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Reduced funding leads to fewer medals
Grant Hackett
08:00 AEST Sun Aug 5 2012

Grant Hackett is a former Australian swimmer who won three Olympic gold medals, 10 world titles and joins Ray Warren and Giaan Rooney on the Olympic swimming commentary team.
 Grant Hackett

The swimming at the Aquatic Centre has finished and it has to be said that Australia's results were disappointing.

We expected a little bit more from the Australian swim team than they achieved, but we'd probably be pretty happy if James Magnussen had won the 100m freestyle final and the men had won the 4x100m freestyle relay.

But that's sport, that's the Olympics and maybe we came into these Games expecting too much, considering the amount of money the Government has invested lately.

The top-performing nations have all poured a lot of money into their Olympic sports and you only have to look at the improvement of the Great Britain team to see that money invested has a direct and very noticeable relationship with the results achieved. By comparison Australia has reduced the amount of money going into the resources that these athletes need to improve and compete against the world's best. It was predicted before the Games that the drop in funding would see Australia drop down the medal tally and we are seeing that.

Some people might say that the money is better spent elsewhere and that pouring funds into elite sport is a waste, but sport plays a very important role in our society. Maintaining our competitive stature in world sport is a vital part of encouraging the next generation of athletes to stick at it and aim at being the best.

Seeing our sporting heroes achieve greatness on the world stage plays such a big role in keeping kids involved and active in sport. I'm living proof of a kid who was inspired by Kieren Perkins back in 1992 when I was 12 years old. I watched him break the 1500m freestyle world record at the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and I turned to my mum and told her I would do the same one day. Mum said she knew I would, but I don't know if she really believed it. I found his efforts unbelievably inspiring and it was always my desire to swim as well as he did.

The kids in China have their own inspiration in Sun Yang. His gold medal-winning effort in the 1500m was incredible. I'm a big fan, having watched him train in Australia and having seen the amount of effort he has put into perfecting his technique. He broke the world record in winning the 1500m, he won the 400m freestyle and picked up the silver medal in the 200m freestyle. He is one of the most incredible athletes of the Games. To achieve what he has in the most competitive stroke in swimming over multiple distances is amazing.

Michael Phelps continued to re-write the history books with his record haul of Olympic medals. He is just an incredible athlete and it was brilliant to be able to watch him live in his final swims. Another highlight for me was the performances of France's Yannick Agnel, in winning the 200m freestyle and in anchoring the French 4x100m freestyle relay victory over the USA. In the women's 800m freestyle 15 year-old American Katie Ledecky was very impressive, recording the fastest time ever in a textile suit. But the absolute highlight for me was watching the Australian girls win the 4x100m freestyle relay, a gold medal we weren't really expecting. It was a great start to the Games for Australia, a start which unfortunately we weren't able to maintain.

James Magnussen was very unlucky to be touched out in the final of the 100m freestyle, but I think we saw Magnussen develop enormously as a man over the space of a couple of days. After the disappointment of the 4x100m freestyle relay it would have been very easy to throw the cap and goggles in the corner and have your performances suffer accordingly. Magnussen turned it around and showed that he is a remarkable athlete and capable of great things in the future.

The future of swimming was on show in London, there were several young women who started their Olympic careers with gold medals and promise so much more heading into Rio and beyond. As well as Ledecky, we saw China's Ye Shiwen dominate the individual medleys and Lithuania's Ruta Meilutyte win breaststroke gold. Another four years of hard work, quality coaching and the right funding and who knows what these women might achieve.

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