For many years, Britain has not been a major power in competitive swimming. So when Australia’s fiery legend, Bill Sweetenham, was hired to revive the program, he knew he had tough job ahead.
But then again, tough is what Sweetenham is all about. His no-excuses coaching techniques are exactly what brought Australia into the world swimming spotlight. During his reign down under, he not only placed 63 swimmers on international teams, but also coached fellow Aussie swimmers through 12 world records and won 27 medals at four Olympics and several World Championships. He was named Australian Coach of the Year three times.
But it’s his discipline that really sets him apart: No massages, no bodysuits, no body-shaving, no TVs in the hotel rooms. Training begins at 6 a.m. sharp, and swimmers are in the water for an increased 60,000 meters. Anyone who does not meet his standards is kicked out of the pool. His regimen has paid off. In 2004, the British team returned from the World Championships in Barcelona loaded with medals: a record-breaking haul of two golds, three silvers and three bronzes.
This added to the 15 medals that the team took from the 2001 and 2003 World Championships, and the two bronze medals in Athens 2004. In 2005, his team took another three bronzes home from the World Championships in Montreal. Prior to Sweetenham, the Brits had won only 18 medals since 1973, and not a single one came from Sydney.
But it’s come with some controversy. When Britain’s top swimmer and 50-meter free-style world record holder, Mark Foster, did not meet Sweetenham’s qualifying standards at the Olympic trials, he was off the team. For Sweetenham, a star needs to work hard to keep shining like the medals earned. — Rin-rin Yu