Sweetenham rules with iron fist and a smile

For someone alleged to be an "Aussie tyrant" and "a bully," to quote just two headlined appraisals of him in recent months, Bill Sweetenham was doing a fairly convincing impression of being a caring uncle yesterday.

Sure, the Aussie who has dragged the British swimming team from the depths of no medals in the Sydney Olympics four years ago to the heights of great expectations for the Athens Games, had his charges toiling through two gruelling two-hour training sessions in the scorching Mediterranean sun yesterday. But, at the same time, he went to great lengths to protect his young squad from the glare of the public spotlight on the eve of the 2004 Olympics.

Even though the British Olympic Association had invited the media to interview members of the swimming team at their new purpose-built outdoor 50-metre pool at the Team GB holding camp here on the west coast of Cyprus, Sweetenham refused to allow any of them to be distracted from their preparations for Athens. Instead, the performance director of British Swimming did all of the talking himself - and took the opportunity to denounce his burgeoning portrayal as a bullying boot-camp commander.

"I resent the description immensely," Sweetenham said. "I think it's been a nice headline catcher for the newspapers and everybody's jumped on the bandwagon. I don't think any of the swimmers would agree with it. I think it's totally inappropriate."

Sweetenham's public image has been fostered by his policy of demanding total commitment that yielded a haul of eight medals at last summer's World Championships in Barcelona. "The media enjoy labelling me as a bully boy, but it hasn't taken that sort of attitude to get the swimmers and the coaches to step up," Sweetenham said. "These people have done it willingly. They've moved on and addressed new issues."

Moving on from the nadir of Sydney was one reason Sweetenham cited for ordering his swimmers to save their "talking" for the Olympic pool in Athens. "The ghost of Sydney still haunts a lot of senior athletes and senior coaches," he said. "I'm telling them that this team can turn against the tide of Olympic success but we have a lot of young swimmers going to Athens who have a chance to do something very special."

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk