British Swimmer Ellen Gandy told The Australian yesterday that she has decided to change her official sporting allegiance from British to Australian, a move that is game-changing but still not all that surprising.
Gandy was born in the UK, but after a big job opportunity for her father arose in Melbourne, the family moved down under to Australia when she was 16.
Like much of the British team, Gandy was unhappy with her performance at the 2012 Olympics in front of a home crowd in London – where Gandy was raised. After winning a silver medal in the 200 fly at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, she had high hopes for the games, but she failed to even make the semi-finals at the Olympics.
Gandy has had a challenging road, having to travel halfway around the world at inopportune times to compete at British championship and trials meets, so there is in some regard a pragmatic reason for the move. More than that, though, the 21-year old’s comments to The Australian made it sound like this was about feeling at “home”.
“A lot of the time I felt like I was in limbo because I didn’t feel Australian but I didn’t really feel British either because I wasn’t there all the time,” Gandy said in the interview. “It’s not that I don’t like Britain any more, but Australia has always been so supportive of me as a foreign athlete. They have never treated me as an outsider.”
The road to a second Olympics arguably gets easier for Gandy in Australia; though 2011 wasn’t exactly a banner year for them either, with swimmers like Stephanie Rice and two-time World Champion Jessicah Schipper at points in their careers where a 2016 run might not be in the cards. (Though we haven’t seen an official announcement anywhere, Schipper’s has been anticipated, and she is expecting her first child in May). Alicia Coutts is one of the best in the world in the 100, but aside from Schipper, no other Australian was under 58 seconds in 2012 (Gandy ranked 5th in the world in 2012 in that event).
That’s as compared to Britain, where she was in a constant dogfight with Fran Halsall and Jemma Lowe in the 100 fly.
Though unlikely given how deep Australia is in the sprint freestyles, this addition to their national-elite roster gives them a viable medley relay swap of putting Coutts on the freestyle and Gandy on the butterfly. With a full roster, though, that would be an unlikely shift, but is still an option.
In total, Gandy leaves the UK with 6 major international medals: the silver from the 2011 World Championships, a pair of long course European Championship medals, and three medals (two silvers and a bronze) from the 2010 Commonwealth Games, representing England. Gandy currently trains with Nunawading.