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O’Neill and Klim named swim team mentors

21 March 2014

SWIMMING: Dual Olympic gold medallists Susie O'Neill and Michael Klim were on Thursday officially announced as mentors to the national team's leadership group.

Considered post-pool success stories, triple Olympians O'Neill and Klim said they were keen to push the benefits of life balance.

Klim and O'Neill will work with the current leadership group of world champion Cate Campbell, Bronte Barratt, Sally Hunter (nee Foster), Melissa Gorman, Matthew Abood, Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Rhys Mainstone.

Retired leadership member Brenton Rickard's replacement will be elected after next month's national swimming titles in Brisbane.

The group was formed to rebuild culture after a London Games campaign marred by the men's 4x100m freestyle relay team's Stilnox controversy and their worst Olympic haul in 20 years.

Swimming Australia high performance director Michael Scott said the group could also learn important lessons about life after swimming from  Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett.

Thorpe is battling depression while Hackett has undergone treatment in the US for an alleged addiction to Stilnox.

The door has been left open for Thorpe and Hackett to become mentors under a new initiative to re-build the Australian swimming team's post-London Games culture.

"We will embrace a number of our past champions in a variety of activities - certainly Grant and Ian fit that bill," Scott said.

"They have their personal challenges and we expect that they need some space right now.

"But when the time is right for them then we would certainly like to sit down and talk to them."

Klim said he had not spoken to Hackett recently but had received an encouraging response from Thorpe.

"But I think they (both) realise everyone is in their corner wanting them to overcome these challenges," he said.

Hackett and Thorpe's plight has ensured O'Neill and Klim are determined to build leaders in and out of the pool.

Klim - who attempted a failed comeback ahead of the London Games - said times had changed since his heyday under coach Gennadi Touretski.

"One of the first things that Gennadi said to me was `now you are married to the sport'," he said.

"I was very insulated. It took me a long time to break out of that and realise there should be a balance."

O'Neill backed Klim's call that family had helped her transition.

"But for me it was a change of mindset," she said.

"Elite sport is irreplaceable. The quicker you realise that the faster you move forward.

"And being a mother has really brought me down to earth.

"My son said the other day `you may be a famous swimmer but you are a crappy mother'.

"You have to really lower your expectations."

O’Neill will lead the Australian Youth Olympic Team at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Nanjing, China in August. This is the second YOG and O’Neill’s first as Chef de Mission. Australia is expected to field a team of 90 athletes across 24 sports.

AAP and AOC