More cash won’t necessarily mean more dash in the pool according to Australia’s senior male swimmer, Eamon Sullivan.
The Dolphins claimed a solitary gold medal – in the women’s 4 x 100m freestyle – at the London 2012 pool. There were 10 medals in total, half of what they brought back from the Beijing Games four years ago when the country’s aquatic stars finished second on the meeting tally.
And the post mortem has begun in earnest with Swimming Australia appointing former head coach Bill Sweetenham to oversee an inquiry into the national program.
One of the focuses of the probe will be to determine whether more funding is required to encourage first-choice athletes to get in the water.
However, in an exclusive interview with thewest.com.au in London today, Sullivan said throwing money at athletes wasn’t an answer and he believed that too much focus had been put on the disappointments in London.
“I wish we had a paycheque that big,” when reminded of the high wages on offer to top players in AFL and rugby league, which aggressively target talent conducive to swimming.
“But none of us get up at four in the morning because we want to get paid, it’s because we want to perform. More than anything swimmers are just proud to be doing their job. It’s not about the money.
“Firstly, (to improve) we start by giving the swimmers a bit of credit instead of being negative about the performance. Talk about the positives and it might inspire the young kids to get in there and do it, too.
“A lot of people did PBs (in London) but unfortunately it was just a bit off as the rest of the world was making their mark. The rest of the world has caught up. It gives us something to chase and that isn’t a bad thing.”
Of the 49 individual events on the London program Australians improved their times from the national trials in 17 races.
It wasn’t good enough according to SA president David Urquhart, who announced the Sweetenham probe today. The inquiry panel will also feature gold medallist Susie O’Neill a week after she publicly questioned the work ethic of some of Australia’s current team members.
“In the last 24 hours following the swimming competition I have been in contact with my fellow board members,” Urqhuart said.
“We have agreed we must do everything possible to get Australian swimming back on top.”
Sullivan revealed after his Games swims he was carrying a shoulder injury that would require surgery if he was to continue in the sport.
However, he was not so certain about aiming for a fourth Games selection for Rio 2016. Instead, he wants to gauge life as the hands-on part-owner of his Subiaco cafe before rushing back to the water.
“I’m definitely not making a decision right now. The intent is to try. We’ll see how things go,” Sullivan said
“Getting the shoulder fixed first and going from there is the main priority. I’m having a bit of time off and making the decision when I’ve had some time in the cafe and been working in normal life.
“Once I’ve had a taste of that I can decide whether I’m enjoying it or want to continue swimming full time. Nothing is set in stone yet.”
However, some concrete is set to be poured in Sullivan’s life.
He will join fellow Olympic medallists Jamie Dwyer (hockey) and Steve Hooker (pole vault) in building a restaurant near Leighton Beach later in the year.
And he expects to be looking for a new coach if he does extend his swimming career.
Sullivan has been trained by Grant Stoelwinder since 2000 and followed the fellow West Australian to Sydney four years ago. But the return to Perth later in the year will mean a change of master.
“It was quite weird finishing my last swim the other day and thinking it could be the last time I swim with him,” Sullivan said.
“I really have no idea. Twelve years we’ve been together, longer than he has been with his partner.”