Australian swimmers focus on Rio, not weak London showing
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Cate Campbell was waiting for the question about Australia's swim team in the London Olympics.
And when it came the two-time Olympic medalist rattled off the litany of changes and successes over the past four years, from a leadership change to the successful 2014 Commonwealth Games to last year's 18 medals, including seven gold, at the world championships in Russia.
''You cannot compare where we are now to where we were in 2012,'' said Campbell, who set the 100-meter freestyle world record at the Brisbane Grand Prix in early July. ''I think that it is unfair and disrespectful to the athletes on this team to constantly be bringing up something that happened in 2012, and most of them were not a part of it. I had a great 2012, and I can look back on that with pride.
''It's not just the athlete that's changed, it's the organization. We've opened channels of communication and it has been a great and liberating process to be a part of. And I think we can very well and truly put this matter to rest.''
A strong medal tally in Rio would even more emphatically put the matter to rest. The team is training its final week at Auburn University before heading to the Olympics this weekend. Australian Brett Hawke is Auburn's head coach.
Australia's total of 35 medals for all sports in London was the country's lowest total in the Summer Olympics since 1992. The 10 swimming medals featured only one gold, by the women's 4x100m freestyle relay team that included Campbell.
The prospects certainly look better for this team, now led by coach Jacco Verhaeren and also with a new president and CEO.
Australians lead the world rankings in eight events, with Campbell in front in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Others ranked No. 1 heading to Rio include: Cameron McEvoy (100 free), Mack Horton (400 free), Belinda Hocking (200 backstroke), Emily Seebohm (100 back), Mitch Larkin (200 back) and Madeline Groves (200 back).
Plenty of others are ranked in the top three in various events, including Bronte Campbell, Cate's sister.
Former Australian Olympians wrote letters to the current team members and Ian Thorpe spoke to the team after the trials.
Hocking acknowledges that London is ''a bit of a sore spot'' for her. She failed to make the 200 back finals and was seventh in the 100.
''I think if everyone remembers that we're all human and humans do make mistakes - I think that there were mistakes that were made but I think we've definitely improved,'' she said. ''We've got a better system going now. I think genuinely the whole team is just different. We're all very close, and a really diverse group but getting along well.
''I really do think it comes down to respect. You're not going to get 60 people on a team all holding hands and singing lovey-dovey songs but I think as long as the respect is there, that's all that matters.''
Alicia Coutts heads to her third Olympics tired of hearing negative talk about London.
''It kind of does disappoint me sometimes when people say how bad it was and I myself performed really well and it really upsets me,'' Coutts, who won three medals in London, said. ''I hate talking about it, just because it has such a negative impact on everyone even when some people did swim well.''
Something else they're not keen on talking about is the absence of Russians because of the country's doping scandal. That includes reigning world 100 breaststroke champion Yulia Efimova.
''It's disappointing. It's a distraction,'' first-time Olympian Matt Abood said. ''It's just another thing to add into the Olympic mix, I think. My opinion doesn't really matter. It's not something I've done a whole lot of reading into or something that I'm paying a lot of attention to because at the end of the day it doesn't help.''