Swimming: Bill Furniss eager to turn up the heat on British hopefuls in quest to make bigger splash

New national swimming coach has Adlington's blessing but World Championships may be too soon to tell

For the man who Rebecca Adlington claimed was "the best swimming coach in the world", it was not much of an inheritance. Budgets were slashed, expectations had seldom been lower and, as Bill Furniss wryly pointed out when he was appointed Britain's head coach: "We have just lost two-thirds of our Olympic medallists." He was supposed to take up his job at the start of April but "I thought it best not to start on the first of the month".

Adlington, who supplied two of Britain's three Olympic swimming medals in London, retired with a few lacerating judgements about the state of British swimming in the wake of a bitterly disappointing Games. Five medals was not much of a target but Great Britain fell two short. Michael Scott resigned as performance director; the head coach, Dennis Pursley, returned to his native United States.

Furniss, the man who had steered Adlington to greatness in Beijing five years ago, appeared an obvious successor. Adlington, who will be involved in preparations for the World Aquatic Championships later this month, described him as a man "who never gets stressed". She said: "If you see him angry, you know he means business, which I like."

Chris Spice was a less obvious appointment as performance director, as he had no background in swimming. He might be best described as a man who has original sporting ideas and has already deployed them in rugby, basketball and hockey.

This week they have been in Sheffield overseeing the British Championships, which will serve as trials before they face the world in Barcelona. The squad is named today. Furniss is promising a tighter, tougher unit than the one that failed at the Olympics but he has only just been appointed, nobody expects anything and the battles that will decide his reputation lie in a more distant future. He intends to be very hands on.

"A broad-brush approach does not win medals at major Games," he said. "London hurt a lot of athletes and a lot of coaches. They went to the Olympics convinced they were going to perform. They were shocked and I am pleased they were. It shows me there is some passion there.

"You didn't see them when they came into the swim-down pools after the events but they were gutted. Perhaps they should have let that out a bit more in the interviews."

Britain is not the only nation to be groping through a post-London hangover. Swimming Australia, one of the great powers of the sport, produced an Olympic debrief that accused its athletes of operating in a "toxic environment" of "drink, prescription drugs, deceit and bullying".

The man who was charged with overseeing their revival, Barclay Nettlefold, has just resigned as president of Swimming Australia after allegations that he asked for athletes' rooms to be checked for sex toys and that he should be referred to as "Donkey" because of the size of his genitals. By comparison, Britain's response to Olympic underachievement appears measured.

One trait Furniss and Spice have identified is that British swimmers tend to peak well before an Olympics and then tail off. The last time the World Championships were held in Barcelona a decade ago, Britain won eight medals, including golds for James Gibson and Katy Sexton. In the Athens Olympics the following year, the return was less impressive – two bronze medals.

Spice talks of bringing in sports psychologists while the trials are being staged just before the World Championships to keep performance levels up. In 2012, the British Championships were in March. "Then, just before the Olympics, we fell away," said Furniss. "Twenty-one weeks is a long time to train and then peak again. It was too long, some felt pressurised, others went stale. This team will be smaller and harder to make.

"We had a lot of finalists in London and that is encouraging but, if you look back over the last five Olympics, British swimming has delivered between nil and three medals in the pool. We need to raise the bar."

However, the London Aquatics Centre saw the bar not just lifted but tossed away. Two 15-year-olds, Katie Ledecky and Ruta Meilutyte, destroyed their competition to the extent that when Ledecky won the 800m freestyle she finished a full six seconds ahead of Adlington in third. At 23, Britain's finest swimmer could no longer compete.

Furniss may be the best coach in the world but Scotland would not win the World Cup even with Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm. Hannah Miley is a case in point. She is the European 400m individual medley champion, won gold for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and in Sheffield last week she won her 17th gold at a British Championships. Had she swum to her personal best at the London Olympics, she would have won bronze. She finished fifth.

London may represent a beginning rather than an end for those, like Miley, travelling to Barcelona in search of a bigger splash.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little