Culture change helps Australia out of deep end

Wed Aug 27, 2014 2:46am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Encouraging performances at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships have continued the resurrection of Australian swimming, but head coach Jacco Verhaeren is reluctant to declare that the sleeping giant has awakened.

Australia finished the four-day Pan Pacs at the Gold Coast on Sunday with 10 gold from 26 medals, second only to the United States' powerful team which reaped 40 overall, including 14 gold.

Coming weeks after a predictably dominant showing in the Commonwealth Games pool in Glasgow, Australia's swimmers have lapped up the acclaim, with no less than the country's Olympic chiefs declaring them as "world beaters".

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) gave the team a glowing report card halfway through the Games cycle, saying they would snatch 18 medals, including eight golds, from the Rio pool in 2016 based on current world rankings.

The "virtual" medal tally is a far cry from the solitary title won at the London Games, which sparked scathing reviews and a clean-out of team management last year.

Dutchman Verhaeren, installed in October as part of the shake-up, is also optimistic, but backs away from claims the team has regained its "mojo".

"Hearing the feedback from coaches and athletes and staff involved, I think everybody's very happy where we're heading," the 45-year-old, who coached Olympic champions Inge de Bruijn and Pieter van den Hoogenband, told Reuters in a phone interview on Wednesday.

"We made great steps in the team and in performance and especially transferring great results in trials in April to the major events this year, so that was a big step forward.   Continued...