sport

Spitz slams swimming review

Olympic legend Mark Spitz has described British Swimming's review into their performance at London 2012 as "foolish".

Spitz described the review as "foolish" despite general agreement Team GB fell short of expectations at the Aquatics Centre this summer.

The American, who won nine Olympic golds over two Games, has previously pointed out Britain does not have the depth of talent of the likes of the United States whereby if someone under-performs, another is there to take their place.

However, the 62-year-old has now gone further by criticising the review panel which was set up following the 2012 Games where Britain claimed just three medals, two short of the base target of five set by UK Sport.

Rebecca Adlington added two bronze medals to the two golds she won in Beijing while Michael Jamieson claimed silver in the 200 metres breaststroke.

The then national performance director Michael Scott admitted he was devastated and he visibly trembled when facing the press at the end of the Games such was his upset.

At that point the Australian announced an inquest had been set up in order to identify why the team had not matched expectations.

However, Spitz questioned the creation of a review panel and told delegates at Doha Goals conference: "I disagree with the Commission that was established to determine what was wrong with (British) swimming.

"Personally I think it was foolish."

He added: "Who are these guys? I'm angry about it because the swimmers programme in Britain suffers from the fact that somebody else is sitting as judge and jury and basically has no concept of what they are talking about."

One of those on the five-man panel was Bob Bowman, the coach who guided Michael Phelps to 22 Olympic medals, his eight titles in 2008 eclipsing Spitz's 1972 record of seven in one Games.

The others were Scott - who has since resigned - double Olympic open water medallist Thomas Lurz, Harlequins director of rugby and former national director of the English Institute of Sport and Craig Hunter, ParalympicsGB chef de mission.

Adlington was satisfied with her bronze in the 400m freestyle behind Camille Muffat of France and American Allison Schmitt, another of Bowman's charges in Baltimore.

However, the 23-year-old questioned whether she had let the country down when she finished third in the 800m, in which she is world champion.

She has been vocal in her recent criticism of British Swimming, hitting out after the publication of the review 10 days ago and claiming the swimmers had been ignored.

She also questioned why a head coach to replace Dennis Pursley, who had returned to the United States as planned after the Games, had not been appointed.

Scott resigned last month after being unable to move to Britain full-time from Australia where his family are based, as was recommended by the review.

It means two key roles are now vacant although Mark Perry, head of development, has now been appointed as interim technical leader.

Of Adlington, Spitz said: "Are they basing the whole programme on one particular swimmer just because that person had got older or was slightly less focused?

"Things work in ebbs and flows. Even Michael Phelps lost at London 2012. He didn't even get a medal in one of the races that he was world record holder in.

"Look at the whole concept. Statistically if you look at how many British swimmers actually made the finals with potential chances of winning a medal, it was probably 300 or 400 per cent more far more than four years before. The programme was actually stronger.

"You can't pin your hopes on one girl.

"Maybe the guys who make these concepts about examining why someone did so terribly should actually get in the water and see how tough it is."

It is undoubtedly a time of change for British Swimming although the review found there was no single factor responsible for the team falling short, neither was there anything intrinsically wrong with the programme.

There was a call for more dynamic leadership - especially between the March trials and the Games - as well as monitoring of coaches and athlete planning while commercial and media distractions were also noted.

Fran Halsall, Ellen Gandy - now planning to represent Australia - Hannah Miley and Keri-anne Payne were all expected to be medal contenders in London.

Liam Tancock, Gemma Spofforth and Lizzie Simmonds less so - for a variety of reasons - but while for some sports, London will represent a high point, this will not be the case for many of the swimmers.

Today British Swimming announced that former Manchester United director Maurice Watkins had been appointed as their new chairman.

Watkins replaces outgoing incumbent Alistair Gray who led the governing body from the end of 2008 into the 2012 Olympics.

Watkins will now lead them through the new four-year cycle into the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The board, and thus the chairman, have a hands-on role making key decisions affecting the direction of the sport although it is an appointments panel who will decide who replaces Pursley and Scott.

It was the board who signed off on the recommendations made by the recent review and with the funding decision being announced by UK Sport next week, it will call for a strong pair of hands.