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British Olympics Boss Urges Swim Inquiry

Aug 6, 2012  - Craig Lord

British Swimming has been told that it must launch an in-depth investigation into its disappointing show in the pool at a home London 2012 Olympic Games. The instruction comes from Britain's Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan.

David Sparkes, the Chief Executive of British Swimming, agreed a pre-Games medals target of five to seven medals with funding body UK Sport, which provided more than £25million to the sport in the last funding cycle.

Michael Jamieson claimed a magnificent silver a hand from the world-record victory of Daniel Gyurta of Hungary in the 200m breaststroke, while Rebecca Adlington (read her first reflections here) added two bronze medals in the 400m and 800m freestyle to the double gold success of Beijing four years ago to reinforce her status as the most successful British swimmer of the modern era. 

Britain had 23 places in finals and a handful of 4th and 5th places but its swimmers could not convert those places to the podium because they fell shy of best, the vast majority of swims falling shy of season bests.

BOA chairman Lord Moynihan said: "On swimming there is a lot of analysis needed. I know they are bitterly disappointed and they are going to have to look at it. They are going to really drill down into the whole preparation.

"I went to their training camp, they were cautiously optimistic with a lot of talent but it didn't come together, so there will be in-depth analysis on why."

Sparkes, meanwhile, told his favourite diarist on a British tabloid: "The performances have been very disappointing. Our swimmers have failed to achieve the times and we've got to find out why. We will be making changes. It's at that level where we have to discover where we went wrong." 

Actually, it is at the very helm of the sport that the inquiry ought to start. Given that Sparkes launched an independent investigation into allegations of bullying by then performance director Bill Sweetenham levelled at the Australian by a handful of disgruntled swimmers in the wake of the Athens 2004 Games, many in the sport would like to see British Swimming's chief executive face outside scrutiny himself.

Sweetenham will head an Australian review into how the Dolphins did in the pool in London, its 10 medals still more that Britain has ever had. He left Britain in 2007 citing personal issues, one of his parents having died, the other ailing. It was no secret at the time that the Australian could barely stand to be in the same room as Sparkes. 

To avoid the two men clashing, Sparkes appointed Ian Mason to serve as the official to whom Sweetenham should report. That simply added insult to injury in swimming performance terms. 

In the last two years of his tenure, after being cleared of bullying by an independent investigation, Sweetenham admitted that he had "eased off  doing the things I know Britain needs to be doing if it is to get to where it has the potential to be". When he left, some in the sport said it a good thing because Britain, in the words of one coach "no longer needed its arse kicking". 

Maybe not but those who said that Britain missed its mark in Athens because Sweetenham was too tough must now surely wonder whether they missed their mark in London eight years later because they simply were not tough enough.