With the Olympic swimming programme only days away it’s always good to get an international perspective on how the events will pan out. With Mark Foster’s controversial non-selection for the team, Britain will have no representative in the one length dash, so we sought out top Australian 50m freestyler Brett Hawke to get his views on the sprints in Athens and to try and find out the secrets behind his preparation for his second Olympic campaign.
Who do you think will be the main challengers in the 50m freestyle for Athens?
Its impossible to overlook Alex Popov and Gary Hall who are great swimmers and I think Roland Schoeman, will be in the hunt, but hopefully a few Aussies will be up there too.
At the South African Trials Schoeman improved his Commonwealth record to 21.98 – how do you rate him? He also swam a speedy 48.2 100 free – do you think it’s possible he could cause a few upsets in Athens?
There is no doubt Roland is quick, we’ve seen that before, but the pressure he’ll be under having been No 1 in the World is huge. When you are in that situation your country expects you to win, so it will all come down to how he can handle that over the coming weeks.
What do you make of some of the times that were posted at the NCAA’s – there were loads of fast 50’s there.
I am so proud of my great friend Fred Bousquets, who set the world short course record over 50 free. He is one fast Frenchman and he worked hard for that win.
You recently moved halfway across Australia to train in Melbourne, was that a big tear for you?
In any sport moving is always a big challenge. I felt I had to prove myself all over again at my new squad, which was tough, but I’m glad I came out on top.
What made you decide to move?
“A change is as good as a rest” as they say.
Is the atmosphere at Vicentre different to what you were used to before?
It’s very different. In Melbourne it’s a real team and people care for each other.
How much of your training is done out of the pool?
It’s a fine balance to make. I aim to be as specific as I can when training so everything I do relates to 50m free, including my technique work.
What are your favourite drills and sets?
I like doing walk back sprints and power drills
Who is the best coach you’ve worked with?
I would have to say that David Marsh, who was my coach at Auburn University in Alabama, is the best I’ve had the chance to swim with.
Who do you enjoy training with?
Michael Klim, he brings a good attitude to the pool every day which is inspiring for his training partners
What advice would you give an up and coming sprinter?
Don’t expect too much too soon; let yourself develop over time. It’s easy to push yourself too hard at the beginning but don’t overtrain, swim smart instead.
You swam the 100 free at the Olympic trials – does that affect your training for the 50m free?
A little. I always like to train more specific, but it’s good to keep the interest level up with some different events.
How good did you think the trials were for Australian swimming?
I think we were strong across the board with some good strength in depth. Now its just a case of working hard and stepping up at the Olympics.
What’s your view on British Swimming at the moment?
It’s definitely on the way up. After the last Olympics they needed a new challenge and that’s what Bill Sweetenham has been able to give them so they should do better this time around.
Did you have anything to do with Bill before he left Australia and if so what were your experiences?
Bill was my coach on the Australian team at the 2000 World Short Course Championships in Athens. I found him to be very tough but fair at the same time.
You’ve been pretty public in your support for Mark Foster, what do you make of the furore surrounding his non-selection? Do you think he should get to swim?
Mark is a sprinting legend and I have loads of respect for him. I think anyone who makes the Olympic ‘A’ qualifying time and wins the trials should be able to compete. A man of his vintage should be given a second chance and I’ll be disappointed not to see him Athens.
It bears some similarity to what happened with Ian Thorpe at the Australian Trials – what did you make of that situation?
What happened to Ian could happen to any of us. I’m just glad it wasn’t me.
Going back to the Olympics, You swam in Sydney, which as an Australian must have been the pinnacle of your career to date; do you have the same anticipation and excitement for Athens?
Each Olympics is special. I’m glad I have been through one, especially as it was at home, but Athens has the whole history of the Olympics and will be just as good in its own ways.
What do you think of the problems they’ve been having with the facilities in Athens, especially the pool roof?
I don’t believe everything I’ve read. But regardless of any problems, roof or no roof I will be ready.
Do you think it will come down to Australia versus the US as we’ve seen at most meets recently? If so who will win?
Yes it almost certainly will. And the winner? Australia! But then I have to say that!
In that case, who’s better Ian Thorpe or Michael Phelps?
They’re both better than me!