President of Swimming Australia, is determined to create a structure that will not only add more names to that list, but also develop Australia into the world’s top swimming nation.

“By 2020, and this is the big vision, we aim to be the No. 1 swimming nation in the world, from the Olympic podium and Paralympic podium through to grassroots,” said Bertrand in his President’s message which was published on the Inside the Games website.

Bertrand pointed to the Americans as the benchmark of excellence in the sport after they collected 16 gold, 6 silver and 9 bronze in London.

“It’s a huge challenge.”

“It is an exciting challenge.”

It certainly is.

The Australians finished seventh in the medals standings in London coming home with 1 gold, 6 silver and 3 bronze, their worst showing since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Recently this is an unfamiliar position for the Australians, but it was not too long ago that they suffered an even bigger disappointment, earning three medals, 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze, at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

It was after those games that the Australian brass brought Don Talbot back to his homeland to change the culture within the sport and to pursue the same goal that Bertrand now has; to become the No. 1 swimming nation in the world. Talbot came in with an uncompromising and unrelenting attitude, he reorganized the structure of the sport and changed expectations.

He wasn’t always popular, but he got results.

In 1992 the Australians finished sixth in the medal standings with 1 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze. By the 2000 Olympics in Sydney they finished in second place to the United States, winning 5 gold, 9 silver and 4 bronze compared to the Americans who collected 14 gold, 8 silver and 11 bronze.

The moment of triumph for the Talbot regime came at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan when the Australians found themselves on top of the medal standings and were the No. 1 swimming nation in the world. In Japan the Australians won 13 gold, 4 silver and 6 bronze. The Chinese finished second with 10 gold, 6 silver and 4 bronze followed by the United States that collected 9 gold, 9 silver and 8 bronze.

Talbot retired after Fukuoka and the team now finds themselves in a similar position to when he took over 25 years ago.

After disappointing results in London and suffering public embarrassment due to the behaviour of not only their athletes out of the water, but the organization’s leadership, the face of Australian swimming has changed dramatically.

Swimming Australia hired Mark Anderson as their CEO, Michael Scott as their High Performance Director and Jacco Verhaeren as their National Team Head Coach. Bertrand himself only took over as the President of Swimming Australia in August of last year.

“Swimming Australia has certainly undergone major change,” said Bertrand, who won Olympic sailing bronze at Montreal 1976, and skippered the Australia II yacht to victory in the 1983 America’s Cup.

“We have undertaken reviews, evaluations, strategic thinking, planning and preparation.”

“As a result we have introduced new personnel, structures, programmes, values and beliefs.”

“We are in the business of creating a high-performance team to lead our sport, in and out of the pool.”

“To achieve the vision of world best in high performance, we have formed a team led by Michael Scott and Jacco Verhaeren.”

“In Jacco’s short time in Australia he has already started to make an impression.”

“He talks about process and the only expectation that he has, and that is, that athletes and coaches do everything they can to ensure the process is right.”

It took 12 years for Talbot to take the Australians to the top of the swimming world, Swimming Australia’s new leadership group looks to match that accomplishment in eight.

As Bertrand stated, “It’s a huge challenge.”



Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

Even if they are not olympics, the creation of mixed relays will probably help them to improve their ranking at world championships.

They will be favourite on the 4×100 (Magnussen-McEvoy-C.Campbell-McKeon/Schlanger/Bronte) and strong contenders in the medley (Seebohm-Sprenger-Coutts-Magnussen for example, only the US can beat this one)

10 years ago

Whats exciting for Australia is that they have crazy depth in the women 100/200 free which should be useful for relays. Likewise with their men 100/200 free. However, unlike the women, the men have not been able to convert their best individual swims into winning free relay medals.

ex. Fraser-Holmes PB 1:45.79
McEvoy 1:46.03
McKeon 1:46.96
Horton split 1:45.84 at 2013 Worlds Junior

So, on paper they should be able to swim sub 7:05 and contend for minor medal, and yet they didn’t even qualify to final last year. Fortunately for Australia, these 200 free swimmers are still relatively young, Holmes (22), McKeon (21), McEvoy (19), Horton (17).

Other good news for Australia is the emergence of… Read more »

10 years ago

I do think 2020 is still too early, unless sudddenly Australia discover two wunderkind in the caliber of Thorpe and Hackett.

Horton seems promising, but he’s not at Thorpe/Hackett level. However, he will be at his peak in 2020, and with Yang who will be in the twilight of his career, Horton has a chance, that is if he continues his trajectory so far.

10 years ago

I think it is not out of the question that by 2020 Mack Horton and/or Jordan Harrison could be at the level of Sun Yang. There are also other promising distance swimmers from other countries: Jaeger (USA), McBroom (USA), Paltrineri (Italy).

Reply to  for33
10 years ago

Jaeger and Mcbroom are older than Yang… Paltriniery is younger.. but he won´t get on Yang level..

Horton may get a edge on 2020 over Yang.. But mostly because of Yang ending his carrer.. cause I don´t see in Horton Someone on the Likes of Salkinov/Perkins/Hacket/Yang

Reply to  Rafael
10 years ago

I agree with your assessment.

Also, I think Horton may prove to be a better 200/400 than 1,500

Reply to  Rafael
10 years ago

Why not? Have you actually seen horton swim or do you just hear about him on swimswam?. His 100,200 free is already exceptionally fast and I’m sure he will keep dropping his 1500. A 1:47:5 200 free is pretty good, and don’t forget he split a 1:45 at junior worlds. I think a decent 1500 is coming

10 years ago

Daria Ustinova.. just remembered her name..

10 years ago

They have huge work to do to even come close to Usa within 2020 . They surely have a big bunch of young talented swimmers coming up ; same can be said for Usa , France , Japan and Brazil . They will need to dig a lot for butterflers , IMers , and long distance swimmers to begin with . Coutts , Sprenger and Maggie can show the way . If only Ian Thorpe could infuse the will to expand the right motivation …and winning mentality , i am sure it would work properly .

10 years ago


Are you thinking of Mia Nielsen?

10 years ago

My prediction is that Australia will finish second behind USA in 2020 Olympics

About Jeff Grace

Jeff Grace

Jeff is a 500 hour registered yoga teacher who holds diplomas in Coaching (Douglas College) and High Performance Coaching (National Coaching Institute - Calgary). He has a background of over 20 years in the coaching profession, where he has used a unique and proven teaching methodology to help many achieve their …

Read More »