Geoff Heugill: Australians Should Base In U.S. To Prep For 2020 Games

There has been a lot of talk and controversy over potential changes that need to happen within Australian Swimming after their sub-par showing in Rio earlier this month. Sure, the Australians didn’t do terribly – they finished 2nd to the U.S. in medals and tripled their gold medal total from four years ago in London – but it’s still no question that they didn’t perform up to expectations.

Accusations have flown about since the swimming competition ended, with some suggesting smaller changes in team mindset and preparation, and others bigger changes, such as Bill Sweetenham suggesting a full overhaul in team leadership moving forward.

One change that is being suggested by former Olympic medalist Geoff Huegill is that Australians take a serious look at relocating to the United States prior to the next Olympics in Tokyo in order to give them more opportunities to train with and/or race their main competitors.

Huegill mentions in his article on that one of his biggest regrets from his swimming career was not jumping on the opportunity to move to either the United States or Europe to train with some of his main competition in an international training squad.

A main reason Australians may want to consider this option, Huegill explains, is because in Rio it became clear many were under-prepared to deal with the pressures of swimming on the biggest stage.

“Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with living and training here with our Australian coaches. Without doubt, it’s one of the best environments in the world.

But a common theme emerged from our swimmers in Rio: many were under-prepared to deal with the pressure of expectations.

You can’t substitute for experience, especially at the elite level.”

He believes that for athletes to be truly prepared to race the best in the biggest moments, they need to race their competitors as often as possible, whether it be in the NCAA or on the Arena Pro Swim Series.

“My advice to athletes today is that if you truly want to match it with the best in the world, you need to get out there and train with them. Get as much racing as possible with the very best.”

“The experience you would gain from racing in the NCAA system would far surpass the competition here in Australia. And if your worst case scenario was walking away from swimming with a free education at Stanford, Texas, Auburn or Berkeley to name a few, then isn’t that one of the best pathways to life after sport?”.

He goes onto explain that obviously the most difficult part of this decision is in regards to funding, as Australians swimmers are required to compete in certain Swimming Australia competitions over a 12-month period to receive their funding, so if they were to relocate themselves to the U.S. it would be quite costly to travel back and forth for those specific meets. Huegill also recognizes that this need for funds would give an Australian coach a better bargaining position over an athlete in convincing them to say.

He ends his post describing how it ultimately is up to the athlete to learn from past mistakes and do what is necessary to be better next time.

“You cannot change the past, you live it, learn from it and have the power to put better strategies and plans in place to achieve better outcomes next time.

For those athletes who decide it’s time to change things up, my suggestion is to use the next 18 months to put a strong strategy in place that gives you the best opportunity to race more on that international level.

Because the more you race your key competitors, the better placed you will be when it matters most – at Tokyo 2020.”

Read Huegill’s full piece on here.



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7 years ago

Clearly Geoff doesn’t understand that Aussie swimmers can’t just decide to move to USA one year before 2020 Olympics, join an International swim squad and participate in NCAA competition!

Reply to  Shanmac
7 years ago

This is a poorly thought out idea. I hope that it wasn’t compromised by Peruvian marching powder.

7 years ago

In all honesty, whilst Huegill is on the right track with regards to the need for far more high level racing; I feel he’s taken it a couple of steps too far by saying AUS should base themselves in the US for the lead-in to Tokyo. One prime reason; Tokyo is essentially in the same time zone as AUS. Sending squads to train and race there for certain periods over the last 9-12 months certainly but not the last period.

Where he is right is regarding far more high level racing and potentially availing themselves of what is available in the US. SHOULD AUS decide to switch Trials timing to akin to the US, then this should also mean changes… Read more »

7 years ago

Better off changing trials to July…

Sergey v
7 years ago

Huegill is recommending that NCAA racing is the best preparation?

Oh no you didn’t!

What would Bobo Gigi say?

7 years ago

I know of 2 Aussies who came to US to train. One at Michigan and one to ASU. Neither one made the Australian Olympic team. Don’t think your argument holds water. Sorry.

Zika Ziki
Reply to  weirdo
7 years ago

The schedule of NCAA nationals and the Aussie trials makes it difficult to do well in both meets.
Thats why many smaller countries such as NZL give their NCAA based swimmers alternative qualifying routes.

7 years ago

No country has there swimmers race as much as USA. You can do a small amount of prep before the games, but it’s not gonna change much. The mindset is just much different. If conditions are not ideal, the Australians fall apart. Whereas the Americans don’t care what conditions they are swimming in, they are there to race and win no matter what.

7 years ago

Yes he did at Michigan. He just wasn’t allowed to compete. But he did experience it.

Joe Bagodonuts
Reply to  swimmy
7 years ago

Well, he trained with Club Wolverine. Ann Arbor.

H20 Bruin
7 years ago

It’s a good idea if the Aussies think this will make Aussie swimmers more competitive. Higher level of competition is a good thing. It enhances the sport. Plus it fosters international goodwill and understanding. The interaction between the natives and guests will be a net positive. I’m sure US coaches and swimmers can learn from the Aussies also.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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