Swimming Australia Moves Further Down the Mine Shaft

Swimming Australia’s marriage with the booming Australian mining industry has grown even bigger.

BHP Billiton has stamped its name upon many national meets, as has billionaire mining heiress Georgina Hope Rinehart. Now, Rinehart’s company Hancock Prospecting has been given title sponsorship of the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

The meet, which was held in the United States in its last edition in 2010, have taken a sponsor from the host country of late; in 2010, that was big-time USA Swimming backer Mutual of Omaha, and in 2014, it’s the Australian company Hancock Prospecting.

Rinehart inherited Hancock Prospecting from her father, and has ridden it to become the richest woman in the world, according to business magazine BRW (which, in 2012, pondered that she could become the world’s first person with a net worth of $100B).

Rinehart has established a foundation, called the Georgina Hope Swimmers Foundation, that has stepped in and provided a huge financial boost to a federation that was on some uncertain footing in 2012. Her foundation’s name, for example, holds the marquee for the National Age Group Championships.

The impact of the mining industry upon Swimming Australia is not totally without competitive impact. Aside from creating more stability in training support for top athletes, more attention has been shifted to Western Australia and its hub of Perth. While the country’s west is much more sparsely populated than the east, both in swimmers and in general population, it is where the country’s massive iron-ore mines are. As a result, more-and-more of Swimming Australia’s big events are heading west, including the upcoming BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series, and the 2012 Australian Short Course Championships.

That’s away from the country’s top swimming hot-spots: only 3 members of the 2013 FINA World Championship team listed Western Australia as their official state, and no members of their Super Series squad will consider it a “home meet” per their official state representations.

But that is changing. As more-and-more money flows into Perth and the surrounding areas, the demographics of our sport say that more-and-more swimming talent will begin to come from there. The parallels between the partnership with Phillips 66 that began with AAU Swimming in the United States in the 1970’s, and this one between Swimming Australia and the mining industry, are pretty striking. In the 1960’s, an oil boom in Texas led to Phillips seeing rapidly expanding revenues, and soon after, their sponsorship of swimming began (though Phillips was based out of Oklahoma at the time, much of their operations were in Texas).

At the time, the southern United States was not much of a swimming hotbed. It was a sparsely populated region, and even the vaunted University of Texas program had never had an individual swimmer or relay win an NCAA event championship, let alone a team championship. The swimming power to that point was centered in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West Coast, as was the population and the economy.

But as the oil industry grew in Texas, so did the population, and the wealth, and with it swimming rose. First, SMU rose to power, then Richard Quick built the Dad’s Club in Houston, then came the now-famous Texas Swim Center in 1977, and less than a decade after Phillips’ sponsorship of American swimming began, the University of Texas was the biggest collegiate power in the country. Now, we all know what swimming in the state of Texas has become.

Might we see a similar rise in Western Australia? The population is booming (14% in five years), the economy is booming, and the sport of swimming has grabbed on to the industry and the region with very valuable partnerships. All-in-all, the finances are moving in the right direction for Swimming Australia, where there is still a steadfast belief that they can sit atop the medal table at an Olympic Games.

The 2014 Pan Pac Championships will be held from August 21st-25th in the Gold Coast, Australia.

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7 years ago

Very interesting article! As a swimmer in the 60’s, Phillips 66 ( more specifically, Bartlesville
Oklahoma swim team) Splash Club was a very interesting example of what Perth could become. Bartlesville was situated in the middle of NOWHERE!!.The oil money started a very successful swim club and produced many Div I college athletes ( Paul Tietze, Lee Engstrand)
with an enviable abililty to take their team to meets all across the country and fund EVERYTHING! This probably led to Phillips 66 getting involved in all aspects of swimming and this template has and is still , helping Southwest USA swimming …Kerr McGee in the 70’s and 80’s and currently Chesepeake Oil …both Oklahoma City. Hint:..lets have a retro… Read more »

7 years ago

Very sad! The two open water swimmers from Perth, who train and live in their hometownn and whose coach was part of the Australian Swimming Team of which “Open Water” is listed as a swimming event on the Olympic Programme … these swimmers were not listed! Again it appears Western Australia and Open Water is the black sheep of Swimming Australia.

7 years ago

Yes, this is a very interesting article, and I did know any history about Phillips 66, Texas etc.
To draw parallel between Perth-BHP and Texas-Phillips is original and insightful.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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