Another week, another former Australian swimming champion covering the pages of our newspapers and the screens of our TVs with some sort of scandal.
Or at least…. that’s how it’s begun to feel like lately.
This week, Geoff Huegill, 35, was allegedly busted with cocaine – reports are that he was hiding from the police in a public toilet. Last month, it was Grant Hackett, before that is was Ian Thorpe. Before that it was the whole male swim team acting like idiots at the London Olympics in 2012, putting the performance of their colleagues at serious risk.
So what the hell is happening to our swimmers? Was there something fancy put in the chlorine at Sydney Olympic Park? Why are so many of them having such major fall from grace?
Today I spoke to swimming champion Libby Trickett to try and find out why it is that so many of our former swimming champions – and the men in particular – are struggling to achieve success in a post-pool career.
Trickett, 29, has managed to build a successful life out of the pool but has also spoken publicly about struggling with depression following her retirement from professional swimming. Trickett is in a unique position of being able to understand why so many of our past champions seem to be having such difficulty adjusting to ‘regular’ life.
On the latest drama with Geoff Huegill, Trickett said, “I don’t condone his actions but my heart goes out to him and his family.” Trickett does admit her first reaction to the news that Huegill had allegedly been caught with drugs was “honestly…not again.” She seems to be deeply concerned that the reputation of the sport in particular is at a low point.
That isn’t to say Trickett doesn’t understand the difficulties and hardship athletes face when they finish their career. “The fact is that as a professional athlete, swimming is your entire life,” she said. “You live and breathe swimming. Everything you do in your life is to help you improve just that millisecond in the pool… I’ve been retired since July last year and it is still a journey I’m trying to figure out.”
So how can athletes avoid struggling in the way that the likes of Huegill, Thorpe and Hackett are? Is this sort of fall into deep despair somehow inevitable for those who have achieved at the very highest levels of their sport and been lauded as heroes by an entire nation?