The Roar
The Roar


If the swimmers fail, the Australian Olympic medal tally takes a dive

Emma McKeon is set for a huge World Championships. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
15th August, 2016
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Swimming is the undisputed flagship of every Australian Olympic Games campaign.

Of the 468 medals Australia has won in 24 sports between 1896 and 2012, swimming has accounted for 178, or 38 per cent.

Of our gold swimming has accounted for 57 out of 139, or 41 per cent; 60 silver out of 152, or 39 per cent; and 61 bronze out of 177, or 34 per cent – the most medals in every category.

Next is athletics with 71 medals in total, or 15 per cent, with 21 gold (15 per cent). 25 silver (16 er cent) and 25 bronze, or 14 per cent.

Cycling is the third most successful Australian sport with 49 medals, or 11 per cent, with 14 gold (10 per cent), 18 silver (12 er cent), and 17 bronze, or ten er cent.

And rowing with 37 medals, or eight per cent, with ten gold (7 per cent), 13 silver (9 per cent), and 14 bronze, or 8 per cent.

Of the 13 most successful Australian Olympians, nine are swimmers.

Nine medals – Ian Thorpe five gold, three silver, one bronze, Leisel Jones 3-5-1.
Eight – Dawn Fraser 4-4-0, Susan O’Neill 2-4-2, Petria Thomas 3-4-1.
Seven – Grant Hackett 3-3-1. Libby Trickett 4-1-2, Shirley Strickland (athletics) 3-1-3
Six – Murray Rose 4-1-1, Anna Meares (cycling) 2-1-3.
Five – Shane Gould 3-1-1.
Four – Betty Cuthbert (athletics) 4-0-0, and Drew Ginn (rowing) 3-1-0..

So when swimming bombed out with just ten medals in London with one just gold, six silver and three bronze, so did the overall medal count of 35 with eight gold, 15 silver, and a dozen bronze.


Remember the swimming headlines?

“Toxic culture of the Australian swimmers with drugs, alcohol, and bullying rife among the team”.

“Lack of discipline and leadership became a major issue”.

And “There will be an investigation into the worst Australian swimming performance in 20 years”.

There was an investigation, with many swimmers on a good behaviour bond or shown the door. But more importantly, Americas Cup hero John Bertrand was appointed president of Swimming Australia, a decision that was widely applauded at the time.

But the Rio swimming is done and dusted with the same medal count of ten – three gold, three silver, and four bronze – way below expectations.

Will there be another investigation?

No, the problem is crystal clear.


The Australian swim team for Rio were named after the Australian Championships – four months ago.

The Americans named their team last month, after their nationals, and the difference became obvious very quickly.

The Americans were in top form, the Australians had tapered down.

That’s how the Americans managed 33 pool medals with 16 gold, eight silver, and nine bronze, but they weren’t that much better than the Australians – only far better prepared.

The potential Australian swim gold medals that got away:

Cate Campbell – 100 free (6th), and 50 free (5th)
Cameron McEvoy – 100 free (7th), and 50 free (11th)
Bronte Campbell – 100 free (4th), and 50 free (8th)
Emily Seebohm – 100 back (7th), and 200 back (12th).
Mitch Larkin – 100 back (4th), 200 back (2nd).
Madison Wilson – 100 back (8th)
Mack Horton – 1500 free (5th)
Belinda Hocking – 200 back (5th).

The next Olympic Games will be Tokyo 2020 from July 24 to August 9.

Therefore the Australian Championships for swim selections must be in the second half of June 2020.


Then there will be a level playing field in Japan.