At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the nation of Australia suffered its worst Summer Olympic outing since claiming just 27 medals in Barcelona back in 1992. Despite being pegged to earn a top 5 finish among nations in Rio by its national Sports Commission, Australia nabbed just 29 medals to finish 10th in the overall standings.
Specific to swimming, Australia saw an improvement in their squad’s performance between 2012 London and 2016 Rio. After placing 7th in swimming medal table in London, Australia snagged 10 medals total to jump to 2nd place this time around, highlighted by individual golds by youngsters Kyle Chalmers and Mack Horton. However, with 3 double world champions in Bronte Campbell, Mitch Larkin and Emily Seebohm, plus pre-Olympic textile bests by Cate Campbell and Cameron McEvoy, the green and gold appeared to have fallen flat on the world’s biggest swimming stage.
In the wake of the Olympics, the Australian Olympic Committee, Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and Swimming Australia (SAL) have all dissected the entire squad’s performance in Rio to help understand why, as a whole, the nation fell sort of expectations. We reported last summer how AOC President John Coates believed that the ASC’s practice of placing businessmen as the heads of Olympic sport ‘had failed’ as one reason why Olympic performance was below expectations.
“The corporate model of having leaders of Olympic sports who are connected to the top end of town, such as Swimming Australia’s John Bertrand and Cycling Australia’s Malcolm Speed, has failed. It is OK to have these business-oriented men on the board of Olympic sports, but not as president,” Coates said in August 2016.
Tension between the AOC and SAL have only grown as the organizations turn towards Tokyo 2020, with Swimming Australia backing an entirely new candidate for the AOC Presidency. With Coates having owned the role for nearly 3 decades, SAL President John Bertrand has signed on for candidate Dannie Roche to replace Coates in the formal appointment to be made next month.
Said Bertrand in an editorial to The Australian this week, “If we are to become competitive again on the world stage, a much higher level of focus and collaboration among all of those involved in the Olympic movement is required, particularly between our two peak bodies, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) which supplies the majority of funding to the Olympic sports, and the AOC. To achieve this, we need a major refresh in leadership: new ideas, more innovation, and much more collaboration.”
Coates and Bertrand have reportedly not spoken since the Rio Olympics and were set to meet at an SAL board meeting last week. Both Coates and Roche were slated to outline their vision for the AOC should they be appointed President, however, Coates withdrew from the meeting at the last-minute with no explanation.
Bertrand took to his editorial to diplomatically comment how he feels the AOC is viewed both within Australian and throughout the world. “Unfortunately much has been written over the last few weeks exposing apparent cultural breakdowns within the AOC that are counter to all our Olympic ideals. This has to change. The AOC’s image and brand have taken a significant battering. In all my experiences within five America’s Cup challenges and two Olympic Games over many years, the basic cultural values of trust, respect and integrity are fundamental to all high-performing teams. It is vital those values are re-established.”