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A Tale Of Two Hosts Three Games Apart

Mar 22, 2012  - Craig Lord

A Home Olympic Games. What difference does it make? Plenty, is the answer from history. Australia hosted at Sydney in 2000 and stepped up to a very worthy second on the medals table with 5 gold, 9 silver and 4 bronze, for 18 in all. 

That was eight years after winning 1 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze at Barcelona 1992, and 12 years after winning just 3 medals at Seoul 1988, one of each colour.

Just 12 years ago, Britain emerged from Sydney 2000 with no medals at all for the first time since London 1948. Just one woman made a final in fact. It was the early days of a commitment to lottery funding and leadership in the form of a performance director to guide coach education and cultural shift. 

The move was sparked by the forceful appeal of Paul Palmer after he won silver in the 400m freestyle behind New Zealand's Danyon Loader at the 1996 Games in Atlanta at a time when Australia was about to give thanks to Mrs and Mrs Thorpe and Mrs and Mrs Hackett for delivering Ian and Grant.

Late 2000 saw Bill Sweetenham arrive in Britain from Australia with a warning that "it will be hard and some will not make it, won't even want to make it". So it proved. Indeed, by the time Dennis Pursley (and Michael Scott has performance director) took up the wheel as Sweetenham departed in late 2007, the American former mentor of Mary T Meagher and founder head coach at the Australian Institute of Sport, noted that he no longer needed to bang his fists and cajoule folk. The fighting had been done for him and a swimming nation had been turned round. 

Many are the interpretations of how it all went, what was good, what was not. Athens 2004 went to down as a big disappointment, with two bronze medals between two swimmers, despite a record number of finalists, while Beijing 2008 went down as a great success, with three medals between two swimmers in the pool, two of the prizes the gold that makes so much difference, courtesy of Rebecca Adlington. A fine line between what grants a thumbs up and a thumbs down.

The bottom line is clear after 12 years of huge change: Britain is a much stronger force than it was back in 2000. It will need to be if it wants to give a home crowd something to shout about after races, not just before and during. 

Aussie trials ended today. Comparing Australia and Britain trials on the clock, Australians would have won 15 solo events, Britain 11, with Aussie men winning 9 to 4 and Britain's women winning 7 to 6.

Looking back at 2000 trials and then what panned out in Sydney at the Games themselves, it is clear that the hosts stepped up and delivered when it counted, some performances taking an axe to expectation for a medal count of the kind that only Americans are familiar with in the race pool on the biggest of occasions.

The figures below can be interpreted in a whole heap of ways and I leave it to those who wish to wade and wallow to draw conclusions on some fairly obvious trends in strength and weakness, ebb and flow (Britain's women on the up, Australia's distance programme struggling; Australia's sprint programme and the depth across many events awesome; the depth and strength building in Britain's male breaststroke programme, and so forth).

For the immediate future, one thing stands out as significant as the hosts look forward to a home success in July and August: the power of belief and team and the ability to harness the home occasion like a seventh wave. Look at Jones, look at Norris, look at Welsh and others who found the alchemy to convert hope to happening twixt southern autumn and souther spring in their step on their way to the podium.

Swimming is a sport of individuals on a number of levels but team culture is critical to the mix, say a fair few of those who have had brief not only of ensuring the superstar steps up but that whole shoals of folk make a nation stand tall. 

When asked how important it was that Britain now appeared to have a strong community of coaches, swimmers and others who provided support to each other on a continuous basis, Pursley said: "I think it's absolutely essential if you're going to have that ultimate team performance. It can't happen unless you have that mutual respect, that mutual commitment that transcends individual and respects team goals. That's very hard to come by.

"It is the most difficult thing to come by of everything you have to do to have that ultimate team experience. Unless you have experienced it, you don't know what you're missing and you really don't understand in a lot of cases what is required to achieve that. 

"Everybody wants the team to do well, to see Britain succeed but do we understand what the price of that is and what it means to have - as I keep saying to the team over and over again - to have that team-first attitude and concept. It's kind of like the John Kennedy thing: ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.

"It's the same principle: what can I do to help GB be the best it can be. In most cases what you can do is swim fast and win medals, so there's no conflict there. But there do come times when we all have to sacrifice our personal preferences in certain situations in the order to be the ultimate team player, so to speak."

The below compares the difference between the two nations at their respective Olympic trials 2000 and 2012 in each event, and how the 2000 trials converted to a tale of two Games:

  • Lane 1: AUS trials 2000 (the first two times the top two in each final, the third time that of last place in the final)
  • Lane 2: GBR trials 2000 (round-up figures .00 for last in final indicate a time outside the top 200 in the world)
  • Lane 3: AUS at Sydney 2000 (finalists only) 
  • Lane 4: GBR at Sydney 2000 (finalists only)
  • Lane 5: AUS trials 2012
  • Lane 6: GBR trials 2012

Both nations held their domestic trials and nationals this month, March 2012; in 2000, Australia went in May, Britain in July, the Games in Sydney held in September. 

MEN:

Freestyle

50

  • 1. 22.29, 22.42 - 23.09
  • 2. 22.42, 23.17 - 23.79
  • 3. none
  • 4. Foster 22.41 (7th)
  • 5. 21.74, 21.92 -22.65
  • 6. 22.56, 22.58 - 23.01

100

  • 1. 48.56, 48.85 - 50.54
  • 2. 50.44, 50.47 - 50.76
  • 3. Klim 48.74 (4th); Fydler 49.44 (8th)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 47.10, 47.63 - 48.95
  • 6. 49.33, 49.48 - 50.29

200

  • 1. 1:45.51, 1:46.89 - 1:50.10
  • 2. 1:48.42, 1:48.73 - 1:52.71
  • 3. Thorpe 1:45.83 (SILVER) Hackett 1:49.46 (8th) 
  • 4. Palmer 1:47.95 (5th) Salter 1:48.74 (6th)
  • 5. 1:46.88, 1:47.16 - 1:48.30
  • 6. 1:47.33, 1:47.68 - 1:51.09

400

  • 1. 3:41.33, 3:51.05 - 4:00.79
  • 2. 3:49.61, 3:53.09 - 4:03.00
  • 3. Thorpe 3:40.59WR (GOLD), Hackett 3:48.22 (7th)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 3:46.36, 3:47.93 - 3:56.90
  • 6. 3:46.73, 3:48.36 - 3:56.85

1500

  • 1. 14:56.35, 15:01.14 - 16:23.49
  • 2. 15:17.53, 15:17.84 - 16:35.00
  • 3. Hackett 14:48.33 (GOLD); Perkins 14:53.59 (SILVER)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 15:13.38, 15:14.73 - 15:47.21
  • 6. 14:55.30, 15:00.73 - 15:31.57

Backstroke

100

  • 1. 54.14, 54.82 - 57.02
  • 2. 55.81, 56.23 - 59.00
  • 3. Matt Welsh 54.07 (SILVER), Josh Watson 55.01 (4th)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 53.98, 54.05 - 55.83
  • 6. 53.16, 54.46 - 57.02

200

  • 1. 1:59.22, 2:00.68 - 2:05.13
  • 2. 2:00.51, 2:00.75 - 2:08.00
  • 3. Matt Welsh 1:57.59 (BRONZE) 
  • 4. none
  • 5. 1:57.90, 1:58.32 - 2:02.89
  • 6. 1:59.48, 1:59.79 - 2:02.66

Breaststroke 

100

  • 1. 1:02.59, 1:02.63 - 1:04.94
  • 2. 1:01.78, 1:02.29 - 1:06.00
  • 3. none
  • 4. none
  • 5. 59.91, 1:00.13 - 1:03.07
  • 6. 1:00.09, 1:00.47 - 1:02.04

200

  • 1. 2:14.42, 2:14.80 - 2:23.00
  • 2. 2:14.14, 2:15.62 - 2:23.00
  • 3. Regan Harrison 2:12.88 (4th), Ryan Mitchell 2:14.00 (8th)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 2:11.03, 2:12.76 - 2:18.89
  • 6. 2:09.33, 2:09.84 - 2:14.28

Butterfly

100

  • 1. 52.19, 52.20 - 54.77
  • 2. 52.87, 53.97 - 56.33
  • 3. Klim 52.18 (SILVER), Huegill 52.22 (BRONZE)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 51.67, 52.09 - 53.39
  • 6. 52.02, 52.49 - 54.14

200

  • 1. 1:57.49, 1:57.50 - 2:00.63
  • 2. 1:57.13, 1:57.46 - 2:05.46
  • 3. Norris 1:56.17 (BRONZE)
  • 4. Parry 1:57.01 (6th)
  • 5. 1:54.71, 1:56.40 - 2:00.66
  • 6. 1:55.94, 1:56.10 - 2:00.29

Medley

200

  • 1. 2:01.28, 2:01.47 - 2:08.37
  • 2. 2:03.85, 2:04.00 - 2:08.30
  • 3. none
  • 4. none
  • 5. 1:58.19, 1:58.99 - 2:02.58
  • 6. 1:58.16, 1:58.42 - 2:02.65

400

  • 1. 4:16.23, 4:16.50 - 4:34.03
  • 2. 4:20.07, 4:27.05 - 4:31.43
  • 3. Norris 4:17.87 (6th)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 4:11.81, 4:16.38 - 4:32.48
  • 6. 4:12.43, 4:14.48 - 4:24.80

WOMEN

Freestyle

50

  • 1. 25.90, 26.17 - 26.53
  • 2. 25.20, 25.54 - 26.70
  • 3. none
  • 4. Sheppard 25.45 (7th) - the only British woman to make a final
  • 5. 24.44, 24.61 - 25.36
  • 6. 24.13, 24.80 - 26.27

100

  • 1. 55.46, 56.19 - 56.96
  • 2. 55.58, 55.99- 57.15
  • 3. none
  • 4. none
  • 5. 53.85, 54.01 - 54.89
  • 6. 53.57, 54.01 - 56.04

200

  • 1. 1:57.70, 1:59.50 - 2:01.93
  • 2. 2:00.45, 2:00.67 - 2:03.86
  • 3. O'Neill 1:58.24 (GOLD)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 1:55.99, 1:56.04 - 1:58.13
  • 6. 1:57.65, 1:58.07 - 2:00.78

400

  • 1. 4:11.60, 4:12.27 - 4:19.41
  • 2. 4:15.91, 4:16.24 - 4:21.02
  • 3. none
  • 4. none
  • 5. 4:03.40, 4:05.74 - 4:11.94
  • 6. 4:02.35, 4:06.47 - 4:17.26

800

  • 1. 8:35.56, 8:38.73 - 8:55.12
  • 2. 8:39.18, 8:44.31 - 8:59.15
  • 3. none 
  • 4. none
  • 5. 8:26.60, 8:27.97 - 8:48.92
  • 6. 8:18.54, 8:27.11 - 8:49.22

Backstroke

100

  • 1. 1:01.71, 1:02.58 - 1:04.79
  • 2. 1:01.80, 1:02.18 - 1:05.46
  • 3. Dyana Calub 1:01.61 (7th)
  • 4. none
  • 5.   59.28, 59.41 -   1:03.27
  • 6. 1:00.19, 1:00.21 - 1:02.64

200

  • 1. 2:13.35, 2:13.58 - 2:18.29
  • 2. 2:11.25, 2:13.35 - 2:18.32
  • 3. none
  • 4. none
  • 5. 2:06.68, 2:07.83 - 2:17.84
  • 6. 2:08.67, 2:09.94 - 2:14.96

Breaststroke

100

  • 1. 1:08.71, 1:09.05 - 1:11.69
  • 2. 1:10.16, 1:10.67 - 1:12.87
  • 3. Jones 1:07.49 (SILVER), White 1:09.09
  • 4. none
  • 5. 1:06.88, 1:07.64 - 1:09.95
  • 6. 1:08.07, 1:08.96 - 1:10.81

200

  • 1. 2:27.69, 2:28.98 - 2:32.69
  • 2. 2:29.95, 2:30.44 - 2:37.43
  • 3. none
  • 4. none
  • 5. 2:26.31, 2:26.51 - 2:31.55
  • 6. 2:26.63, 2:26.81 - 2:33.84

Butterfly

100

  • 1. 58.43, 58.71     - 1:02.43
  • 2. 1:00.74, 1:00.99 - 1:03.41
  • 3. Thomas 58.49 (4th), O'Neill 59.27 (7th)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 57.59, 57.88 - 59.96
  • 6. 57.25, 57.56 - 1:01.00

200

  • 1. 2:05.81, 2:07.21 - 2:17.17
  • 2. 2:11.36, 2:11.59 - 2:18.74
  • 3. O'Neill 2:06.68 (SILVER); Thomas 2:07.12 (BRONZE)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 2:06.93, 2:08.92 - 2:16.45
  • 6. 2:06.01; 2:06.37 - 2:14.18

Medley

200

  • 1. 2:14.66, 2:16.66 - 2:22.00
  • 2. 2:14.90, 2:16.26 - 2:22.00
  • 3. none
  • 4. none
  • 5. 2:09.38, 2:09.83 - 2:19.99
  • 6. 2:10.77, 2:11.71 - 2:17.12

400

  • 1. 4:44.20, 4:45.98 - 4:58.00
  • 2. 4:49.15, 4:53.33 - 4:58.00
  • 3. Reilly 4:45.99 (8th)
  • 4. none
  • 5. 4:33.45; 4:37.80 - 4:52.18
  • 6. 4:32.67, 4:37.48 - 4:49.91