Swimming Australia And Griffith University Partner With Out-Of-The-Pool Objectives

Swimming Australia and Griffith University announced a groundbreaking partnership on Wednesday, as the two have joined forces with a long-term focus that figures to have a significant impact both in and out of the pool.

The two have had a relationship since 2017, when Swimming Australia implemented a new High Performance Center at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus, which was spearheaded by coach Michael Bohl, and now the two have officially aligned with a number of goals that primarily take place out of the water.

“This new collaboration is going to prioritize opportunities for athletes from our grassroots all the way through to our elite level, as well as advances in education and research and community-centric programs,” Swimming Australia Michelle Gallen said at the announcement Wednesday.

The partnership will provide student-athletes with on-the-job experience through an internship program, such as being able to work inside Swimming Australia, while also pushing toward greater inclusion in the sport in terms of Indigenous participation along with growing things at the grassroots level.

Griffith will also be helping Swimming Australia with research programs specifically geared towards inclusion and diversity along with health and well-being initiatives.

“This relationship is partly about that experience of elite sport, ensuring that our athletes have great training in the pool, but also great education, great post-swimming careers,” said Carolyn Evans, Griffith’s Vice Chancellor and President. “It’s also about inclusion, an opportunity to ensure that even more Australians have the benefit of swimming that comes from health, community participation and they can do so in a way that’s great for our planet as well as for our communities.”

Gallen said that Griffith was an obvious choice for the partnership, as it is now home to a number of Australia’s top swimmers and is “ranked in the top two percent of universities worldwide.”

Evans noted that Griffith students and alumni outperformed every other Australian university in terms at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and that it was the top school overall at last summer’s Commonwealth Games.

The initial term is three years, but the hope is to have the partnership extend through the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane. Having Indigenous representation on the Olympic and Paralympic teams at those Games is one of the primary objectives.

“Our joint endeavor will also include growing our Indigenous connections across the country and through sport,” Gallen said. “Swimming Australias’s goal is to have Indigenous membership on our Paralympic and Olympic teams in Brisbane 2032, and some of the work and research around inclusions and barriers and overcoming those things that we’ll work with Griffith on will help us be in a good place to achieve that.

“We’ll also be working with Griffith Uni to provide opportunities for students here to gain some real job experience, real sort of on-the-job experience through an internship program so they can come and see the joys and delights of working with a national sporting organization and put some of their theory and education into the real world and help us out as well.”

Griffith’s current training squad includes reigning Olympic champions Kaylee McKeownand Emma McKeon, along with some other well-known names such as 2016 gold medalist Mack Horton, short course world champion Lani Pallister, Tokyo bronze medalist Brendon Smith and singer-turned-swimmer Cody Simpson.

Zac Stubblety-Cook, the reigning Olympic champion in the men’s 200 breaststroke, is a Griffth University student but currently trains out of the Chandler Swim Club.

Griffith also has a national age group training squad that’s coached by former Olympian Thomas Fraser-Holmes, and will now be supporting Swimming Australia’s Deadly Little Dolphins program which ensures that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have access to learn-to-swim programs.

Stubblety-Cook was in attendance at the announcement and spoke on how important the out-of-the-pool aspect of the partnership is in regards to helping set athletes up for a career after their time as a high-level athlete.

“Something that I’ve valued throughout my swimming career is a balanced life and ensuring that when your swimming career does end, you have the skills and what you need to progress beyond that and have success beyond that,” said the world record holder.

“So for me, it’s very exciting to have this just under a decade out of the Olympics, and create a big partnership and legacy leading into the Games.

“Obviously there’s been the high-performance program as a formal partnership, but I think the progression into something outside the pool is really important, because to me, and I think a lot of people, (it’s) just as important (as inside the pool) and that’s what this, for me, represents,” he said.

“I think the development and progression of that is something we’re seeing outside in the workplace, especially in the frame of ’32, and I think it’s really important to recognize that athletes are driven people, disciplined people that are willing to push themselves outside of the pool not just in the pool. And that’s something that we’ll see grow in this relationship.”

Also in attendance was Bianca Crisp, a Griffith alumna who has qualified to represent Australia at the World Championships this summer in open water.

Crisp is also an ambassador for the Deadly Little Dolphins program, as she has an Aboriginal background as a Wiradjuri woman.

“I think that increasing the outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids both in and out of the water is really important and something that is very exciting, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for both Griffith and Swimming Australia,” Crisp said.

Crisp said this opens the door for someone to have a “Cathy Freeman moment” at the Brisbane 2032 Olympics. Freeman was an Aboriginal Australian runner who won gold at the Sydney Olympics in the women’s 400-meter event.

“I think that would be a really proud moment for Australia and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well, so I think it’s a really exciting time and I can’t wait to see what the partnership does,” Crisp said.

Griffith currently has “over 80 elite swimmers” training out of the High Performance Centre, according to Evans, and 23 of them will be competing at the World Championship Trials next week in Melbourne.


Emily Seebohm, who is reportedly back in training with an eye on the 2024 Paris Olympics, also trains at Griffith but will not compete at World Trials.

The High Performance Program is led by head coach Bohl, along with assistant coach Janelle Pallister.

Bohl said it’s “been very exciting to see the program start from nothing and grow to the level it is now,” and noted how he’s seen the success really take off with him being able to fully focus on coaching, having also worked in an education role during his previous stint at St. Peters Western.

Asked about how the swimmers are looking heading into Trials next week, Bohl said things are looking good and the primary goal right now is to get everyone to the meet fit and healthy.

“Excited” was the buzzword for Stubblety-Cook when asked about how he’s feeling leading into the meet.

“Excited, I think is the right word,” he said. “This season’s been a little bit different obviously coming off the back of last year I had a couple of injuries and didn’t race for a while. And now, building those races throughout the season’s been really exciting, done some good work, and I’m just excited to see what’s happened at Trials and build into Worlds.”

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Big Reg
3 months ago

I hadn’t realised Stubblety-Cook moved to Griffith. Any idea when this happened?

Reply to  Big Reg
3 months ago

Pretty sure he is studying through Griffith Uni at the Brisbane campus. He still trains at Chandler.
And the Griffith Uni Gold Coast swimmers actually train at the Southport pool. Not all of them actually are studying at Griffith Uni though.

Reply to  Big Reg
3 months ago

Student at Griffith Uni but trains at Chandler.

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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