Tamara Sheppard is to depart to join USA Rugby ©USA Rugby

Swimming Australia has announced another major exit with less than a year to go before the Paris 2024 Olympics after confirming the departure of high performance director Tamara Sheppard.

Sheppard is leaving to become the general manager of high performance at USA Rugby, ending a spell at Swimming Australia which began in 2018.

She has overseen huge success in the pool for Australia, including their best ever Olympic performance at Tokyo 2020 where they won nine gold medals.

They also topped the swimming medals table at this year's World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, winning 13 golds.

The news that Sheppard is leaving comes after the resignation of President Michelle Gallen earlier this month.

While her decision to leave was nothing to do with the situation, news of Gallen's departure came shortly after World Aquatics threatened Swimming Australia with the removal of its membership due to multiple compliance issues, including a lack of athlete voting power on its Board.

The exit of Gallen, who is taking over as the chief executive at the National Sports Tribunal, left Swimming Australia searching for its fifth President in three years.

Tamara Sheppard oversaw huge periods of success for Australian swimming ©Getty Images
Tamara Sheppard oversaw huge periods of success for Australian swimming ©Getty Images

Susan Smith was then appointed as Interim President, while chief executive Eugenie Buckley also resigned in April.

Sheppard will leave for USA Rugby in November, with Greg Shaw taking over as Swimming Australia's high performance director in the lead-up to Paris 2024.

"I came to Swimming Australia with a drive to support coaches and athletes in the delivery of exceptional performance and the Dolphins epitomise this," she said.

"I know first-hand the effort everyone puts into this programme - from the athletes through to coaches and physios and support staff - so it is somewhat with a heavy heart that I am saying goodbye.

"This is a very special programme that is purpose driven and puts the person first and while I am looking forward to embracing a new challenge in rugby, I will be watching from the sidelines and I wish everyone involved the very best for Paris and beyond."

Sheppard previously worked for Queensland Rugby and also has experience in basketball and netball.

"It is an exciting period for USA Rugby with a home Rugby World Cup for both the men and women, and the LA 2028 Olympics all being staged in our backyard," she said. 

"I am truly excited to lead the USA high performance team and stakeholders to build robust programmes and deliver exceptional results on and off the pitch."

Smith played tribute to Sheppard's impact which has also led to superb results in Para-swimming.

"It is with great regret that Tamara is leaving our organisation," she said.

USA Rugby is preparing for a home Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028 ©Getty Images
USA Rugby is preparing for a home Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028 ©Getty Images

"She has been visionary and a pillar of leadership over the past five years culminating in the greatest period of success for our high performance unit.

"There is no greater resume for Tamara than the Dolphins' phenomenal success at the Tokyo Olympics, World Championships in Fukuoka and then the Paralympic World Championships in Manchester.

"We wish Tamara all the best in the next step of her career. 

"I know she will make her mark on USA Rugby. 

"Tamara has been unfailing in making the hard, correct decisions for our organisation, a true sign of leadership."

Ross Young, the chief executive of USA Rugby, said: "We have been overjoyed while evaluating and onboarding Tamara for this all-important role. 

"We quickly discovered during our discussions that she is very purpose driven, determined and strategically focused; qualities this position requires as we look ahead to the most crucial decade for USA Rugby high performance, national teams and pathways."