Geoff Heugill: US winning streaks and Australia’s medal hopes
When Australia broke the first World Record of the Games on Clapham Common last week, there was one particular Australian Olympic legend inspiring the Aussie expat army on to greatness. The man? Geoff Huegill.
Australian Times: Who are Australia’s main medal hopes in the pool?
Geoff Huegill: The guy who’s got the most pressure on his shoulders at the moment is James Magnussen. He’s had a blistering 12 months and really dominated the events that he’s swimming in, not just the 100m freestyle, but he’s also stepped it up in the 50m freestyle.
I know one of the goals that our men’s swimming team do have in mind is to secure gold in the 4 x 100m medley relay which is the very last race on Day 8 (Saturday 4 Aug). When you look back on history, the longest winning streak at Olympic level is the 4 x 100m medley relay held by the US team. We were pipped by less than 0.2 of a second at last year’s World Championships so hopefully the boys have been hungry over the last 12 months and we’ve seen the talent step up to the mark on all strokes.
Where do you think our main competition is in the pool?
Naturally it’s always the USA that really dominate the pool. You’ve got Michael Phelps and the girls as well, who are pretty strong. They’ve been the number one team in the world for some time now.
Where you think Australia will come in the pool medal tally?
I’d like to say they will come in No.2 but one of the best things about an Olympic Games is that when you step up to the blocks, all bets are off. Who’s done what in the past counts for nothing. It’s all about performing on the night. And it’s not just our guys who are a chance. We’ve got the Campbell sisters, Stephanie Rice seems to be hitting a lot of form at the moment, and Melanie Schlanger in the freestyle. She’s just a class to herself – she’s big, she’s strong and just dominates. We’ve got the depth and experience with Jessica Schipper in the freestyle as well. So I’d like to say we will finish top 2.
The Australian Swim coach Leigh Nugent said last week that Australia would win less medals in the pool than they did in Beijing. Why would he say that and do you agree?
That’s a good question. I’d like to think he said it to take some pressure off the guys. If the guys go in there with as little pressure on them as possible and do the best job they can, they’ll do better. But you can look at it in two ways. You can look at it as words of motivation and inspiration – as an athlete you want to prove him wrong.
You would probably look at things differently to , though, being the supreme optimist?
To tell you the truth, any athlete who steps up behind the blocks is not going to do a second rate job. When you get to this level, this is what it’s all about. It’s what all the preparation is all about. You rarely get an opportunity to represent your country at an Olympic Games. When you get that opportunity you don’t want to let that go past. One is you’ll never be at that same age again and on top of that, four years is a bloody long time to wait to come back again and reassert your authority.
You put yourself in a good position to be here competing, not commentating. How are you feeling now that you are here in London but not lining up against the world’s best?
That’s a bloody good question. When I first finished, I knew that the next phase of my career was to move into corporate finance. I’ve got a passion for business and a passion for finance. So when I didn’t make the team my world suddenly went from 80-90 per cent sport, 10 per cent business to the other way around.
I really kept myself occupied and moving on with life, family life and everything else. It wasn’t until I packed my bags back in Australia and when I went to fly out that I realised the penny dropped that I was coming to London but I wasn’t going to be competing. I was starting to get quite upset and pretty emotional. When it comes to these big meets, I’m an emotional guy. I’ve got history in the sport and I know how hard it is to get to this level. To miss it by less than half a second to decide who gets to go, it is a tough thing. Now I am here and I’m working for Foxtel, I get a chance to go to all the events and talk shop with all the VIP guests but I know that when Day 6 comes along and the men’s butterfly event is on, naturally I am going to be comparing my times and my splits to the other guys and wishing I was out there.
This is what you do it for. You have one opportunity and it really separates the men from the mice.
The atmosphere – you can never replicate again in the real world. The buzz around the place is electric. We’ll never see London again like this in our whole life.