Australian swimming must restore reputation: McKeon

Two-time Olympian Ron McKeon is adamant Swimming Australia is already making appropriate moves to ensure the team restores its battered international reputation, following the damning report into the disappointing 2012 London Games campaign.

McKeon is now the coach of son David and distance swimmer Jarrod Poort, who made their Olympic debuts last year.

After competing in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984, McKeon admitted to having major concerns about SA’s future after a report labelled the culture in London as ‘‘toxic’’.

But the Wollongong-based coach maintained he had spoken at length to David and Jarrod about their London experience and said they had not  encountered the bullying and isolation detailed in the report.

‘‘When words such as toxic are being used, as David’s father even more than as a coach, it concerns me,’’ he told the Mercury.

‘‘Obviously you want them to have a good experience in the sport and remain involved in the sport for a long time, because there is a lot the sport can offer.

‘‘[David and Jarrod] did have a great experience in London and bizarrely, they only heard about a lot of the stuff which has come out since once they got home or when engaging on social media.’’

McKeon has been at an elite camp on the Gold Coast and claims Swimming Australia is already addressing the areas of concern.

The report said ‘‘there were enough culturally toxic incidents across enough team members that breached agreements [such as getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying] to warrant a strong, collective leadership response that included coaches, staff and the swimmers’’.

‘‘No such collective action was taken,’’ the report said.

McKeon said the next step was to build towards the world championships campaign in Spain in July, for which 18-year-old Poort has already qualified for in the men’s 10-kilometre open water event.

‘‘I’ve just been to a camp on the Gold Coast with 120-odd athletes and 40-odd coaches and there’s definitely an attitude of moving forward with this now,’’ he said.

‘‘Every time you put on the green and gold and race for Australia you learn something and take something from it.

‘‘The environment of the Olympics is unlike anything else they will experience, but David and Jarrod, like the guys I saw at the camp are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the next engagement.’’

After winning the 400m men’s freestyle national title to qualify for London, David also competed in the 4x200m, but missed the final in both events.

 McKeon said the team environment would be improved after a lack of management and leadership, as well as common areas to socialise with other team members in London, resulted in a lack of bonding among senior and junior athletes.

‘‘Certainly as junior members of the team, you’re always in awe of the more seasoned and experienced campaigners,’’ he said.

‘‘But they didn’t have an experience where they don’t want to be involved in the team environment again, Jarrod is now on the world championships team and even though David is yet to trial, they’re looking forward to it.’'

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