This week we celebrate exactly 20 years since the Sydney Paralympics. The well-known story is the incredible success of this momentous international event, the unknown story is that the Paralympic Games almost did not happen.
The decision by Kitty Chiller to ban both Josh Palmer and Emma McKeon from attending the closing ceremony at Rio and to impose sanctions would appear to be harsh on the surface.
If what has been reported is true then Chiller was justified in the case of Palmer, but the jury is still out on McKeon.
After all of the bad press about the swimming team that attended the Olympics in London 2012 there has obviously been a concerted effort made by Swimming Australia to improve the culture and a big part of that is team discipline.
All of the 420 athletes attending Rio would have undoubtedly been issued with strict rules and the protocol to follow should they leave the Olympic Village especially at night time, was a curfew enforced by Chiller? That information we are not privy to, but you would have thought so.
With the now well-documented story of the four USA swimmers including multiple gold medallist Ryan Lochte who fabricated being held up at gunpoint it’s hard to believe the credibility of Palmer’s similar story.
However in the case of McKeon she reportedly contacted a number of her teammates to let them know that she was having difficulty in getting back to the Olympic Village. Why she didn’t notify team management though remains unclear.
With the Australian swimmers reportedly unable to attend the Opening Ceremony due to a number of them having to compete early on the first day of the Olympics, it must have made it even more devastating for Palmer and McKeon when the sanctions were imposed.
It must have been difficult when the realisation hit them that they would be missing the closing ceremony.
An important point that should be noted here is that Chiller’s controversial decision to ban both Palmer and McKeon impacted on the morale of the Australian team. There was a petition to have McKeon allowed to attend the closing ceremony which was reportedly circulated around.
Call it a coincidence or not, at the end of the day it was good to see that common sense prevailed after Kitty Chiller did a backflip and reinstated McKeon for the closing ceremony. As for Palmer he’ll probably have to watch it on TV like the rest of us.