Monk reinforces 'toxic' Aus swimming claims

PHIL LUTTON
Last updated 08:35 20/02/2013
Guns travel
GUN HAPPY: Kenrick Monk, right, was involved in his own scandal prior to the Olympics when this photo was posted on teammate Nick D'Arcy's Facebook page.

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Olympian Kenrick Monk says he's not surprised the team atmosphere at the London Games was labelled ''toxic'' and has lifted the lid on a litany of blunders leading into Australia's worst effort in the pool since 1976.

And veteran Olympian Libby Trickett said Swimming Australia's lack of a team psychologist left them ill-equipped to deal with the drama surrounding James Magnussen and Emily Seebohm, who became the public face of the team's meltdown.

In what will be remembered as a watershed day for Australia's highest-profile Olympic discipline, two separate reports tipped a bucket on the culture, organisation and questionable financial management of the sport.

Few were spared, from the Swimming Australia board down, as the sport continued to count the cost of a campaign that failed to yield an individual gold for the first time since the Montreal Games 37 years ago.

The Bluestone Review, commissioned by SA, said there was a leadership vacuum as coaches, staff and swimmers failed to intervene in the face of ''culturally toxic incidents'' including bullying, drinking and abuse of prescription drugs.

A separate review conducted on behalf of SA and the Australian Sports Commission made 35 recommendations to improve the sport, which has received $35 million in federal funding, along with dwindling corporate cash, since Beijing in 2008.

A brutally honest Monk, who found himself in hot water before London by posing in a US gun shop with teammate Nick D'Arcy, expressed no surprise at the harsh language used in the Bluestone Review, saying it had ''opened a lot of eyes'' to the reality of the London experience for the athletes.

''It's not surprising that 'toxic' is getting used. There was a lot of faults and basically, a lot of things went wrong. A lot of things are getting fixed and it's opened a lot of eyes to people about what happened on the team,'' Monk said.

''Even leading into the staging camp [in Manchester], you could see a few things weren't happening and weren't the way they used to be. And then things got a lot worse.''

Monk, 25, spoke of coaches pets and a lack of solidarity around the pool deck before and during the Games. While he had been around long enough to let much of it slide, it took a heavy toll on less-experienced athletes, who found themselves isolated on the biggest stage.

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''I progressed and did PBs. That's all I can ask for. I look at them as speed bumps - but some people take a lot longer to get over that sort of thing,'' Monk said.

''It's good it's happened now. It needed to happen now and it really needed to happen earlier.

''There wasn't a lot of cohesion in the team, that's really what sums it up. There was favouritism. But our sport is very individual and you can't let that bother you.''

His frank assessment stands at odds with head coach Leigh Nugent, who said behavioural issues in the team ''were not overtly obvious''.

Trickett highlighted the lack of a psychologist as a major omission. She said a dedicated specialist could have significantly smoothed the fallout on Magnussen and the 4x100-metre relay team and Seebohm, who was hammered on social media after her televised breakdown following a silver medal in the 100m backstroke.

''Some of the athletes that have never been to an Olympics before or in the case of Emily, had been at the level she was at before. That is a huge amount of pressure to come in to. There can be better framework put in place, better structures,'' Trickett said.

''Having a psychologist there would be brilliant. That's a massive deal. Sometimes there's something wrong at home and you need someone to talk to, so you can focus on what you are there to do. I think that is necessary moving forward.''

Monk agreed, as did the Bluestone Review, which pulled no punches about the decision to leave a psychologist off the team.

''In the absence of psychological 'recovery work', emotional volatility was high. At the Games was too late to start learning how to cope with all eventualities,'' the report said.

Monk and D'Arcy, one of the sport's most polarising figures, were banished from the Olympic Village after the swimming program due to their gun photos on Facebook.

- Brisbane Times

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