5 reasons why the Danish Olympic Swim Team will succeed in Rio
Four years ago everything was put in place for Danish swimming medals in London. Four years earlier we had a very unexpected bronze medal for Lotte Friis in the 800 free (the first Olympic swimming medal since 1988) and leading into London the team looked much stronger with not only Lotte herself but also several others looking like realistic medal contenders. But somehow we managed not to get a medal in London despite bringing the best team for more than fifty years. Fourth place finishes (those damned fourth place finishes) was the best we could do.
This year looks the same in many regards lading into the Olympics – the team perhaps being even better than in London. But this year things will change in my opinion. This is of cause a very personal view and should in no way be understood as anything but the personal ramblings from an old coach… and I have made some assumptions along the way.
So here are – in my opinion – the five reasons why the Danish Olympic Swim Team WILL succeed in Rio and bring home at least one (and perhaps even two or three medals):
1) Main point: We have more than a few contenders
Success (defined as “at least one medal”) is not depending solely on one or two swimmers. We have several cards to play. These swimmers are either gold medallists from the last Europeans or medallists from Kazan in their best race: Jeanette Ottesen (100 fly), Mie Nielsen (100 back), Viktor Bromer (200 fly) and Rikke Moeller Pedersen (200 breast).
Lotte Friis finished 5th in Kazan in the 800 free. Pal Joensen (Faroe Islands participates under the Danish flag at Olympics) is currently number 4 in the world in the 1500 free – an event where he has previously finished 4th at worlds and where he silver medalled at the 2014 europeans.
The medley relay for women could also be a contender even though it requires top performances from all four girls on the day as Denmark have no valid substitutes for morning swims. Swimmers like Mads Glaesner and Pernille Blume could post finals in their best races also … and the Danish 4 x 200 free relay for men is comprised of young swimmers eager to prove themselves. In short: There is a lot of potential in the squad and several opportunities for finals and also medals.
2) “Evening swims”-experience
All prime contenders have either been in an Olympic final before or won a European or World Championship final (short or long course). They are used to finals and they are used to performing in finals. And so are several of the other swimmers going to Rio either invidually or in relays.
3) Team size and experience
The team is bigger in London and there are more ”repeat Olympians” than last time. Having a team of 13 where all but two have been at the Olympics before calms everything down. All other things being equal, calm means “bigger chance of success” during the hectic Olympics.
4) Coach experience
With the inclusion of Shannon Rollason to the Danish Olympic team – which already presumably boasts Eyleifur Johannesson (Danish ”Coach of the year” for the last 4 (!) years in a row) and experienced national head coach Nick Juba – the coaching staff will have the sufficient experience to best aid the swimmers in the competition. Coaching experience is crucial when things get hectic.
The Danish top swimmers consider themselves medal contenders. The culture and mind set in the national team has changed tremendously over the last 15 years – beginning with the winning mindset of Mark Regan in 2002 an developing now for almost 15 years. It is not ”extraordinary” to win an international medal anymore. This was perhaps best illustrated by Pernille Blume about a year ago when she frustratingly let the Danish press know that she was tired of being a ”relay swimmer” … a relay that contended for medals at all international competitions the last three years! That is the right mind set (and perhaps one of the reasons Blume is currently 6th in the world in the 50 free).
A lot can happen in an Olympic year….. and after London any Dane should be careful to celebrate anything before ”the fat lady has sung”.
But this Dane has a sturdy (albeit personal) belief that we will return from Rio with medals. And more than one medal at that….
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This article represents the author’s personal views. Ricki Clausen is a long time elite coach in Danish swimming. He has coached several participants at world and Olympic level – amongst others Jeanette Ottesen leading into the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He currently works part time with coaching while specializing in organizational development and optimization in the world of sports.
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