lifestyle

Australian Swimmers: was this the weirdest press conference ever?

Eamon Sullivan during the press conference.

By DAVE THORNTON

Let’s be honest, Australia: our national sporting colours are Green and Gold. Green and Silver just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Still, that’s what we were at the last Olympics. Silver for our second places and Green for the envy we felt towards the countries who beat us (I’m looking at you Great Britain. I mean, seriously, you’re an empire not a country. You don’t see us recruiting China and winning every medal up for grabs, under the banner ‘Great Asia’).

The Olympics finished 8 MONTHS AGO. That’s right. A lifetime ago. (I think back then people still hadn’t heard of Gangnam Style – how did they even survive?)

Yet it wasn’t until this week, that what happened at a pre-Olympic 4 x 100m men’s swimming team bonding session in Manchester was revealed.

What do most people do to bond? Trust exercises? Maybe braid each other’s hair?

Well, the boys went to the movies, had dinner and then jacked up on Stilnox and went door knocking around the ladies’ sleeping quarters. You know – the usual. I’m not sure if that was in the manual for Australian Athletes’ Etiquette or something that Nick D’Arcy suggested at gunpoint, but either way people are pretty hot and bothered by these events.

Today’s Daily Telegraph.

There is talk of banning all the swimmers involved from ever competing again and making Ian Thorpe breed with Suzie O’Neil to create a league of super swimmers (OK, that last bit was my idea and granted it may take A LOT OF WORK for that to occur).

The six swimmers involved – James Magnussun, James Roberts, Cameron McEvoy, Matt Target, Eamon Sullivan and Tommaso D’Orsonga – held a press conference today and all looked suitably sheepish. Some would even say nervous – in fact, James ‘The Missile” Magnussen was sweating like a glazed donut.

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Rumours say the ‘bonding’ woke the female swimmers at 1.30am; the girls were only days away from competition. The men in question say it was a more subdued 10:30pm, when everyone was still up watching Lateline.

Who’s telling the truth? Not sure. But what we do know is that Australian Swimming coach Leigh Nugent was aware of this and did nothing about it. Good work, Coach, way to not look like you have favourites.

So is this just ‘boys being boys’ or is this the act of some ignorant men who ruined the preparation and dreams of our female Olympic swimmers?

Now with social media, the 24-hour news cycle – anyone of profile is under extremely significant scrutiny. Maybe this kind of ‘bonding’ happened previously but we never knew about it? Or maybe this was a one-off? Are people just looking for something, or someone to blame for our poor medal tally in London? Is there a bad culture in Australian Swimming that needs to be weeded out?

All I know is this is a prime example of what fame is in 2013. It used to be a hedonistic wonderland where you got your money for nothing and your chicks for free (royalties: Mark Knopfler).

Now fame means you are under the microscope and EVERYTHING is under scrutiny… even if it did occur 8 months ago.

Dave Thornton is one of the hosts of Mamamia Today (that’s right! We’re on the radio! At 3pm weekdays!) and is known for his free flowing humor and extensive experience across TV, radio and stage. Dave is currently touring his stand-up comedy festival show ‘Tall and Pointy’ throughout Australia. He’ll be at the Adelaide Fringe Festival until March 3rd, The Brisbane Comedy Festival from March 5th-10th and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 27th– April 21st.

Do you think this is just an example of ‘boys being boys’ or is it a more serious issue? Do you think the Australian swimming culture is a problem? Have you ever been part of a team or workplace with cultural problems?

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