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Last Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Sweetenham slams 'negative' media
National performance director Bill Sweetenham
British swimming chief Bill Sweetenham has hit out at the British media following criticism of the team's performance at the World Championships.

Great Britain won three bronze medals in Montreal, compared to eight medals in Barcelona two years ago.

"I really find it difficult, it's not a situation that I'm used to handling, where the media in this country is so negative," Sweetenham told the BBC.

"Britain is accomplished as the most negative press in the world."

Sweetenham insisted that his young team had performed well following the retirement of 13 swimmers after last year's Olympics and rounded on BBC swimming correspondent Bob Ballard.

You try to bring people down and you have no conscience for the young athletes that are giving their best
Sweetenham on the British media

"You've interviewed me many times and members of my staff and every time we know to expect the negative angle from you personally, and you have nothing to base that experience on," Sweetenham told Ballard.

"We have a great team moving forward. We have a lot of young swimmers that are very, very good.

"There's a difference between being critical and negative and most of the press in Britain don't understand that.

"(Australia cricket captain) Ricky Ponting said it, if they can give England a hell of a time on the first day the British media will do the rest, and you do a great job of it.

"You try to bring people down and you have no conscience for the young athletes that are giving their best."

Caitlin McClatchey, David Davies and Liam Tancock were the only British medal winners in Montreal.

"We have a young team coming through and this team is doing very, very well," Sweetenham told BBC Five Live.

"We should always put the expectation at eight medals. That's what we've done in the past and we should look to do that in the future.

"But it doesn't mean if we don't achieve that, that we haven't done a good job or a great job."

He can't look after anybody above the age of 16. He doesn't like being questioned
Mark Foster on Sweetenham

Mark Foster, who has 42 international medals to his name, has had a difficult relationship with Sweetenham and questions the Australian's ability to lead the British team.

"He has done some good things but 95% is good and 5% is bad, and the 5% that's bad is awful," the 35-year-old Foster told BBC Five Live.

"He can't look after anybody above the age of 16. He doesn't like being questioned.

"I think the biggest problem he has with the media is he doesn't like being questioned on what's gone right, and of course this year things haven't gone right.

"There were 13 people retired after the Olympics last year but no-one's really asked why.

"It's because they don't like the regime. I am in no doubt in my mind that they would have carried on for another 18 months until this Commonwealth Games."

And Foster insisted that Sweetenham was setting the bar too high in qualification, forcing Britain's swimmers to peak too early.

"He sets the standard so high that people are doing times in qualification in March and June that actually would have won the World Championships," said Foster.

"In my eyes he's got the tactics wrong."

Commonwealth champion Karen Pickering, who has just retired, agreed with Foster's view that Sweetenham's methods may have hastened a number of retirements.

"I think Bill has played a part," Pickering told BBC Five Live. "The way things have been over the last couple of years it has played a part."

And she added: "Bill is somebody who tends to point the finger when results don't go the way he wants.

"He works very well with junior swimmers and not with seniors."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: GB Performance Director Bill Sweetenham


Interview: Karen Pickering on Bill Sweetenham



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