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Op-Ed: Money will buy gold in Rio Special

By Jordan Cullen     Nov 23, 2012 in Sports
“They don’t get paid enough to say no to the money.” The words of Australian-born London 2012 gold medallist Melanie Schlanger say it all.
Australian Olympic coaches have been in international demand – particularly from China – since the Beijing Games in 2008 in what the Financial Review calls a “global bidding war”. Swimming coach Glenn Baker believes Rio in 2016 will be no different.
“It is going to continue … they [China] pretty much have endless resources as far as money goes,” he said.
China’s goal is to be number one and they will spend the money necessary to get there. Glenn said that it was not all about the money and passion played a big role in the job.
“You will not survive and you will not be any good at it if you are not passionate about it,” he said.
Passion flows on to talent, attracting the Chinese and filling the wallets of Australian coaches. While the situation is good for the coach and the athletes they train, the Australian athletes are the ones missing out.
The Australian Sports Commission is looking at ways to bring Australian coaches back. For now, they will continue to be the driving force behind China’s Olympic success. One prominent example of that success is Redcliffe-based coach, Ken Wood.
“Aussie swim coach Ken Wood’s Redcliffe City High Performance Centre is one of the secrets behind China’s success at the London Olympics,” the Herald Sun reports.
Glenn says pay is a defining factor.
“What we would be happy with would certainly not cost the nation too much money, if they want to keep our expertise here,” he said.
Glenn has been coaching a group of Chinese swimmers and will continue to do so in the coming year.
“I had some Chinese come to me before the Olympics,” he said.
“I had them for about three and a half weeks and I have also got that group coming in January, it is an ongoing relationship.”
Ken Wood, who works with fellow Australian coach Denis Cotterell, has trained China’s Ye Shiwen.
“I get paid per month, per swimmer, four times more than I do with my home swimmers,” Wood told Associated Press.
It is only reasonable to expect that any professional would take advantage of such an offer but the Olympics seems to be an exception. Spectator criticism driven by pride causes the majority of debate.
Brittany Elmslie, Olympic 4 x 100m freestyle relay gold medallist, believes pay is the main reason coaches train international athletes.
“It is all about the dollars,” she said.
It is not only swimming coaches, but cycling coaches including Shane Sutton, who have trained international athletes. It is not necessarily true that patriotism is on the back foot to pay but until Australia matches the competition, the practice will continue.
The topic has seen quite heated debate over the Olympics, something that Glenn finds amusing.
“It is funny, the outrage that has happened because the US have been training international athletes for decades,” he said.
“Swimmers have often gone to different places around the world to train.”
It is not often that coaches are commended for the work put in to pushing an athlete to their full potential.
“A lot of work goes in to trying to produce a champion,” Glenn said.
The harsh reality is sometimes goals, and in fact medals, are missed by the tip of a finger after years of training. Determination is the athlete’s drive to success and Glenn says Schlanger has what it takes.
“I can tell you that when she missed out on that medal in the individual hundred, the first thing I said to her when she came back to me was tell me you have got another four years in you,” he said.
The lead-up to Rio in 2016 will see the development of not only Australian athletes trained by Australian coaches, but international athletes as well. Hopefully success in Rio will not be determined by the deep pockets of the winning nation but instead the talent of the athletes and their supporting framework.
Although The Australian reported “the medals follow the money”, a driven athlete with an Olympic pool amount of determination, will show the Olympic community that perhaps money cannot always buy success.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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