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Last Updated: Friday, 29 July 2005, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
On the defensive

By Adrian Moorhouse
BBC swimming commentator and former gold medallist

The newspapers seem to suggest British swimming is in its last throws judging by the performances at the World Championships in Montreal.

OK, the Brits have hardly set the world alight with just one medal so far at a championship where performance director Bill Sweetenham predicted eight.

Melanie Marshall
Melanie Marshall was one of the Montreal disappointments
But it's not all doom and gloom. Far from it, in fact. Just give them time.

As a nation, we're too quick to slam people when things aren't going entirely to plan. But give Bill and his team a chance.

I'm a big fan of the Australian. I've known him quite a while and I admire his planning methods and the overall system. He's got in place a world-class coaching team and swimmers capable to match the best in the world.

But there are things I'd change. For instance, it's beyond me why Bill continues to be sceptical about using a sports psychologist.

When I was competing I used to have a one-on-one session with a sports psychologist every week, and sometimes the mental strength you pick up is the difference between winning gold or not even reaching a final.

You just have to look at some of our swimmers at the worlds.

It's unrealistic to think we're going to become a powerhouse in the pool... swimming is not a big sport here
You have Melanie Marshall. She is second fastest in the world this year in the 200m freestyle but only managed seventh in the final.

Similarly, Darren Mew didn't even make the 100m breaststroke final and he's the fourth-fastest swimmer in history over that distance.

Some of these kids aren't coping with the pressure of the big meets. They're clearly physically capable, just not mentally tough enough at the moment.

In my view, every swimmer in that team has to be trained both physically and mentally.

That would be my only criticism of Bill, although he does have plenty of critics elsewhere.

He's a gruff performance director who doesn't really treat the media around him that well, nor they him.

People need to go beneath that petty squabbling and then they'll find some phenomenally good stuff.

Some talk of him as a bully, but that's nonsense. The only people that don't seem to call him that are the swimmers - and they're the only ones that know the truth or that actually matter.

HOW BRITAIN'S MONTREAL MEDAL HOPES SLUMPED
Tuesday: British record holder Rebecca Cooke seventh in 1500m final
Tuesday: Defending champion James Gibson misses final of 50m breaststroke
Wednesday: Melanie Marshall, second fastest in the world in 2005, comes seventh in women's 200m freestyle
Thursday: Gregor Tait and James Goddard miss out on 200m backstroke final
He's like Sir Alex Ferguson. In public, he's quite a hard guy but in private he'll always have an arm round a member of the team, backing them to the hilt.

Added to that, he's put some really important things in place at a younger level which were rewarded at the recent European Youth Olympics.

There, Britain pretty much topped the table to show they're one of the top nations in the pool under the age of 15.

You hope that what he's doing will pay off in Beijing.

People are already talking about targets for 2008 but it's unrealistic to think we're going to become a powerhouse in the pool.

Swimming is not a big sport here. It's not like Australia where they idolise their swimmers and have the weather and the beaches to encourage people to take a dip.

It's too early for the media and the public to write off British swimming. I feel really positive for the future and have every confidence the team will prove their critics wrong.




SEE ALSO
Gloom continues for GB swim team
29 Jul 05 |  Swimming
Swimmer Pickering opts to retire
28 Jul 05 |  Swimming
Cook just misses medal at Worlds
28 Jul 05 |  Swimming


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