Swimming Australia addresses debacle

Swimming Australia will not ignore its Olympic debacle in the pool.

The once-proud federation announced an independent review Monday of the team’s performance at the Olympics – the first time Australia has failed to win an individual gold in the pool since the 1976 Montreal Games.

The review will be conducted by Bill Sweetenham, one of Australia’s most experienced coaches, and two-time Olympic gold medalist Susie O’Neill.

”It is clear the world has lifted the bar when it comes to swimming, and so must we,” federation president David Urquhart said.

Australia’s only gold in London came in the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay – good for only sixth in the swimming medals table. The once-dominant Aussies also won six silvers and three bronze.

The United States led the swimming medals table with 16 golds and 30 overall.

Four years ago in Beijing, Australia finished with six golds and 20 medals overall to stand second behind the Americans.

This time, China – which has sent many athletes to train in Australia – was second with five golds and 10 medals overall.

”We must do everything possible to get Australian swimming back on top. This is not a time for blame and scape-goating, this is an opportunity to make the changes required to rise to the international challenge,” Urquhart said. ”We are a proud swimming nation, we have a proud history and have the swimming talent and coaches to be the best in the world.”

The biggest disappointments for Australia were a fourth-place result in the men’s 4×100 free relay and James ”The Missile” Magnussen’s silver in the 100 free.

Magnussen led Australia to gold in both events at last year’s world championships in Shanghai and had the fastest textile-suit swim ever in March at the Aussie trials. But his usual lightning-quick finishing lap lacked some speed during the eight-day Olympic meet.

France won the relay and Nathan Adrian of the United States beat Magnussen by a hundredth of a second – the closest margin possible – in the individual event.

On the women’s side, Stephanie Rice, a triple gold medalist in Beijing, could do no better than a fourth-place finish in the 200 individual medley.

”There has been a lot said by people here in London and back at home about our overall medal performance,” Urquhart said. ”While everyone is entitled to their own view, no one should doubt the commitment or effort of our swimmers. All of them are proud to represent their country and have done their best in an incredibly competitive swim meet.”

Other nations with proud swimming histories also struggled.

Germany left without a medal for the first time since the 1932 Los Angeles Games and Italy went home empty handed for the first time since the 1984 Games, which were also in Los Angeles.

The terms of the review will be developed by the Swimming Australia board in the coming months, and Urquhart said that he will make them public.