Australian coach out after Olympic failure

Australian coach out after Olympic failure

SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
Australian coach out after Olympic failure

Swimming Australia head coach Leigh Nugent will step down after the country’s athletes had a disappointing campaign in the 2012 London Olympics. AP photo

Australian swimming officials said yesterday that head coach Leigh Nugent will resign after a dismal London Olympic campaign marred by ill-discipline, drug use and drunkenness.

Swimming Australia president Barclay Nettlefold said Nugent would remain with the sport but no longer wanted to continue as head coach, as he rejected press reports he was sacked as “categorically wrong.”

Nettlefold said the 61-year-old had approached officials to discuss his future and made it clear he wanted a different role after the pressures of being in charge of the nation’s high-performance swim squad.

“As far as we’re concerned Leigh still had our confidence,” Nettlefold told reporters, adding that Nugent would take an extended break before returning in a youth development and coach mentor role.

“Leigh’s got more experience in swimming than most people in the world: he’s a great ambassador for the sport, he’s done a lot of great things and we want to continue to have Leigh in the sport.”

Nugent had been under pressure after reports into Australia’s disappointing performance in the Olympic pool found drunkenness, misuse of prescription drugs and bullying were among “toxic” incidents at the Games.

So bad was morale, one swimmer described the 2012 London Games as the “lonely Olympics”, one report revealed.

A broader review into the sport’s high performance programme also found failings in strategic planning and lack of transparency in decision-making, which fuelled disillusionment.

Australia’s swimmers won just one gold medal, six silver and three bronze in London, their lowest tally in the pool since 1992 in Barcelona.

Nugent became head coach in 2009. His contract had a three-year option that could have seen him continue through to the 2016 Rio Olympics. He was in charge of the team for the nation’s most successful Olympics outside of Australia, winning seven gold medals, five silver and three bronze in Athens in 2004.