British Swimming does not need "radical" overhaul review into London 2012 concludes

Sunday, 02 December 2012
By Duncan Mackay

Gemma Spofforth July 29 100m backstroke London 2012December 2 - British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes has promised to introduce the changes proposed in the Performance Debrief launched after Britain's disappointing performance at London 2012, even though it found that there was not one major reason behind the failure.

Team GB claimed just three medals in London - two bronzes from Rebecca Adlington and a silver for Michael Jamieson - and there were a number of disappointing performances from swimmers who had been expected to challenge for success as the sport failed to reach the target of five set by Government agency UK Sport.

The panel, chaired by ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission Craig Hunter, an independent member of British Swimming's Board, included Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps' coach, Conor O' Shea, the director of rugby at Harlequins, and Thomas Lurz, who has won bronze and silver medals in open water swimming at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

The review that been initiated by Michael Scott, British Swimming's performance director, who resigned last week as a result of one of the report;s key recommendations that he should be based permanently in the UK, rather than commuting from his home in Melbourne.

Michael Scott head and shouldersBritish Swimming's next performance director should be based in the UK, unlike Michael Scott, who lived in Melbourne

The panel said the new appointment "must be UK based to provide strong and dynamic leadership of the world class programme (WCP) and to work in close consultation with a newly appointed head coach to develop the WCP and fully address the recommendations from the debrief".

American head coach Dennis Pursley, whose contract ended after the Games and who has now returned to the United States, was also criticised after the report highlighted weaknesses in the sport's "technical and coaching leadership".

But, it is clear from the consultation, that no one single factor was responsible for Team GB failing to reach its target London 2012, the panel concluded.

Overall, the report recognised British Swimming has consistently delivered on all of its medal targets for senior team events since the start of the quadrennial cycle up to London 2012.  

It cited shortfalls in London as being the exception, not the rule, and as a result the primary focus of the report was on the period post the selection trials from March 2012 through to the Games.

"Put simply, the programme is not broken and doesn't require a major overhaul or radical change of direction," said Hunter. 

"However, the process has highlighted a number of thematic areas where there were some shortcomings in technical leadership, in delivery, or where systems and processes in place did not function as well as they should, particularly over the final period of the quadrennial cycle.

"It is clear from the consultation completed that no one single factor is responsible for shortfalls in the number of medals won in London but a combination of a number of the thematic issues identified did affect the performance of some athletes."

Among the key recommendations was that that guidelines be put in place to limit swimmers' commercial activities in the run-up to major events.
 
British Swimmers doing ad for British GasA limit should be placed on how much commercial activity Britain's swimmers do in the build-up to major championships, the review has concluded

While the panel found that British Swimming's programme itself was "not broken" it felt that the commercial distractions for individual swimmers "should have been anticipated better" and recommended that guidance should be developed on acceptable levels of commercial and media commitments.

The British Swimming Board considered the Performance Debrief Report at its meeting on Friday (November 30) where discussions focused on the key appointments of a national performance director and head coach, the timing of the national trials in relation to the year's major event.

It is expected that in future the trials will be moved closer to the major event of the year, as happens in the United States.

"Words fail me in expressing our disappointment with the results from the London Olympics," said Sparkes.

"So many people worked so hard in the last four years but we didn't achieve our goals.

"I welcome the conclusion of the Performance Debrief and am grateful to Craig Hunter and his team for the excellent report they have produced together with the clear recommendations they have made.

"The report gives a clear indication the overall structure and strategy within British Swimming is correct, however, we also need to make changes and some significant improvements.

"Both the British Swimming Board and I are committed to implementing these.

"Today we start a worldwide search for a new national performance director and head coach for the programme. It will be this new leadership team's job to drive forward these recommendations and we will look to appoint as quickly as possible."

Sparkes, however, remains clearly unhappy about Scott being effectively forced out by the results of the report.

"I must express my deep disappointment that Michael Scott felt unable to continue as I felt his leadership over the past five years has been truly world class," he said.

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz


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