China Daily: Swimming Australia Bans Cotterell From Training Foreigners

  35 Braden Keith | September 24th, 2012 | Featured, International, News

Update: Swimming Australia denies China Daily report.

In apparently one of the first conclusions as Swimming Australia tries to rebound from a disappointing Olympic performance, the governing body for aquatics Down Under has banned Denis Cotterell from training foreign athletes, World Record holder Sun Yang told the English-language China Daily.

Cotterell is one of the most heralded distance coaches in history, and began work with Yang in 2010. Since then, Yang has gone on to win a World Championship, China’s first two ever men’s swimming Olympic gold medals, and destroy the World Record in the 1500 free. That’s a mark that previously belonged to another Cotterell prodigy: Grant Hackett. Yang did it with an efficiency of stroke that is unparalleled in the sport, and one that would seem to obviously have been influenced heavily by Cotterell.

Thus far, only the Chinese perspective on the story has been told, and one would imagine that the conversation between Swimming Australia and Cotterell was more intricate, complex, and nuanced than just an outright ban on coaching foreign athletes. No response from Swimming Australia was immediately received on the matter, though it is after business hours there.

This “ban” likely had some caveat about the ability to be a part of Australia’s National program while coaching international athletes, for example, or to receive Swimming Australia subsidies.

In the sense of an outright ban, it would likely result in Australia losing the services of one of their best coaches at a time when their men’s distance group is struggling mightily. That’s because the numbers that have been thrown out for how much China is paying Cotterell to coach Yang are staggering. China Daily reports on rumors that he received a $500,000 bonus for the World Record, and Cotterell has previously said that he makes four-times more per month for training Chinese swimmers than he does with his home club.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, but with that level of success and money on the line, I would predict that Yang and Cotterell will find a way to be together through the next Olympics.

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35 Comments on "China Daily: Swimming Australia Bans Cotterell From Training Foreigners"

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4 years 1 day ago

Cottrell should call their bluff – or they should pay him. Better yet – Come to the States Dennis.

4 years 1 day ago

Agreed. I’m sure there are more than a few promising young US distance guys who’d jump at the chance to train with him.

4 years 1 day ago

That’s messed up.

4 years 1 day ago

Wonder what Bob Bowman will be paid to help British Swimming? Will USA Swimming follow Australia and create a similar rule? Not having Bowman around to coach upcoming US swimmers is problematic. In a way these developments are good for the sport because it puts more pressure on organizations to pay the top coaches more to train the countries top athletes. However when you just create new rules to prevent coaches to make additional income it will mean they will jump ship and go where the money is!

4 years 1 day ago

Bob Bowman isn’t paid to be a coach, but to review their results and provide insight. A consultant, much like The Bobs who helped Initech in the 90s… Look where all his biggest swimmers have gone (retired, college/back to college). Bob Bowman is also not an employee of USA Swimming or the USOC. NBAC might receive funding from USA Swimming, but unless their 990s say otherwise, he is just another club coach. USA Swimming is not in the situation, based on London’s results, in the same place as Australia. Looking at how the young guns stepped up and 4 years left for up and coming male swimmers to “fill in” for those who are retiring, USA Swimming has no need to panic.

4 years 1 day ago

First, points for the Office Space reference.

As for American swimming, that cat was long gone from the bag in, what?, the late 60s/early 70s when foreign athletes started to show up on NCAA rosters. And there’s really not much USAS can do about that since they’re one of many coaching groups that don’t necessarily follow under USAS sanction.

4 years 1 day ago

This would never happen in the states…poor move on AUS but swimming being more of a priority national sport there I can understand why they would take a strong stance. It is definitely a different culture than here so we can’t compare each other on how individual federations delegate their rules and regulations. It is unfortunate that it is occurring.

4 years 1 day ago

As Braden said, we do not know the full story yet. You cannot ban someone from working wherever he wants and whoever he wants. The “ban” is related to not being able to get money from “Australia Swimming” at the same time or any type of benefits their national swimming provides. Solution for this will be that Chinese will give him even more money and the case closed.

4 years 1 day ago

I actually just got back from China visiting some of their best swimming facilities. They are fat with $$, and willing to pay for what they lack. I have a pretty interesting take on all this as I have see it from the inside (of China). The Chinese are already moving beyond Australia for swimming advice. The Australia’s were just the first to start working with them when China opened it’s door.

4 years 1 day ago

It’s just a matter of time before the Chinese are working through the US system. They are already started. Culturally, there are some hurdles to overcome. but they will. Their biggest problem is that because they were “closed” for so long, many of their sheltered swimmers a blocked access to training here in the US because they do not speak English. Sun Yang speaks some, and Ye Shiwen is working on hers (I know, because I have met them both 🙂 ).

If your interested in knowing more feel free to email me:

4 years 1 day ago

Wu Peng has spoken very positively about his time with Club Wolverine, saying that, while it was hard outside the pool at first because he had to figure out how to find his own apartment and deal with transportation, grocery shopping, etc. in a foreign country, he’s been in a great training group in Ann Arbor that has kept him in the sport at a high level when he might have otherwise retired, and encouraged other Chinese swimmers to be open to the idea of training in the US once they got a bit older.

4 years 1 day ago

Yeah, Wu Peng is the model. Other Chinese swimmers will follow. Zhuzhi gen, who is Sun Yang’s coach in China (Zhejiang Provincial Team) is actually going to visit Mike Bottom in Michigan in the next month or so. They are opening up. Wu Peng is actually from the ChenJinglin School in Hangzhou. That was one of the club’s I visited when I was there. Coach Bai (who is a swimming legend in China) coaches there, along with Yang Yu (2004-2008 Silver Medalist). Coach Bai is a trip. A real fun guy.

Bottom line, it’s just a matter of time. Like I said, the biggest barriers between US involvement in training Chinese swimmers is access. That’s changing pretty quickly. I have blogged exstensivley about my experiences in China and if its a topic of interest, you can read about it here:

4 years 1 day ago

Wu Peng is sort of the model for China going forward. He was lucky, because he spoke enough English to get past the NCAA TOFEL requirements. Most Chinese cannot. Coach Zhuzhi gen (who is Sun Yang’s chinese coach and the most prominent Chinese coach) is actually traveling to Michigan to spend some time with Mike Bottom in the next month or so. Wu Peng comes out of the ChenJinglin School in Hangzhou where Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen came from. He was coached by Coach Bia there (who is an absolute trip – a really fun guy). The real obstacle has more to do with access and cultural ignorance. Once overcome, it will open the floodgates (cash and athletes). I have blogged extensively about my experiences in China’s swim community, and if you click on my name, you can read more about it if it is a topic that interests you.

4 years 1 day ago

Out of curiosity…

Are international swimmers allowed to get NCAA athletic scholarships? If so, is there a limit to how many per team? I’m just wondering since funding for state schools comes from taxes paid at the federal and state level. Are these terms different depending on whether the school is public or private?

4 years 1 day ago

An athlete has the right to choose where they want to train. USA athletes have been know to train outside the USA boundaries,

4 years 21 hours ago

A few years ago Dennis’s club Miami won the Australian junior club trophy . Since Denis has concentrated on Chinese swimmers there have been no new juniors at all.

The concept of 40+ Chinese swimmers turning up at once has got to affect Cotterilll’s time with his own swimmers. Sure they don’t excite him but the resulting injuries & sickness -including the unforgiveable anaemia- have ended promising careers.

The big problem for me & maybe for other members of the public was Cotterill being on the Australian Olympic Staff whilst coaching Sun openly in london.

There is nothing to stop Denis moving overseas to coach. I know he is a Europhile so I don’t see USA .

Denis has been a great coach & a wonderful character but time to leave whilst there is still love.

4 years 20 hours ago

@JG, regarding your previous comment, I think Tim was just answering/commenting a question I had about the NCAA policy toward international athletes as well as athletic scholarships.

I think there is nothing wrong for any athlete from any country to train with any coach from any country. My only (slight) hesitance comes when/if athletes are give athletic scholarships by schools partially funded by US tax dollars–however, this may not be a concern if athletic departments are required to self-sufficient, as Braden mentioned. (Please don’t lash out at this comment…not meant to incite anger from either side…)

While the coach talent certainly plays a role in providing the best training, it is still up to the individual athlete to put in the hard work to achieve successful results. Better world-wide talent only motivates others to work harder…which is better for the swimming world overall. Besides, it was Denis himself who spoke in an NBC video about how other sports in both Australia and the world import/outsource coaches, like Chinese diving coaches.

This hasn’t been confirmed yet, so we don’t really know what’s going on…though I read somewhere that this was denied by another member of the Chinese team, who also said he spoke to Denis. We’ll just have to wait and see…

4 years 20 hours ago

You have a problem with him Coaching Sun while being on the Australian Staff? Do you have a problem with Salo being on USA Staff and openly coaching a bunch of foreign athletes? Or Greg Troy? Or Teri McKeever? Or Dave Marsh?

If we didn’t allow our USA Olympic Staff coaching foreigners in the Olympics, we would have sent just Eddie Reese and Todd Schmitz over there to handle things.

4 years 20 hours ago

Yes I did have a problem watching Salo openly cheer for Ous while USA athletes were in the same heat. Quietly cheering to oneself is one thing, openly cheering, waving arms, whistling while on USA staff in unprofessional.

4 years 18 hours ago

I’m sure I’m walking into a trap, but how do you know this? You in London and see Salo NOT cheer for the US milers. I’ll tell right now, if some I had been coaching for a few years was swimming in the OLYMPIC FINAL, regardless of country of origin, I’d have hard time keeping my mouth shut.

4 years 8 hours ago

Yes I was. I thought it was unprofessional while on US staff. Catherine could cheer all she wanted to.

4 years 15 hours ago

On the Australian Olympic staff during the Games -yes.

Back home within his arrangement with the local council & ratepayers -no.

4 years 18 hours ago

I understand the move by Swimming Australia, but I think this will just harm themselves in the end. At the end of the day they can’t simply treat Denis as a tool to churn out swimmers – he is a great coach yes but he also needs to survive financially. Without being attached to university departments and relying on Swimming Australia funding equals ridiculously low pay for someone of his calibre, and the Chinese are simply doing what they do best: spotting a market and buying in.

By turning its back on Denis and possibly others over this issue is just going to cause a lot of bad feeling, which Swimming Australia can’t really afford right now, what with the hugely disappointing results at the Olympics. I understand that the poor results are what have sparked this move but this is definitely not the way to be patching things up. If Australia paid Denis more I’m sure he would love to put time and effort back into Australians – who should also treasure the opportunity to train alongside people like Sun Yang. Might be a bit less individual attention but the programmes would still be his and with more money he could definitely hire extra staff on deck to help out.

Also have to add that I totally agree with Tim Dubois here. The head coach of my club in HK used to coach Sun Yang as a little kid, not to mention many other Chinese team members. Every time he goes back up to meet with the Chinese Swimming Federation, there’s more money and willingness to get absolutely the best equipment, facilities and training for their athletes. If a row really did spark between Denis and Swimming AUS, I wouldn’t put it past the Chinese paying him to completely relocate to China on a permanent visa.

4 years 17 hours ago

There is already an America (Chris Martin) working as a coach for the Shanghai Provincial Team. I met him on one of my trips there. There is a British National Team. Each province is responsible for fielding their best team and they each go about it in the way they see fit. The more success you have, the more $$ you get from Beijing. Zhejiang Province is where the best swimmers are coming out China right now.

4 years 16 hours ago

Again I am right. Nowhere did I criticize Denis , nor did I believe Swimming Australia has prevented his coaching.

The fact is Denis coaches 2 swimmers on the national team which imo did not warrant a spot for him on staff. He admitted he was hoping to sneak over to coach Sun during London.

The cameras were on him during & after Sun’s race & most of the team looked happy. But it is not up to them . It is not unnoticed that Denis’s 2 Australian swimmers performed mediocre -as have all his swimmers since Pan Pacs 2010.

I am a long term distance fan & am not ignorant of the challenges but I struggle with his swimmers turning up at International comps with anaemia. Something is not right – blood tests are almost free within walking distance of the pool.

Regarding Chinese diving coaches -yes I have met some. Some have fitted in better than others but Australia offers them citizenship . They are not seen as commodities. Ditto Gymnastics . Ditto ping pong.

There is friendship in international sports & there is also decorum. If the swimmers are going to get hit for poor behaviour so should Denis.

4 years 13 hours ago

I have a hard time believing Chinese swimmers can enroll and train in NCAA schools. They simply don’t have the required English proficiency. And worse than, they don’t have basic serviceable English. Case in point: Sun Yang jumped into the pool in the 1500m free final in London when the starter said “please stand back”. Maybe he was too nervous, or maybe he just didn’t understand what was said. He was the only one that jumped, so maybe he was the only one who didn’t understand it. Academic work is even harder for them. I don’t see it happening.

BTW, which foreign swimmers trained in US won medals in London?

4 years 7 hours ago

Um, the 2012 NCAA women’s platform diving champion, Chen Ni came up through the Chinese sporting machine and, after getting a taste of America at an international juniors competition, made her way to IUPUI a few years later despite limited English proficiency at he time. She’s now working her way to a master’s degree here and has also gained US citizenship.

4 years 4 hours ago

Chinese diving is incredibly deep and competitive. Many talented divers can’t make the roster of national team. So they go elsewhere. So is women’s weightlifting. One Chinese girl won gold for Kazakstan in London:-) But swimming is a totally different story. Elite swimmers are a rare commodity and heavily pampered. Reward for an Olympic swimming gold is way above those from other “minor sports”. I doubt world-class Chinese swimmers would choose that route.


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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