Swimming Australia tell me there are approximately 50,000 registered competitive swimmers in Australia in 2013.
Of those 50,000, a total of 45 were chosen to represent their country at the London Olympic games(47 if you count the two open water swimmers).
Which means on average less than 0.09 % of competitive swimmers will actually end up competing at an Olympic games.
And presumably, competing at the Olympic games is what drives most of these swimmers.
Elite swimming is in our national gaze at the moment due to the two damning reports released last month into Australia’s dismissal pool performance at the London Olympics.
Hot on the heels of the reports came the admission by our men’s 100 metre relay swimmers that they had engaged in a night of misbehaviour, all in the name of ‘team bonding’.
Or rather as the Missile James Magnussen claimed, relishing in the chance to “feel normal for once“.
There has been a lot of discussion about the team admission to taking recently prohibited sleeping pill Stilnox, then engaging in the type of hijinks usually reserved for American College movies.
One side of the debate argues that this behaviour is an example of why elite athletes are not worthy of being held up as appropriate role models in Australia, particularly when this is often at the expense of other noteworthy contributors in fields such as science and literature.
I agree with this side of the debate.
However I am also someone who right throughout my teenage years, wanted to be a sports journalist. I therefore love watching most sports, and I always have a tear in my eye when the national anthem is played after an Aussie has won gold at the Olympics. Particularly when the podium is located poolside.
I am also the mother of a swimmer.
My swimmer is just short of qualifying to swim at state championship level and is trying very hard to get there.
Trying very hard means training on average five days per week, in sessions of at least 1.5 hours duration. Three of those sessions are early morning sessions. In the past few weeks, she has also had a meet (competition) every weekend.
Late in January she attended a swimming camp where over 2.5 days they swam around 25 kms. Hours upon hours of swimming, plus gym work to increase their fitness.
My swimmer is only 13. And already, even at her level of swimming, we are constantly having to say ‘No’ to requests for sleepovers, shopping expeditions, general social activities. Which is particularly difficult when your daughter thrives on social interaction.
Every week if not every day, we have to plan her (our?) schedule including homework and basketball games (she still likes to play in a team sport) around her swimming timetable.
When she is sick (which seems to be frequent, I assume it is swimming in all the germ-laden pool water) we are assessing not so much how well she is recovering, but how many sessions can she miss before she risks falling behind?
We are not, I firmly believe, THOSE kind of parents. You know, the ones who push their children to fulfill their own unrealised dreams. Sure, I love to watch swimming but I have never pretended to be good at it – not when it takes me a long minute to swim a mere 25 metres.
We are simply doing what I see every other parent of young swimmers doing, and supporting our girl as much as possible.
My point is, if this is what is required for a young girl on the cusp of state qualification, I can only imagine what life must be like for the likes of The Missile.
Which is why on the one hand I am dismayed by their behaviour, particularly disturbing female team-mates on the eve of their own olympic campaign.
Whilst on the other hand I sigh and think I can understand why these boys felt the need to blow off some steam.
At the end of the day we all can and will have our own view on their behaviour, but I simply say perhaps we should not be too quick to judge unless we have walked in their shoes.
Cheers till next time,