‘Aussie swimming requires major overhaul before 2020 Olympics’

Canberra, Aug 15 (IANS) Australian swimming legends on Monday voiced concern over the training and preparation by athletes and coaches in the lead-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, calling for a drastic overhaul to avoid failure in future Games.

Following Australia’s below par efforts in the pool, in which Australia won three gold medals, four silver medals and three bronze, Australian swimming royalty, including gold medal winner Shane Gould and former national coach Laurie Lawrence, have encouraged more pressure-based training and want Olympic selection to occur closer to the event itself, reports Xinhua.

Australia was predicted by some, including Sports Illustrated, to win up to 11 gold medals in the pool. However, the hot favourites in events leading into the competition failed to make an impression on the medal tally.

Sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell, freestyler Cameron McEvoy and backstrokers Emily Seebohm and Mitch Larkin all failed to claim gold in events they were favoured in, with Cate Campbell even describing her meet as the “greatest choke in Olympic history” after setting a world record in the women’s 100m freestyle earlier in the year.

Gould, five-time Olympic medallist in the pool, said swimmers needed to be put through pressure tests at junior Australian swim meets in order to replicate the stress of an Olympic final.

“The Olympic Games is like a test but it’s a really high-stakes test. Perhaps the Australian swimmers need more practice at high-stakes performing,” Gould told News Corp on Monday.

“I think it probably starts down at the club level, at the local sports level… so the swimmers from when they are 10 or 12 or 16 years of age are training and competing for their club to get points. Make it high stakes.”

Gould said Swimming Australia should take a leaf out of the Americans’ book and hold Olympic trials closer to the Games instead of months out, as it would result in the form swimmers being picked at the right time.

Australia’s swimming trials were held in early April, while the United States competed in June/July.

“I reckon (later trials) would be worth a try, maybe for the (Gold Coast) Commonwealth Games,” Gould said.

Just five of Australia’s 26 finalists in individual events swam their fastest time of the year in their respective finals. If all finalists managed to swim a 2016-best time in their finals, Australia’s swimmers could have won five gold medals instead of the two which came in individual events.

Meanwhile former Australian coach Laurie Lawrence was scathing in his take of the Australian performance in the pool, lamenting the lack of improvement in the overall medal haul compared to four years ago in London — a meet which was considered by many as a disaster.

“Coaches and administration should meet immediately for a post-mortem,” he told News Corp on Monday.

“Should we change trial times as the US do and pick closer to Olympics so pick in-form swimmers? Every winner of an event should be picked, for example (in the men’s) 200 breaststroke (Australia had) no representative in event.”

Lawrence urged current Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren to trial a later Olympic selection meet for the upcoming Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. He said it would be the “perfect springboard” for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

–IANS

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