After a 2012 Olympic campaign that yielded only one gold medal in the pool in London, Australia was out for redemption in Rio.
In the aftermath of 2012, an investigation revealed the ‘toxic culture’ that had developed in the Australian team. It resulted in a press conference where those responsible apologised for the behaviour in what was a disappointing return from the swimmers.
So this time around, with a lot learnt from four years ago, what Australia needed was not only a unified team, but to go somewhat under the radar. Instead of that, before a gold medal was even handed out Mack Horton was calling another swimmer ‘a drug cheat’.
So what was the result? It completely dominated what was in the media for the next three days. And while it was alright for Horton who took gold, the rest of swimmers had to carry the load of an Australian calling an opposing swimmer ‘a cheat’.
It was selfish and unnecessary. Its help to the team was zero.
Instead of a team focused on themselves and each other’s goals, it became about one person. It became about ‘big Mack’ and his right ‘freedom of speech’; his ‘admirable fight’ to his fight against drug cheats.
It became all about Mack!
After two gold medals on the opening day, it didn’t take long for Mack Horton and others to point out that Australia had already doubled their gold medals from London. But comparing your current feat with mediocrity can only result in just less mediocrity instead of the desired result.
Only a brilliant effort from Kyle Chalmers, who produced a great swim in the 100m freestyle, could claim gold for the rest of the competition. The spin doctors will try and tell you this team’s effort and results were admirable, but those who deal with reality will know the swimmers didn’t achieve their potential.
Whether Horton’s comments had a negative effect on the team will be up for debate. But for a team looking for unity and focus on themselves as a team, it didn’t help.