Swimming Australia has revealed three new names to join their independent Swimming Review Panel that is intended to dig into what the causes for Australia’s ominous lack of gold in the pool at the Olympics. Much like we saw in the British panel (read all about Britain’s panel both here and here) Australia has called upon a legendary distance swimmer to help fill out their group of masterminds. Unlike Britain, there will be a female influence on this panel.
The panel is being chaired by Australian Sports Minister Warwick Smith.
Joining Australian Institute of Sport Director Matt Favier, previously announced, will be Kieren Perkins, Petria Thomas, and Tim Ford.
Perkins’ appointment seems appropriate; the 1992 and 1996 1500 Olympic gold medalist specialized in the distance freestyles (he also took silver in the 1500 in 2000, plus another in 1992 in the 400). That’s an event where Australia has been dominant for decades, but in 2012 had to rely on a last-minute invite from a provisional B-time to even qualify a swimmer.
Thomas did her damage at the 2004 Olympics in Athens with three gold medals, and between that year and the 2000 Games before it were two of Australia’s most successful in recent times. In 2004, she was the Olympic gold medalist in the 100 fly individually, as well as the 400 free relay and 400 medley relays. Those specialties are areas where the Australians have remained very strong through the last quadrennial – including again winning the 400 free relay.
The appointment of a woman seems like a no-brainer decision, though it was one that British Swimming skipped (though Rebecca Adlington was shocked that she was excluded). Given the examination of things like team culture, logic would dictate the use of valuable advice from a woman who had been a part of the green years of the sport.
Ford was never an Olympian, but was a Commonwealth Games swimmer, but now specializes in leadership consulting. He holds an MBA from Harvard and will surely be able to contribute in the more administrative aspects of the review, including things like “management of resources” and “risk management”.
According to Swimming Australia, other topics under the jurisdiction of the review includes strategic planning, the sport’s ability to respond to changes, talent identification and development programs, competition structure, coaching support, and team culture. The latter of these should be especially intriguing given what happened in the leadup to the Games (gun-gate, sleeping pills) and what has happened since (the fury of the Australian media, accusations of a lack of focus by the men’s team).
The panel has assured confidentiality to any stakeholders who want to have input on the panel, which will allow coaches and athletes to submit their opinions without fear of reprisal. The review is expected to be completed by early 2013.