RIGHT when we are just getting grassroots sport back in action, to look in the pool is just horrendous.
There is 'the catch' that really does not sit so well for how we should define sport as a nation.
Swimming Australia's national trials set the standard for Tokyo as more than meeting the Olympic qualifying time and finishing first or second in their final. Successful Dolphins must also post a time that would have reached a final at the 2019 FINA world championships.
This is a method not even the world's most powerful swimming nation, the United States, imposes on its athletes.
New South Welshman Matt Wilson went under world record time for the 200-metre breaststroke in 2019, capturing silver, but this week felt the blow of the Australian extra catch despite racing under the Olympic standard.
This was the second time in his career Wilson's Olympic dream was crushed this way. Wilson was later included in the Tokyo-bound Dolphins via discretionary powers.
Australian head coach Rohan Taylor told News Corp the strict policy came back to medals equals money.
That catch comes in the wake of London 2012, the Games when Dolphins cried for securing anything less than gold.
What message does this send back to grassroots games?
Eased COVID restrictions on metropolitan Melbourne this week and the nod to larger country crowds allows for our players to start getting back on the field in most sports across the region.
The snap shutdown, interrupting competitions and adding extra strain on volunteers and administrators, was a harsh reminder how quickly things can change.
Our leagues have been adapting action plans in a bid to create the fairest competitions they can in the time they have got left in the season to ensure premierships count.
Above all, they have been working to ensure as many people as possible can get back safely to the sports they love.
Inspiration at the highest levels, particularly the Olympics, is important to help reignite that grassroots spark.
Undoubtedly gold medals draw more money and promotion for sports but the pressure this now puts on our athletes in the pool is beyond immense.
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To become an Olympian is an incredible achievement and one Ballarat celebrates so well in this city's sporting history.
To become an Olympian is not supposed to be easy and the path to an Olympiad can deliver more than a fair share of heart-break. It was only a couple of months ago when race walking gold medallist Jared Tallent, robbed of crossing the line first in London, had to withdraw his quest for a fourth Games due to ongoing hamstring issues. A devastating reality for a Ballarat hero.
But Swimming Australia's policy sets in play a ruthless culture with no room for the underdogs our nation loves so much and needs so much right now.
We should focus on promoting pride in striving to be your best, not a culture of fear for under-performance, especially as we try to pick up where we left off in community sport.
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