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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But you’re Australians…


Yes I know. I have strong belief that people should train in the country that they represent. I don’t think the should train in a country and then represent another country. It’s like saying ” I got good at my sport because of your facilities and trainers and etc but now I will try to beat you”.


I think we should just do away with international travel altogether. It’seems 2016, no need to leave your country anymore… we can have the Virtual Olympics… just like the old Postal Meets. /snark


Dang, ur cool.

Gary P

“Postal Meets” are still a thing in Masters swimming. The call them “ePostal”s now since they’re done over the internet.


Right. So that means you probably might also think “I only got beat because this person had training opportunities that they shouldn’t have had.” If any swimmer has that attitude, they need to gtfo of the sport.


in all seriousness, what about athletes from smaller, poorer nations with limited swim resources, such as those Icelandic athletes that have no 50m pool in their country? Off the top of my head I can think of Luthersdottir and Gustafsdottir who semifinaled in Rio, plus I think Bateman did well in 2012…

If they don’t leave Iceland to train in the US (all at Florida, I think?), I’d say they don’t make it the level needed to semifinal, and then the Olympic games become a meet about as interesting as Aussie Trials- you’d have 3-5 athletes with any shot at a podium finish.

Markus Rogan is another example, and George Bovell… without guys like that around it’s a very boring meet.

There is at least two 50m pools in Iceland at Laugardalslaug. Doesn’t derail the point, just a clarification of the example.


I think I have confused a swimming issue with soccer 😉 not for the first time…


Then move here and become citizen. Thousands of people become citizens everyday! America is a land of opportunity. If people want the opportunity to become better in whatever they do then at least show manners, dignity, and respect and represent the reason you got so good. In this case America. If person moves here to become better athlete. Become citizen. If person moves here to find jobs and better education. Become citizen. Give back to the community and nation that gave or gives you so much. It’s called honor. We are taught to honor people and things that helped us become who we are. We are taught to honor our parents, teachers and schools and so on. Without their help… Read more »


But in the example I gave none of the Icelandic athletes would make the US squad… so they should not compete for their country of birth/youth/teen years because of Sesame Street?


and almost all the foreign athletes i’ve been fortunate enough to meet seem super positive towards the US and the US collegiate system.

Katinka was flying Trojan signs all week in Rio, as do many of the athletes from Arizona, Florida and others with recognizable salutes.


Actually, Hilda Luthersdottir has a PB of 2:22.96 in the 200m breaststroke which was done at Euros in May, and she would have won Trials by more than a second with that time.


Also, as Bobo pointed out it has backfired for many foreign athletes… Marina Garcia comes to mind in addition to Agnel and Friis.


LOL isn’t that what foreign athletes are doing? Honoring and representing their homelands because that is where they came from and who they are?? Honor and respect aren’t limited by borders. Schooling for example – the impact he will have on the people of his country far outweighs the ‘respect and honor’ he ‘owes’ the US.


yup- this ^

Just Another Opinion

I’m pretty sure there should be something between full citizenship and staying out entirely. We could even have different levels of “in-betweenness” for resident aliens and for visitors of all types. We could regulate it through issuing green cards and visas for travel, study, work, etc.

If we did have those processes in place and people observed them, I’d say those people exhibit honorable behavior. And if someone else attacked their honorable observance of our laws and regulations, I’d call that person dishonorable.

So what do you know about honor?

Just Another Opinion

Hiding from competition doesn’t make anyone stronger; nor does trying to handicap competition because you’re worried they might challenge you.

That sort of protectionism only provides “safe space” to grow weak without noticing… not what most Americans want for their country.


What about a PhD student from Europe who works and lives in Massachusetts who goes on to win a Nobel prize? Can this person not be proud to represent his university and country? Is this person also guilty of unfairly benefitting from the facilities in the US? Your ideas are terribly flawed and misguided at best.


Excellent idea. That will open up space down-under to train the Chinese


bring’em on! Would make Pro Series that much better!


would be amazing!!! I’d go watch Austin prix every year.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James formerly competed for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in February of 2018, placing 11th at the OUA Championships in the 200 IM, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in May. He …

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