(L-R) Kylie Palmer, Bronte Barratt, Alicia Coutts, and Melanie Schlanger of Australia pose with their silver medals following the medal ceremony for the Women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
(L-R) Kylie Palmer, Bronte Barratt, Alicia Coutts, and Melanie Schlanger of Australia pose with their silver medals following the medal ceremony for the Women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Al Bello / Getty Images

Australian hopes sink

DAWN Fraser blamed inexperience.

Shane Gould said our swim coaches place too much emphasis on statistical analysis rather than technique.

Susie O'Neill said the nation's swimmers had lost their work ethic.

And dual Olympian and gold medallist Daniel Kowalski, now head of the Australian Swimmers Association, said our swimmers weren't given enough opportunities to race regularly on the World Cup circuit.

It seems everyone has an opinion on what went wrong in the pool in London.

But did our swimmers really underperform?

Certainly by comparison to recent Olympics they did.

Not since Montreal has an Australian swimmer failed to take out an individual race at an Olympic Games.

Our only gold came in the women's 4x100m freestyle relay on day one of the competition, and that result had been unexpected.

Australia's final tally was one gold, six silver and three bronze, a massive 20 medals behind the Americans who finished with 16 gold, eight silver and six bronze.

Coach Leight Nugent tried to put a positive spin on the result, saying unlike Beijing where Australia went into the games with five world number ones, and won six gold medals, this time we had just two (James Magnussen and Stephanie Rice).

"I'd say here a few of our athletes have suffered from the pressure. We came in with only a couple of people in the number one position. Steph (Rice) struggled after the 400 IM ... and she was the number one athlete. From time to time, it's going to happen," Nugent said.

That isn't exactly the case - you have to go back to Barcelona in 1992 to find a worse result in the pool - nine medals (one gold, three silver, five bronze).

Before the Games, Nugent had predicted between 13 and 15 medals.

And no doubt Magnussen in the 100m freestyle and the 4x100m freestyle relay were pencilled in as gold.

But were our expectations too high, particularly coming into London on the back of our best ever swimming performance in Beijing where Australia bagged 20 medals in the pool - six gold, six silver and eight bronze?

Not according to one of the members of that men's 4x100m freestyle relay team, Matt Targett.

"I thought we put a higher amount of pressure on ourselves than the public did. We thought we could do something really special. We felt quite sure," he said. "We expected gold or at least a podium if something went slightly wrong."

It went more than slightly wrong.

That wasn't the case for the Americans, or their superstar Michael Phelps.

Having announced his retirement, Phelps finished with gold and another world record in the 4x100m medley relay, taking his Olympic tally to a record 22 medals, 18 of them gold.

FACT BOX
Australia's swimming medals:

  • 1992 Barcelona - 9 medals (1 gold, 3 silver, 5 bronze)
  • 1996 Atlanta - 12 medals (2 gold, 4 silver, 6 bronze)
  • 2000 Sydney - 18 medals (5 gold, 9 silver, 4 bronze)
  • 2004 Athens - 15 medals (7 gold, 5 silver, 3 bronze)
  • 2008 Beijing - 20 medals (6 gold, 6 silver, 8 bronze)
  • 2012 London - 8 medals (1 gold, 5 silver, 2 bronze)


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