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 FoxSports.com 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 FoxSports.com here.