Australia’s Swimming Obsession

I asked Steve the other night what the attitude is to swimmers in the UK – I mean are swimmers famous? Did he remember growing up watching the swimming? Does he remember friends growing up dreaming of Olympic gold in the swimming? Is there an awareness of swimming like there is in Australia?

He turned around to me and said ‘do you remember that ball we attended in Singapore during the Greece Olympics?’ Ummm which ball? Ahh the days we used to go to balls! Anyhoo his memory of that night is the moment when a tiny TV was wheeled out and everyone stopped eating, drinking and dancing to cluster around the TV to watch Grant Hackett swim the 1500 meters. He thought we were all nuts and could not believe it!

So no, the English do not celebrate their swimming champions like we do, and if they did, they would probably be quite competitive in the pool on a much deeper level – not taking anything away from some of the great swims we’ve seen by the Poms at this Commonwealth Games – they’re definitely improving. The Scotts have been great too.

But if the Poms really want to make a go of swimming and compete right across the board, then they’ve got to do what we do – make stars out of their swimmers. If you are a great swimmer in Australia, you will get a car sponsorship and probably be driving around in an MX5 as soon as you get your licence, you will find yourself the face of a famous food brand – like Uncle Tobies or a trendy new health food brand, you’ll be the face of a makeup, shoe or clothing brand, you’ll co-host shows, there’ll be magazine articles about you and your wedding + any babies will definitely be feature articles, you’ll do the speaking circuit, and so much more – yes Aussie swimmers, the good ones or the characters, are really famous people in these parts.

So for any country wanting to build their swim team – or any other team – you’ve got to make your people famous, because if you do that, young people will want to be like them and they will then have something fantastic to aim for.

It’s a simple strategy but it works in Australia.

Oh and Poms, Steve said, to give you an idea of how our swimming stars are perceived, that it’s not unlike your football/soccer stars. However I find that hard to believe, because our swimmers don’t earn anywhere near the mega bucks and certainly couldn’t afford to put all that powder up their noses, but that’s what a fellow Pom reckons. I definitely don’t see our swimmers as flashy enough and they’re usually pretty down to earth kind of folk – so no, I don’t compare them to your football stars.

Yours, without the bollocks

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