The Bluestone Review of culture and leadership in Australian Olympic swimming says “realistically there was no single headline problem and no single ‘bad apple’ in London”.
Spot on. There wasn’t one single issue. Instead, there was a bunch of small and medium-sized stuff which together adds up to one gigantic mess.
The Bluestone Report is a little jargony. Here’s a summary in words you and I might understand:
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Eamon Sullivan is in hot water, according to today’s The Daily Telegraph. The Aussie swimming champion was caught hooning around the streets of Gawler, South Australia on a ride-on motorised scooter that he “borrowed” from a local pensioner, John Guppy.
It is further alleged that Sullivan wasn’t particularly good at it, because he is also said to have crashed into a nearby table and injured two people. This, despite the fact that local publican Adrian Armstrong claimed the party wasn’t intoxicated.
So what could explain the unfortunate turn of events?
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When it came out that some of the swimmers had been acting up at the Olympics, playing pranks on each other and allegedly experimenting with Stilnox at the most inappropriate of times, and that there was a hostile rift between some members of the swim team, it became obvious that things need to change.
The report that some swimmers may have been acting like children was no shock. Especially for the young members of the team, swimming is a sport that does not give you much of a chance to grow up like most people do.
It starts with the wake up calls from Mum or Dad. It’s too early in the morning to respond to an alarm, a gentle nudge and some softly spoken words are uttered to get you out of bed for your morning swimming session.
The difference between the winning times in the men’s 50m freestyle swimming finals at the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics was just 3.79 seconds.
At the London Games in July, Frenchman Frances Manaudou won gold in the 50m with a time of 21.34 seconds.
At the Paralympics last week, Australian Matt Cowdrey won gold in 25.13 seconds. Cowdrey’s time was a new Paralympics world record. It was just a touch over four seconds slower than the Olympic world record of 20.91, set by Brazil’s Cesar Cielo in 2009.
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One hundredth of a second. A fingernail. If only James Magnussen had painted his nails green and gold like the women, that extra coat of varnish might’ve got him home in the 100m freestyle.
Alas, he finished second. So let’s talk about the thing that’s becoming as blatantly obvious in London as the fact that Prince William doesn’t look much like Prince Harry. These Olympics are not going to be Australia’s games.
The Great Southern Land is heading south on the medal tally. After winning 16 gold medals in Sydney, 17 in Athens and 14 in Beijing, we look certain to fall back to our historical norm of somewhere between five and ten. James Magnussen was supposed to be one of our London bankers. Well, we all know how reliable London bankers have been of late.
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Nick D’Arcy did bugger all in the London pool this morning, and can now bugger off and pay his debts to society and Simon Cowley. Won’t happen of course, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.
But not every “loser” at these Olympics is as uninspiring as D’Arcy. Many are winners. Take Emily Seebohm, who won silver in the 100m backstroke this morning. That’s right, the 20 year old Adelaidean “won” silver, even though on face value you could say she “lost” gold as she was overhauled by 17 year old American Missy Franklin in the final strokes.
Seebohm was devastated and in tears afterwards. “I just wish I could have finished it off, I feel like I disappointed my parents, and my coach just worked so hard for me, this is so tough,” she said. She’s wrong. Despite being a clear cut favourite after breaking the Olympic record in the semis, Seebohm disappointed nobody.
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He’s gone and done it. That cocky, no good bastard from Port Macquarie, James Magnussen, has got what he deserves. Defeat. Beaten. Pulled down a peg or two. Smashed like a guitar.
That’s what we all really wanted to see happen in the 4 x 100 men’s freestyle relay isn’t it? While the team branded the Weapons Of Mass Destruction spectacularly, shockingly self-imploded, what has come as no great surprise is the speed with which those-who-know-better have rushed in to kick the smug swimmer while he’s down.
At stake for them is not the faltering potential of an athlete who carried no less than 20 million people on his back, but that this overly confident and happy-to-talk-himself-up upstart got taught a very public lesson in what Australia expects of its stars. You can be good but shut the hell up about it.
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Well, that was bad. Relay, relay bad. As Grant Hackett said, “wow, what a shock”.
Gold medal favourites Australia finished fourth in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay this morning. It was proof, if anyone needed it, that cockiness just never, ever washes in the pool at the Olympic Games.
James “The Missile” Magnussen is a likeable bloke from the likeable mid north coast NSW town of Port Macquarie, who has oozed confidence throughout the London lead-up. He hasn’t shown anywhere near the level of dumb bravado displayed by Gary Hall Jr in Sydney with his infamous “smash them like guitars” gibe which ended up smashing him right in the face. All the same, Magnussen might have toned it down a notch.
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Well, that didn’t take long. There are 19 nations on the medal table after the first full day of Olympic competition, and none of them are Great Britain. To compensate for this, the Poms have started whingeing.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO IS PRETTY NAUGHTY, ESPECIALLY NEAR THE END
Off field, these games have started brilliantly for Britain. The joy and sheer Britishness expressed in that wonderful, quirky opening ceremony has apparently now been embraced by Londoners, who have suddenly twigged that a few overcrowded trains are a small price for having the world’s biggest party on your doorstep.
Then along comes Mark Cavendish and friends from Team GB cycling, accusing Australia and the rest of the field for conspiring against his team. Oh, the poor sweetheart. Was the porridge too hot in the Olympic village this morning, Cav? Were the contents of your drink bottle not isotonic enough?
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With just hours before the start of the London 2012 Olympics, where swimming is one of the most watched and celebrated sports, I thought I could give Punchers a little taste of what it’s like to compete as a swimmer.
Although I am not claiming to have had the experiences of an Olympian, I do know what it’s like to have the sport take over every inch of your psyche in the lead up to and during race day. So imagine this - multiplied by a million with the incomparable variable of competing at an Olympic level.
It’s 9.30pm the night before the 200m butterfly heat at the Australian Open Swimming Championships. I have to be up at 7.30 to get to the pool. Ten hours should be enough. Of course this never happens. I’m so worried about getting enough sleep that I can’t doze off.
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Swimming champ Leisel Jones has caused a bit of a stir on the pool deck in London overnight simply by turning up and stripping off to her Speedos.
There’s no skirting around the issue. To the untrained eye she doesn’t look like a typical elite athlete. Oh, man, we’re in tricky territory here.
Jones’s coach has defended her against suggestions she’s treating London 2012 as a holiday/farewell tour, saying she is there to do her best, but only describing her condition as “pretty good.”
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Olympic gold medallist Michael Diamond must be thanking his lucky stars that he never posted photos of himself on Facebook swimming laps at the local pool. If so he might have been kicked off the shooting team.
It is difficult to comprehend the extent of the furore over Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk posing with shotguns and pistols at a California rifle range. If the incident had not involved D’Arcy – who was punted from the swimming team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics after he drunkenly king-hit teammate Simon Cowley in a blow which could easily have been fatal – you could be sure that absolutely nothing would have come of it.
The episode has been an excellent demonstration of our modern fondness for being outraged first and thoughtful second. For the more you think about this so-called scandal, the less scandalous it appears. Indeed the only scandalous thing about it is that somehow the Australian Olympic Committee has achieved the seemingly impossible, in making the unpleasant D’Arcy a figure of some sympathy.
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On Monday night, FIVEaa radio host Bob Francis used his forum as one of Adelaide’s most popular radio celebrities to wish death on boatpeople. He didn’t say where he would draw the line – whether he wanted only male asylum seekers to die or if women and babies should perish too.
No, he simply told his listeners: “Bugger the boatpeople, I say. As far as I’m concerned, I hope they bloody drown out there on their way over here – in my opinion they are not welcome here.”
When a journalist dared to print the very printable public remarks, Francis did not recant. Instead he returned to the airwaves to say: “Can you believe that bloody bitch in The Australian ... some smart-arse dickhead woman ... wrote me up in the paper this morning.”
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Australia’s biggest idiot is in our sights again. Nick D’Arcy is trending top five with a bullet on Twitter, and many are saying “so what if he posed with guns after a swim meet in California?”
That’s a fair argument. Another perfectly reasonable argument would be to say that he has shot himself in the foot yet again, and that the trigger should now be pulled on his Olympic dream.
It’s not like the public needed much more ammunition to consider the guy unfit to represent his country. And really, when Dawn Fraser defends you, as she did this morning with D’Arcy and his partner in gun crime Kenrick Monk, you know the target is a loose cannon. After all, Fraser reportedly stuck up for Grant Hackett the other week.
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Is it a demonstration of what’s great about the Aussie spirit to keep doing something even after you find out for sure 20 people younger than you are better at it, and your Olympic hopes are dashed?
Ian Thorpe’s disappointing weekend in the pool, and what he said once he got out of the pool, has got me stumped. They guy is a great champion, and not just that, he seems like an incredibly decent person too.
He should be remembered not just for his incredible feats in competitive swimming, but for the way he behaved while he was under the white-hot glare of Australian expectations for all those years. You can’t fake good character for that long when you’re that young.
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This weekend, as the world remembered events in the north eastern Japanese town of Fukushima, Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe would have done well to reflect on his past deeds in the south western Japanese city of Fukuoka.
It was at the 1997 Fukuoka Pan Pacific Championships that 14 year old Ian Thorpe first announced himself to the world, winning silver in the 400m freestyle in an Olympics-strength field.
Four years later, with three Sydney Olympics golds under his belt, Thorpe won an unprecedented six gold medals at the Fukuoka World Championships. Those performances made him an imported icon of Beckhamesque stature in Japan.
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It’s time to give Nick D’Arcy a break. The story going around today is that D’Arcy has been cleared by the Australian Olympic Committee to compete for selection at the London Games.
It’s a story I chose to run as part of our morning sport package on Sky News, but not discuss in our panel chat this morning on Sportsline. It’s an old topic and it’s time to move on.
It’s been almost four years to the day that D’Arcy’s Olympic dream was shattered and his life turned upside down. Up until that point in the bar late on that dreaded night, D’Arcy was on the cusp of realising his dream. All those training sessions, early mornings, long programs, strict diets, missed parties, big sacrifices and endless laps up and down the pool were about to be worth it.
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IAN Thorpe’s comeback to Olympic swimming could be as disastrous as the former champion’s illegal flop into the pool at the 2004 Olympic trials. Thorpe’s freakish ability to carve up the pool and wipe out his opponents has been proven time and time again. But his powers to overcome hurdles to make it back on the Olympic dais are weakening, year by year.
Thorpe will make the Australian Olympic team. He is such a perfectionist that he will make it happen. But whether he wins an individual medal – or a world record for that matter – is now a topic of great debate. It’s been almost 10 years since Thorpie smashed a world record – Manchester’s 2002 Commonwealth Games in the 400m freestyle. His world records were broken over a period of five years – when his body was still growing. In 2002, Thorpe was just 19. He never broke a world record after Manchester.
After Thorpe stopped growing, we never saw the form he produced as a teenager. Here are 10 reasons why Thorpie won’t set the world on fire in London 2012.
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Oddly-coloured, self-indulgent and attention-starved. That’s how Ian Thorpe came across at yesterday’s glitzy, jam-packed press conference.
Yesterday, I wrote glowing things about Thorpe. I couldn’t, and still can’t, say enough about his genuine, intelligent commitment to the welfare of indigenous Australians.
Then came his presser, where none other than the CEO of Virgin Blue announced Thorpe’s comeback to competitive swimming.
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Two seconds. That’s the difference between Ian Thorpe’s old 200m freestyle world record and the current world mark. With or without wacky swimsuits, swimming has moved on, and fast, since the Thorpedo quit in 2006.
Yet it seems almost certain that at noon, Ian Thorpe will announce a return to competitive swimming. After all, he’s hardly going to call a big press conference to say “Nup, staying retired. Nothing to see here.”
The question is: will Thorpe be able to cut it at the London 2012 Olympics if he returns?
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What a week. A wave of elation swept the country in celebration of previously unimaginable sporting success. New national heroes were born.
Or you were in Australia, where some world-beating, inspirational achievements went largely unnoticed and the nation is now facing into 18 busy sporting months where victories could well be the exception rather than the expectation.
Depending on your point of view, Australian sport is at one of its lowest-ever ebbs, or in a golden era of success – just in a bunch of sports that nobody cares very much about. Australians now bestride the world in motor sport, snooker, women’s cricket and pole vaulting.
THERE were no swimmers with the impact of a Thorpie and only one record fell, first set by 1500m freestyler Hayley Lewis in 1993, at the Commonwealth Games swimming selection trials last week.
But there was a glimmer of hope from the sport that is rebuilding a top-class team, which urgently needs an injection of youth – another Thorpie to revive its reputation as a dangerous unit.
Swimming Australia is lucky a 13-year-old kid like “Yo Yo” bobbed up, who has sparked interest in the team now laden with rookies.
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The Aussie Dolphins are in the doldrums. No doubt about it.
The Aussies are no longer the powerhouse that ruled the pool in 2001 at Fukuoka’s world championships.
The Dolphins peaked at Fukuoka. Ian Thorpe was on fire, breaking three world records in individual freestyle events. Grant Hackett smashed Kieren Perkins’ seemingly elusive world record in the 1500m freestyle. It was gold, gold, gold – a total of 13 gold medals to Australia.
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I call them “floaties” - swimsuits that float. Just watch all the torpedoes fly on top of the water in Rome. Today’s elite swimmer makes the original Thorpedo – Ian Thorpe – look like a slowcoach.
The deluge of world records this week at the FINA World Championships is nothing but a farce.
Swimming’s governing body, FINA, has made a serious blunder which has triggered the ridiculous number of world marks.
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Want to know the biggest disgrace about the FINA world swimming championships to date?
It’s not swimsuits. It’s Aussie bloody whingeing.
Look, no one denies swimming’s governing body FINA could scramble an egg just by looking at it. No one’s saying we don’t need clarity in this swimsuit shemozzle, and no one is claiming that swimmers are breaking world records on talent alone this week.
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