Australia swimming squad
Australia's swimming squad have earned their tickets to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS
  • swimming

Australia plot to shake American swimming dominance

Steve Larkin June 16, 2024

Australia’s swimmers are being urged to channel the spirit of the nation’s famed upset of the United States on different waters to snap a 68-year Olympic hoodoo.

Australia have not beaten the Americans on an Olympic swimming medal table since the 1956 Games in Melbourne.

Since then, the United States have taken top billing at the pool at every Olympics bar 1980 and 1988, when drug-fuelled East German swimmers prevailed.

But Swimming Australia’s head coach Rohan Taylor is bullish about the prospects for his 41-strong team for the Paris Games starting next month.

“This team is going to give it a good shake,” Taylor said.

“But the Americans, there’s a reason they haven’t been beaten since 1956 – they’re just extremely competent when it comes to the Olympics, this is where they step up.

“They have got the depth, they’ve got the numbers, they’ve got the experience.

“We’re going to go there and do everything we can to create an environment for these (Australian) athletes, first and foremost, to do their best.

“A lot of them actually have rivalries that aren’t just the US, but the US just happens to be in a lot of events.

“But I look at 68 years of them topping the Olympics and I tell you, it’s almost like an America’s Cup type of thing – no one has been able to take them down.”

Australia famously won the America’s Cup yachting event in 1983, ending a 126-year long New York Yacht Club stranglehold.

At last year’s world swim championships in Japan, Australia led the medal table with 13 golds to the United States’ seven.

Taylor said the key to replicating that feat in Paris was converting performances at selection trials to the Olympics.

He has crunched the numbers: 90 per cent of swimming medals since Sydney 2000 have come from athletes ranked in the top eight entering an Olympics, the majority coming from the top five.

This year’s rankings won’t be finalised until after the US selection trials currently underway in Indianapolis.

“We know that if you get in the top five and you convert, you have got a good chance of standing on the podium,” he said.

At the Tokyo Games three years ago, Australian swimmers won a record nine golds – and 21 medals overall.

But with the same number of top-five ranked swimmers in Rio in 2016, the nation collected just three gold among 10 medals at the pool.

“What we’ve seen since probably Tokyo, where we really shot up, is the majority, over 60 per cent of our swims, were equal or better than what they did at trials,” Taylor said.

“So we seem to be getting it right and that’s why results start falling that way.

“It’s when we don’t have those conversions (that) we miss those opportunities to get on the podium.”