Swimming Australia high performance director Michael Scott admits it will be a challenge to meet their Glasgow Commonwealth Games medal objective.
Team culture may no longer be a concern but Swimming Australia (SA) high performance director Michael Scott admits it will be “challenging” to meet their Glasgow Commonwealth Games medal objective.
Scott believed positive steps had been made toward eradicating the “toxic culture” that sunk Australia’s Olympic flagship team at the London Games.
And he liked what he saw in the pool with his 47-strong Australian Games squad boasting world No.1 times for the year in 12 events when the national titles concluded in Brisbane on Sunday night.
However, Scott revealed it would be tough to live up to expectations set under the Australian Sports Commission (ASC)’s “Winning Edge” strategy.
Under the high performance strategy targets introduced in late 2012 in the fallout over Australia’s belly flop in the pool, Scott’s team are expected to win at least 53 medals and a maximum of 55.
Australia’s highly successful swim team at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games came home with 54 medals – 22 gold, 16 silver and 16 bronze.
“It is a challenging target,” Scott said.
“It is achievable but we are at stage one and need to step up, not step back when we get to the Commonwealth Games and swim faster if we want to achieve that target.”
Despite the world No.1 times his squad boasted, Scott seemed more chuffed with the progress his team had made out of the pool in his 12 months at the helm.
He arrived at SA with the sport all but on its knees in the country after major sponsor Energy Australia withdrew its annual $2 million sponsorship deal and the ASC cut funding for the first time since the 1980s by another $500,000 a year in the London fallout.
Team culture was the focus after two damning reviews in the wake of the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team’s now infamous bonding session before the London Games.
“I believe they are coming into an improved culture,” Scott said.
“When new swimmers come into the team we have strong leaders who set the example, who teach the rookies ‘this is how the team operates’ – it is not us lecturing athletes.
“We have a long way to go but it’s positive that we are moving forward in creating a new team dynamic.”
New head coach Jacco Verhaeren said his world champions Cate Campbell, James Magnussen and Christian Sprenger had inspired the likes of young guns Mack Horton, Jessica Ashwood, Madeline Groves and Mitch Larkin.
“We are looking at a fantastic team going to the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
At 28, triple Olympian Eamon Sullivan won the 50m freestyle final on Sunday night at his first national titles in two years to become the oldest member of the squad along with Sprenger and Sally Hunter.
However, Sullivan’s team nomination is subject to medical advice and a fitness test following shoulder clean up surgery scheduled for next week.
Twelve Para Sport athletes were also named on Sunday night – the largest contingent for an Australian swim team at the Commonwealth Games.