AUSTRALIAN swimming is back on the up after an encouraging world championships but team boss Michael Scott stresses the road to recovery in Rio has only just begun.
A year on from the disastrous and controversial London Olympic campaign, Australia rebounded both in and out of the pool in Barcelona.
The nation earned 12 medals in Olympic events in Spain, only two more than in London but with a much stronger composition of three gold medals and nine silver.
It placed Australia second behind the US on the medal tally of only Olympic events, compared to seventh in London.
Australia last year earned just one gold in its worst Olympics result since 1992 and was without an individual champion for the first time since Montreal in 1976.
James Magnussen (100m freestyle), Cate Campbell (100m freestyle) and Christian Sprenger (100m breaststroke) restored some much-needed individual glory in Barcelona and swimmers noted a marked improvement in team unity after a “toxic” culture was blamed for the London failure.
Scott, appointed as high performance director in the London fallout, described the heavy count of second placings as a “silver lining”.
He said the next three years would be about converting them into more gold.
“Overall, I would summarise it that it’s a work in progress,” Scott said of Australia’s performance.
“Some positives both in and out of the pool but we’ve got a lot to work on over the next three years.”
Scott was pleased Australia had achieved its goal in improving the conversion rate of swimmers who improved their times from selection trials.
Australia had a conversion rate of 37 per cent in Barcelona, compared to 26 per cent in London.
“It’s a positive step forward,” Scott said.
“That improvement has happened and there’s so much upside.
“We come out of this meet stronger, more positive and we know what we’ve got to do to get better.”
Scott described the performances of teenagers Cameron McEvoy and Jordan Harrison as bright spots of the meet.
McEvoy, 19, made the individual 100m and 200m freestyle finals, finishing fourth in the former, while 18-year-old Harrison made the finals in the 400m, 800m and 1500m events.
A lack of depth in some disciplines, notably men’s butterfly and women’s breaststroke, were among the most concerning aspects of the performance, along with inconsistency in the relays. – AAP
Scott will chair a debrief of the performance next month to develop strategies to further improve the medal count and times conversion rates.
Swimming Australia will immediately start looking for a new head coach, with former boss Leigh Nugent to be retained in a yet-to-be determined role.
Australian men’s coach Rohan Taylor said whoever took on the top job would inherit a squad which had already taken huge strides forward.
A lack of leadership among staff and athletes was cited as a major problem in a London campaign marred by the Stilnox scandal.
“I’ve noticed a real leadership growth in the athletes, in and out of the pool, which is significant in this team,” Taylor said.
A strong focus was placed on social interaction before and during the Barcelona campaign, with mobile phone use banned in a team room at the hotel and regular group activities held in a bid to bring the squad together.
The effect was evidenced by a strong showing of support for fellow athletes in the stands and many swimmers spoke of a more enjoyable environment in camp.
“When the athletes are saying it, when the coaches are saying it there has certainly been a monumental shift,” women’s coach Michael Bohl said.
“We’ve still got to get better but I think it’s really made a marked difference.”