When Australia’s males’s 4x100m freestyle relay crew sheepishly confronted the music on the notorious “Stilnox Six” press convention in 2013, it represented a low level for a once-mighty crew that had misplaced its means.
The sight of the ashen-faced dash stars paraded in entrance of the media to be probed over a controversial London Olympic bonding night time lives lengthy within the reminiscence for Australian swimming followers.
They admitted to utilizing the sleeping treatment Stilnox as a part of a “bonding” train, and fascinating in different disruptive behaviour throughout a coaching camp earlier than the 2012 Video games.
The admission adopted a report that highlighted a “poisonous” crew tradition as a key issue within the underwhelming exhibiting in London, the place Australia received only a single gold and completed seventh on the swimming medal tally, their worst place since 1976.
Eight years on, Australian swimming is back, in an enormous means.
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All is probably not utterly rosy — fresh allegations of ‘toxic’ cultural issues surfaced in the build-up to these Games — however the Dolphins are a dominant world drive once more, and clearly doing loads proper.
Australia’s seven gold medals, with a day nonetheless to go within the pool, in Tokyo represents their finest haul since Athens 2004. On Sunday they’ve an opportunity to match, or higher, the report eight-gold efficiency from Melbourne 1956.
It’s been a rocky street again thus far.
The crew additionally didn’t stay as much as pre-meet expectations 5 yr in the past in Rio, the place they received three gold, however there have been indicators of a revival, particularly when it got here to crew tradition – though some swimmers urged the “poisonous” speak had been overblown.
Issues have been already heading again in the correct course earlier than Jacco Verhaeren arrived in 2014 to succeed Leigh Nugent as head coach, however the Dutchman helped in constructing a united crew of swimmers and coaches, earlier than handing the reins to Rohan Taylor final yr.
One of many greatest criticisms of Australian groups of the previous decade was an incapability to transform world rankings and trials performances to success on the most important stage.
That has modified lately and one of many key initiatives of Verhaeren’s tenure might have performed an enormous half; shifting the timing of choice trials nearer to main meets in a mirror of the mannequin utilized by the USA.
A strict choice coverage — requiring swimmers not solely to put within the prime two at trials however meet a troublesome qualifying time — might have additionally performed a task within the success of this marketing campaign though it was not revolutionary; different regimes employed an identical technique together with Nugent’s earlier than the 2011 world championships. Taylor admitted after trials in June there are nonetheless flaws within the coverage that want addressing.
Australia might merely benefiting from a uncommon golden age of expertise. In stars like Emma McKeon, Ariarne Titmus, Kaylee McKeown, Kyle Chalmers and extra they’ve athletes and personalities able to inspiring and lifting the crew like the numerous Australian greats of the previous did.
MASTERS OF THE RACE PLAN
Within the complicated world of swimming the place milliseconds matter, there could also be no easy rationalization for the revival however what is evident is Australia is getting the fundamentals proper in relation to unearthing and growing expertise, and having the correct individuals, employees and coaches, in place to maximise the potential.
A formidable hallmark of this marketing campaign has been Australian swimmers coming from behind to win. Titmus (200m, 400m freestyle), McKeown (100m and 200m backstroke) and Zac Stubblety-Prepare dinner (200m breaststroke) all did it of their gold medal-winning swims. McKeon (100m freestyle) hasn’t wanted to such has been her unbelievable kind proper off the blocks.
They’re the performances of well-coached swimmers who’re fine-tuned bodily however extra importantly mentally; athletes with not only a clear and efficient race plan however the equanimity to drag it off beneath an Olympic-sized quantity of stress.
“I used to be there to execute a race plan,” Stubblety-Prepare dinner stated after his 200m triumph. “I knew that there can be just a few individuals going at it from the beginning, as a result of that’s how the final Olympics have been received.
“It was received by somebody who went out in lane eight – no-one might see [them] – and so they simply held on. I knew immediately there can be somebody doing that, however I used to be joyful to execute my race plan and do what I do finest.”
It hasn’t been a squeaky clear marketing campaign; the efficiency of the ladies’s 4x200m freestyle relay crew – close to unbackable favourites – didn’t match into the above class and training ways and alternatives have been pretty questioned.
There have been minor controversies too — the poolside antics of Titmus’ coach Dean Boxall raised just a few eyebrows globally as did McKeown’s interview ‘F-bomb’ after profitable the 100m.
However grace in victory and defeat has been one other spotlight for the crew in Tokyo. There have been no large proclamations or declarations of struggle on the US crew as there have been previously. Extremely, Australia enter the ultimate day only one behind the world’s most profitable swimming nation and as an out of doors likelihood of topping the pool’s medal tally for the primary time.
With the deer-in-headlights look of the “Stilnox Six” now a distant reminiscence, it’s clear Australia got here to those Video games able to rock and in consequence the Dolphins’ aura is again, out and in of the pool.
AUSTRALIA’S SWIMMING PERFORMANCE AT EVERY OLYMPICS
TOKYO 2020 – 7 gold, 3 silver, 8 bronze (2nd on medal tally) *at some point remaining
RIO 2016 – 3 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze (2nd on medal tally)
LONDON 2012 – 1 gold, 6 silver, 3 bronze (seventh on medal tally)
BEIJING 2008 — 6 gold, 6 silver, 8 bronze (2nd on medal tally)
ATHENS 2004 — 7 gold, 5 silver, 3 bronze (2nd on medal tally)
SYDNEY 2000 — 5 gold. 9 silver, 4 bronze (2nd on medal tally)
ATHENS 1996 – 2 gold, 4 silver, 6 bronze (fifth on medal tally)
BARCELONA 1992 – 1 gold, 3 silver, 5 bronze (sixth on medal tally)
SEOUL 1988 – 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze (fifth on medal tally)
LOS ANGELES 1984 – 1 gold, 5 silver, 6 bronze (fifth on medal tally)
MOSCOW 1980 – 1 gold, 5 bronze (4th on medal tally)
MONTREAL 1976 – 1 bronze (eighth on medal tally)
MUNICH 1972 – 6 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze (2nd on medal tally)
MEXICO CITY 1968 – 3 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze (2nd on medal tally)
TOKYO 1964 – 4 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze (2nd on medal tally)
ROME 1960 – 5 gold, 5 silver, 3 bronze (2nd on medal tally)
MELBOURNE 1956 – 8 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze (1st on medal tally)
HELSINKI 1952 – 1 gold (4th on medal tally)
LONDON 1948 – 2 silver, 2 bronze (4th on medal tally)
BERLIN 1936 – no medals
LOS ANGELES 1932 – 1 gold, 1 silver (third on medal tally)
AMSTERDAM 1928 – 2 silver (eighth on medal tally)
PARIS 1924 – 1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze (third on medal tally)
ANTWERP 1920 – 1 silver, 1 bronze
STOCKHOLM 1912 – 2 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze (2nd on medal tally) * competed as Australasia
LONDON 1908 – 1 silver, 1 bronze (fifth on medal tally) * competed as Australasia
https://www.foxsports.com.au/tokyo-olympics-2021/from-the-stillnox-six-to-seven-gold-how-dolphins-buried-a-decade-of-olympic-demons/news-story/0b5755bd75d8890e5a444a85ad47f55b | How Dolphins buried demons of Rio 2016, London 2012, Stilnox Six