A shake-up was needed in the Australian swimming team after the London Olympic debacle, according to golden girl Alicia Coutts.
But still nothing could prepare the team for what hit them at their week-long training camp on the Gold Coast.
First, there was the wild weather that greeted them on the tourist strip as ex-tropical cyclone Oswald moved down the Queensland coast, causing power outages and closing some of the eight pools used by the 120-strong squad.
Then, there was the tough love from national coach Leigh Nugent, who has set new qualifying standards and unveiled behavioural guidelines in the wake of the 2012 London pool belly flop.
Swimming Australia (SA) ordered an independent review into team culture after snaring just one gold medal in the London pool – their worst Olympic result in 20 years – amid allegations of poor squad harmony and pre-Games camp misbehaviour.
One of the few shining lights at London, Coutts – who won five Olympic medals – admitted something had to be done and felt this week’s camp was a positive first step.
The mammoth camp – which also boasts 74 staff – includes everyone from stars Coutts and James Magnussen to 14-year-old young guns.
“I think a shake-up was needed. We haven’t done one of these types of camps since 2007,” Coutts told AAP.
“There have been times when I have been on the team and I haven’t known half of them.
“When it’s like that, you don’t know their personalities. Sometimes people don’t go out of their way to introduce themselves – it does make it quite difficult.
“But this type of camp makes it a lot easier.”
SA took their first step to re-building squad culture at the recent Super Series team event in Perth where the hosts took on South Africa and China.
And Coutts said progress had been made at the camp where the squad was divided into 14 training groups, based on gender and event.
“Looking at the future and those who will make the team in the next few years, it is good to get to know them now,” said Coutts who has been training with the medley girls.
“And it won’t be as daunting for them when they make the team. This is great for team bonding.
“Plus the girls I am training with are experiencing what I do to be one of the best in the world – it’s a good learning experience for everyone.”
Some swimmers like Coutts are yet to be fully briefed on the new behavioural guidelines that have resulted from the team culture review but it is clear they face a tough new regime in the pool.
To qualify for this year’s world titles in Barcelona, swimmers must equal or better the times that were required to reach finals at the 2011 championships in Shanghai.