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A reality check for those bagging Australia’s swimming team

Roar Guru
6th August, 2012
16
1137 Reads

How poor was the performance of the Australian swimming pool team at the 2012 London games compared to previous Olympic Games teams?

In order to look at the facts, a list of medals from recent Olympics has been developed to enable comparison.

FULL AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC TEAM FOR RIO 2016

As Table 1 indicates, if we compare medals won at the last 17 Olympic Games, the 2012 Australian team performed quite badly, although the 10 medals won in 2012 was nowhere near as disastrous as the 1976 and 1988 teams which won one and three medals respectively.

In terms of individual freestyle events, however, Australia’s failure to win male or female event matches 2008, 1984, 1980, 1976, 1952 and 1948.

And with Australia’s female 4 x 100m freestyle relay team wining gold, the 2012 team avoided emulating the 1948 and 1976 teams by winning at least one swimming gold medal.

Table 1: Olympic Games Medals won by Australian swimmers in 1948-2012 (gold medals won in brackets)

 

Total

Men

Women

Total

Freestyle

Individual

Men

Freestyle

Individual

Women

Freestyle

Individual

Total

Relays

Men relays

Women

relays

1948

4

3

1

2

2

0

0

0

0

1952

1 (1)

1 (1)

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1956

14(8)

8(5)

6(3)

10(5)

5(3)

5(2)

2 (2)

1(1)

1(1)

1960

13(5)

9(4)

4(1)

6(4)

5(3)

1(1)

4

2

2

1964

9(4)

7(3)

2(1)

4(2)

3(1)

1(1)

3

2

1

1968

8(3)

5(2)

3(1)

4(2)

3(2)

1

3

2

1

1972

9(6)

1(1)

8(5)

6(3)

2(1)

4(2)

0

0

0

1976

1

1

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1980

7(2)

5(1)

2(1)

3(1)

2

1(1)

1(1)

1(1)

0

1984

12(1)

9(1

3

2

2

0

2

2

0

1988

3(1)

2(1)

1

3(1)

2(1)

1

0

0

0

1992

9(1)

4(1)

5

5(1)

3(1)

2

0

0

0

1996

12(2)

7(1)

5(1)

4(1)

4(1)

0

3

1

2

2000

18(5)

12(4)

6(1)

4(3)

3(2)

1(1)

5(2)

3(2)

2

2004

15(7)

6(3

9(4)

7(4)

5(3)

2(1)

3(2)

1

2(2)

2008

20(6)

8

12(6)

4

2

2

6(2)

3

3(2)

2012

10(1)

2

6(1)

2

1

1

3(1)

1

2(1)

But what of the future? Does Australia have the depth to rebound at coming Olympic Games?

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If we go by the number of Australians making finals in London, as illustrated by Table 2, then Australia’s performance of 28 finalists compares favourably with recent Olympic Games since 1992.

Table 2: Number of Australian finalists in swimming at Olympic Games 1992-2012

 

1992

1996

2000

2004

2008

2012

Total

27

27

30

26

33

28

Men

11

15

18

14

15

13

Women

16

12

12

12

18

15

Individual

23

21

24

21

27

22

Men

8

12

15

12

12

10

Women

15

9

9

9

15

12

Freestyle
(individual)

6

7

7

12

12

7

Men

4

4

6

8

6

4

Women

2

3

1

4

6

3

Relays

4

6

6

5

6

6

Men

3

3

3

2

3

3

Women

1

3

3

3

3

3

Should we panic just because we won no individual gold? Not really. After all, swimming is one of the most competitive of Olympic Games sports with many nations now bidding for medals.

With China again on the scene, along with many other aspiring nations likely to bid for medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Australia (with its relatively small population) may again find it hard to win gold medals.

Is the answer merely to spend more money? Perhaps, but Great Britain’s considerable expenditure in that sport only delivered 3 minor medals in 2012.

Perhaps we now expect now too much given recent success from 2000 to 2008 without recognising that our 2012 performance compares favourably with medals won from 1976 to 1992.

We have recently become accustomed to great Olympic Games swimming champions with multiple individual gold medal winners including Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Stephanie Rice.

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After Australia’s demise from 1976 to 1996, a period when Australia won a collective seven gold medals in six Olympic Games, we were able to win a staggering 18 gold medals in the four Olympic Games between 1996 and 2008

But winning gold medals has always been difficult in one of the most difficult and prestigious of Olympic Games sports.

Rather than bag our team, we should remind ourselves that Australia remains a great swimming nation with the sport able to harness high levels of participation relative to other populations.

Who knows what the 2016 Olympic Games will deliver in terms of Australian swimming success, but the 2012 experience was not a disaster given Australia was the fourth most successful nation in terms of medals won, despite winning just one gold medal?