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Magnussen launches a missile at swim chiefs over NSW neglect

by ZwemZa on September 10th, 2017
James Magnussen celebrates winning the Men's 50m Freestyle Final during day seven of the Australian National Swimming Championships at Sydney Olympic Park  Aquatic Centre on April 9, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

James Magnussen celebrates winning the Men’s 50m Freestyle Final during day seven of the Australian National Swimming Championships at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on April 9, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Duel world champion James Magnussen has blasted the dire state of swimming in NSW and believes hundreds of potential Olympians are being overlooked because of the neglect of swimming officials.

Vital funds and access to experienced coaches has all but dried up across the state and is instead being directed to Queensland, leaving young talent no option but to consider other sports that had a greater focus on grass roots development, the swimmer said.

“I have no doubt that if I was swimming as a 16-year-old now in Port Macquarie, I wouldn’t be talent scouted the way that I was back when NSW swimming was a lot more predominant in the scheme of things,” Magnussen said.

“It’s just identifying those talents, grooming those swimmers to come through and get the best out of their abilities and not lose them to other sports.”

Magnussen said rural areas were particularly under threat from the lack of focus from officials.

“I think the thing I struggled the most with was the neglect of country NSW. They’re falling by the wayside because there are not the structures in place to keep those swimmers coming through,” he said.

“There are James Magnussens at every second pool in NSW right up and down the coast. I have no doubt there are hundreds of swimmers in country NSW, and NSW as a whole, who have just as much talent as I ever did but sadly we lose a lot of those.”

Swimming Australia denies they have shifted focus away from the country’s most populous state and said funds would be injected into high performance centres over the next four years.

“Swimming Australia is committed to increasing the number of swimmers in New South Wales as well as across the country,” a spokeswoman said.

“Coaches are a vital part of the sport’s success and to help invest in the future generations, Swimming Australia has partnered with the NSW Institute of Sport and Swimming NSW to employ Ron McKeon as the state head coach who is part of a nation-wide coaching leadership team that works closely with Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren.”

Swimming has been under an intense spotlight in recent years with a disappointing result in Rio last year and just one gold – Emily Seebohm in the 200m backstroke – at the world championships in July, where the team finished outside the top five on the medal tally for the first time since 1986.

Magnussen said rural areas were particularly under threat from the lack of focus from officials.

“I think the thing I struggled the most with was the neglect of country NSW. They’re falling by the wayside because there are not the structures in place to keep those swimmers coming through,” he said.

“There are James Magnussens at every second pool in NSW right up and down the coast. I have no doubt there are hundreds of swimmers in country NSW, and NSW as a whole, who have just as much talent as I ever did but sadly we lose a lot of those.”

Swimming Australia denies they have shifted focus away from the country’s most populous state and said funds would be injected into high performance centres over the next four years.

“Swimming Australia is committed to increasing the number of swimmers in New South Wales as well as across the country,” a spokeswoman said.

“Coaches are a vital part of the sport’s success and to help invest in the future generations, Swimming Australia has partnered with the NSW Institute of Sport and Swimming NSW to employ Ron McKeon as the state head coach who is part of a nation-wide coaching leadership team that works closely with Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren.”

Magnussen had a slight war of words with Australia’s head coach Jacco Verhaeren earlier this year. Picture: Cameron Tandy

Swimming has been under an intense spotlight in recent years with a disappointing result in Rio last year and just one gold – Emily Seebohm in the 200m backstroke – at the world championships in July, where the team finished outside the top five on the medal tally for the first time since 1986.

Magnussen drew the ire of Verhaeren earlier this year when the swimmer publicly questioned the team’s relay methodology.

Choosing to sit out this year’s world championships in Budapest to focus on his recovery, Magnussen made the comments on Fox Sports.

“The other countries are leading off with their fastest swimmers, putting leads on the rest of the field and then coming home strong to win the gold,” he said.

“In each of the relays so far Australia has failed to lead off with their fastest swimmers, have been behind from the first leg and have then failed to feature in the medals in a couple of those events.”

Magnussen, with his fellow bronze medallists in Rio, was disappointed with his results at the Olympics but says he learns from his failures and uses it as a learning tool. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Verhaeren didn’t appreciate the advice from one of his key swimmers and suggested he had broken the trust of the team.

“I think the trust within is very important and I think James knows better than to make comments on the outside,” he said at the time.

“On the inside it’s great, but not a reflection of what this team is made of.”

Magnussen said everything is “cool” after the exchange but hasn’t backed down from what he believes is a weakness in strategy, however thinks the best way to make a difference is to get back on the team.

“I said what I said and I stand by what I said, but I guess the best way for me to not bring about change but bring about a positive contribution to those relays is to be a part of them,” he said. “So really the only focus I have now is getting back on that team and contributing to the medal tally with my swimming and I’ve moved on from those comments and that whole little saga.”

The sprinter is passionate about his sport and ensuring there is a path for younger swimmers to excel, especially in New South Wales.

Magnussen has grown in recent years and is ready to play mentor. Picture: Gregg Porteous

It’s one of the reasons he has been named a mentor for menswear brand Van Heusen.

“At this point in my life and my career, I feel a little bit more comfortable in my own skin and my own sense of style. I feel like I’m definitely in a position now where I can definitely help out and give other people some advice,” he said.

“It’s definitely not something I would have been comfortable doing at a younger age, but as I’ve matured a bit and had a bit more life experience it’s a role that I really enjoy and take pride in.”

Magnussen said it’s important to take advice from those who are important to you and ignore it from those who aren’t.

“These days with things like social media, everybody’s got an opinion and the thing you need to understand is that not everybody’s opinion matters. For every photo or post that I do (on Instagram), there will be any number of comments that will be good, bad or indifferent, but unless they’re the people you’re close to or care about, you really have to filter through everything else and take it for what it is.”

David Meddows

 

 

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