U.K. Reviews Olympic Swimming Performance, Head Coach Takes Blame
An independent review of Britain’s poor swimming performance at the London Olympics "has highlighted weaknesses in the sport’s coaching leadership and recommended a shake-up in how it organises its senior trials," according to Simon Hart of the London TELEGRAPH. Britain won just three swimming medals in London "prompting Performance Dir Michael Scott to order a post-Game inquiry into what went wrong." American head coach Dennis Pursley, whose contract ended after the Games and who has now returned to the U.S., "was also criticised after the report highlighted weaknesses in the sport’s 'technical and coaching leadership.'" It is understood that coaches "were left to their own devices in setting training programmes and their methods were not challenged or monitored adequately." In some cases, coaches "made alterations to their swimmers’ usual programmes in the weeks leading up to London 2012, which backfired when it came to the Games." The review also recommended "abandoning the current practice of holding the main senior trials in the winter and following the American model of holding them in the summer a few weeks before the championship" (TELEGRAPH, 12/2).
TAKING THE BLAME: In London, Craig Lord reported Pursley "accepted blame for the host nation’s underperformance in the pool, citing the 'poor leadership' of coaches and a 'perfect storm' of events that left swimmers 'just the wrong side of a fine line.'" Breaking his silence for the first time, Pursley said, "The result was devastatingly disappointing in terms of medals. The blame should be directed to me first as head coach." While conceding that he had failed to spark the "fire in the belly" of his team, Pursley "made the mistake of giving coaches choices" where he now believes that "he should have 'mandated matters' in the style of his predecessor, Bill Sweetenham." The review report "comes 10 days before U.K. Sport reveals the level of funding each Olympic sport will receive from a £500M ($802M) pot to prepare for Rio 2016." Mercy is likely to be shown to swimming on the basis that its youth team, the next wave, "is showing great promise." Rival sports may point out it was ever thus (SUNDAY TIMES, 12/2).
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