Late last month we reported how Swimming Australia decided to close its National Training Centre (NTC) Transition Program in Canberra at the end of the 2018 calendar year. The closure came in conjunction with the news that the government-funded Australia Institute of Sports (AIS) was cutting funding for a number of sports it deems as having ‘low Olympic medal-winning chances.’ Those sports included artistic swimming, table tennis and men’s football.
Even though her sport of swimming isn’t among those bodies affected, World Record holder and 3-time Olympian Cate Campbell offered up her criticism of the recent Aussie funding cuts, broadening their impact on already struggling athletes, barely making ends meet as it is.
“We’re not asking [the government] to support the rich and the elite, because very, very few of our Olympic athletes get to be at that level,” C1 told The Sydney Morning Herald this week. “Very few of them get to earn enough so that when they retire they actually have savings in the bank. Most of them will retire with a few dollars.
“Those are the people who need support, because Australia supports our athletes in everything except the dollar aspect. That needs to change if we want sport in this country to continue.”
Sport Australia insists that its proposed funding cuts are required to maximize returns on a constricted national sports budget.
Campbell continued to The Sydney Morning Herald, “I’m not just talking about swimming, I’m talking about all Olympic sports. We’re not asking to fund the high-profile athletes, we’re asking for funding to help get young children involved in sport,” she said.
“We are facing so many health epidemics in Australia. There’s obesity, which sport obviously directly affects. But then there’s mental health, which is on the rise. There are direct links that say involvement in sport and exercise helps and affects your mental health in a positive way.
“But we’re also talking about unity. I feel like this world is so divided at the moment. There are so many people believing in different things but when you get in front of a TV and you’re watching an Australian athlete, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are. Everyone is barracking for that Australian in the green and gold cap. Isn’t unity in this country a good thing? We need to be fostering and supporting that and we need to be recognising and supporting the people who are sacrificing so much of their lives to go and pursue this.”
A successful iconic athlete within her home nation as well as abroad, Campbell clearly stated, “I’m not asking for more money for myself. I’m very lucky that I can make a living out of swimming.
“I’m asking for more money for the swimmer who trains 10 sessions a week and can barely pay rent, who has to choose which days they will have red meat because they can’t afford red meat. I’m asking them to support the female rugby team who are pushing and working for gender equality in sport, which I think will spill out into gender equality in society. I’m asking them to support the young kid who wants to run cross-country at their school and wants to follow Michael Shelley’s example and win a Commonwealth Games gold medal.
“If they don’t do it, at least they tried. At least they went out and had a go. Those are the people we’re asking the government to support.”
Campbell vocalized her opinion on more than just at-home issues this week, as the 26-year-old sprinting ace also tackled the subject of the newly-introduced International Swim League. Speaking to the tense conflict that arose concerning the Energy for Swim Meet, the event that ultimately was cancelled despite feverish negotiating between the Italian Swimming Federation and FINA, C1 stated, “The world governing body is doing a disservice to the very people that they are supposed to advocate for and protect.” (The Daily Telegraph)
“It’s a sad day for sport because we are taking away a great event and losing an opportunity to grow the sport.
“The reality is we have to evolve with the times and a revolutionary idea like this ISL would take swimming into the 21st century so athletes are losing out.”
“I think that FINA have forgotten that they exist because of athletes because there are people who are passionate enough to get up and train 10 sessions a week and work the hours that are required to be an elite athlete,” Campbell said.
“FINA is not supporting us, they are putting swimmers at the bottom of their priority list.
“I can guarantee that just about any athlete in the world would have said that this ISL is a good thing and good opportunity to grow swimming globally but FINA’s worried that it’s going to cut down on their revenue.
“I know this will probably get me a lot of trouble with them but I think you need to stand up to it because there are a lot of people getting very rich from swimming but it’s not the athletes.”
Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell also chimed in from the administrative perspective.
“We feel very much like we’re the meat in the sandwich,” Russell told The Daily Telegraph.
“We’ve discussed the issue with the US, South Africa, the UK and so on, and we’re all very aligned in that we want to give our swimmers the maximum chance of earning some income. No-one wants to stand in the way of that for the swimmers.
“We support our athletes but at the same time we are also a part of FINA so we’re pretty much in the middle.”