Yesterday two reports were published reviewing the state of Australian swimming, more specifically what happened leading into and at the London Olympics.
The first being the “Bluestone Review” an independent review conducted by Dr. Pippa Grange, the second “The Independent Swimming Review” which was conducted by a panel that included, Hon. Warwick Smith AM, Kieren Perkins, Tim Ford, Petria Thomas and Matt Favier.
There have been reactions by many about the reviews findings and their recommendations.
Australian Head Coach Leigh Nugent who seems very agreeable to following the majority of the reports suggested recommendations, found the language in the findings a little off base, “It is a pretty emotive word, ‘toxic’. Behavioural issues weren’t overtly obvious that I saw and I think we are going to be addressing all those things within the ethical framework that has been developed,” said Nugent at press conference where he was joined by Swimming Australia’s President Barclay Nettfold and the CEO of the Australian Swimmers Association Daniel Kowalski.
Nugent did state that looking back on the situation he would have done things differently.
Although the leadership was challenged in both reviews Nettlefold stood by Nugent saying that the structure of Australian did not provide the Head Coach with enough support, “You can’t blame anyone in isolation. This comes back to governance. We clearly have issues we have to address with governance of the sport,” Nettlefold told the press.
“We haven’t provided the right support around our head coach. At the moment we’re embarking on getting a new high performance director to sit above that function.”
“We’re also looking at a code of ethics … a whole review of the high performance department and that’s happening now and it is being addressed in the right manner and it will give Leigh the opportunity to be the best coach in the world.”
“You can see from one of the outcomes, we had 20 directors within five years. We’ve got to get stability. We’ve got to get leadership. I believe we’re doing that now, we’ve addressed that.”
Olympian Kendrick Monk told the Brisbane Times that he was not shocked by the harsh language, ”It’s not surprising that ‘toxic’ is getting used. There was a lot of faults and basically, a lot of things went wrong. A lot of things are getting fixed and it’s opened a lot of eyes to people about what happened on the team,” Monk said.
”Even leading into the staging camp [in Manchester], you could see a few things weren’t happening and weren’t the way they used to be. And then things got a lot worse.”
”I progressed and did PBs. That’s all I can ask for. I look at them as speed bumps – but some people take a lot longer to get over that sort of thing. It’s good it’s happened now. It needed to happen now and it really needed to happen earlier.”
”There wasn’t a lot of cohesion in the team, that’s really what sums it up. There was favouritism. But our sport is very individual and you can’t let that bother you.”
Kylie Palmer who won a silver medal in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay in London was quoted in an ABC News article as saying that the team atmosphere in London was much different than the past, “It just didn’t have that sort of family feel about it.”
“And everyone was sort of … in it for themselves and although swimming is a very individual sport we all need to be a team at the same time to be able to achieve that one big goal.”
Palmer also went on to say that Head Coach Leigh Nugent did know that misbehaviour was going on, “I did hear stories through other swimmers and they had been, they had gone and told their coaches straight away,” she said.
“And I know their coaches did go and tell the head coach which was supposedly going to be addressed.
“That is pretty much all I heard. But yeah, I know that the coaches and definitely head coach and support staff did know about it.”
In a television interview with ABC News Libby Trickett also expressed how she expected the reviews, “To be perfectly honest I wasn’t surprised by the reports. Obviously being involved in the review I had some idea of what was going to come.”
She also told the reporter that the team had forgotten what a team was about, “We lost sight of what the team goal was and I don’t feel we had direction in that respect.”
When the reporter asked who was to blame Trickett explained that there wasn’t one person you could blame, “It is a funny thing, over the last few months we have had the blame game. We have had the opportunity through the reviews to have our points of view, have our opinions, say what went wrong and who we might blame for that.”
“But for us, as a team to move forward in a positive way we really need to stop the blame game.”
She went on to express how everyone involved with the team need to take responsibility for the their roles in what was “essentially an underwhelming performance.”
At the primary press conference Daniel Kowalski, CEO of the Australian Swimmers Association stated that the swimmers got closure and that they needed to look to the future, “The swimmers had the opportunity through the review process to talk about their experiences and their feelings in a confidential manner, the outcomes we have read in the review and this is the perfect opportunity for closure for them.”
“Sixty-five days until the World Championship trials, they have a job to focus on now.”
He went on to talk about the relationship between the swimmers and the leadership of Australian Swimming, “What we need to focus on now is that we have come in and established an ethical framework . We have worked tirelessly with some of the swimmers within the leadership of the team to develop a code of conduct.”
“As Leigh pointed out that I am standing here today beside the President and Head Coach that we have definitely moved on in leaps and bounds, but we sill have a bit of work to do.”
The sentiment from the majority of the people involved with Australian Swimming is that it is very clear that things went very wrong, but that it is time to focus on the future.
Michael Bohl told SwimSwam that he found the review interesting, but it is time to move on in a positive direction and feels that they have already started that process, “I think the report was an interesting read. There are always things to work on and lessons to be learned.”
“In the past two months we have had two Swimming Australia activities – the Dual Meet in Perth – China v South Africa v Australia and the co-operation between swimmers , coaches and support staff was as good as I have seen in my 20 years on the National Team.”
Both Palmer and Trickett have expressed how they are pleased with how Nugent has handled the situation and how things have already moved forward in a positive way.
“There has been changes already made and those changes have been really positive and what we have now is a good team,” Palmer told ABC News.
“I have a lot of respect for him (Nugent) and his decisions and I think that all of us need to accept who’s in what position now and really move forwards from there.”
In article in The West Australian Trickett stated that she felt that Nugent is the right man for the job.
Nettlefold who has already made a great deal of positive changes in Australian Swimming since becoming the organizations president explained the process that they will be taking in addressing the issues contained in both reviews,”We’ve been proactive and work has already started on the majority of the recommendations in these reports, including the introduction of a High Performance Director and an Ethical framework,” said Nettlefold.
“The board will now implement a 100 day plan to further address the recommendations in both reviews.”
“The underlying message from these two reviews is that we all have to be accountable for the future success of swimming in Australia and that starts with discipline and setting the right standards of behaviour from the top down.”
“The establishment of an Integrity Panel will look at specific incidents discussed in the reviews and address them in isolation, and in accordance with the Swimming Australia Team Agreements and disciplinary procedures available.”
“Swimming has a proud history in this country and everyone in the sport wants to maintain and improve on the credibility and integrity which has developed over more than a century of success.”
“Before we look at winning gold medals, we want to win back the admiration of the nation, and we want to engage with our swimming community like never before at every level.”