Leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, Leisel Jones and Stephanie Rice were the "gold medal" candidates for the Australian women's team. According to Leisel Jones they were also friends as well. However, 2012 would be a disappointing Olympics for both Leisel Jones and Stephanie Rice for only Leisel medaled in 2012 Games, earning a silver in the 4x100 medley relay, and Rice missing out on a bronze medal in the 200 IM.
Though Australia did have a standout athlete on their women's team, Alicia Coutts, who won five medals at the London Games, both the men's and women's team under preformed and produced their worst Olympic showing in a long time.
Consequently the Australian "swim lords' freaked out over this debacle and demanded an internal review. After what I presumed to be a lot face palming and carefully parsed rhetoric the results were refined down into two words: Toxic Culture... So what is a toxic culture?
What was revealed was severe athlete unprofessionalism, anemic leadership, low morale, bullying, hazing, recreational prescription drug and alcohol use, unmeasured and hyperbolic social media use, and team acrimony. I found these strong words at the Daily Mail—which is ironic since it too is a "gossipy" newspaper: [Link]
Leisel Jones has written a book which includes her take on her former friendship with Stephanie Rice. Leisel blames Rice's gossiping and fat shaming behavior for destroying that friendship and details conversations even. Again, more irony here since writing a book about personal relationships when the other person was not offered a rebuttal qualifies as the same thing that Rice is being accused of: gossipy behavior!
Snippet form the Daily Telegraph:
“...What is your problem? — What is it? — I’m not competing against you. ‘I’ve done nothing to upset you. I’m no threat to you in any way. We don’t like the same boys, don’t swim in the same races. So what is it? Do you just not like me? Do I annoy you? Is that it? Well, that’s fine. But for God’s sake just leave me alone.’ ”
Jones said her words were met with silence from Rice, a three-time Olympic gold medallist.
“She looked everywhere in the room except at my face. ‘Huh? What do you mean?’ she asks impassively. Apparently she has no recollection of the past few months, no memory of making comments to the others girls about my weight, my clothes, the way I walk or the way I swim,” writes Jones. ..."
[Link]This alleged dialog was said in a changing room at the London Olympics. (Bad timing, Leisel, really bad timing.) To Rice's credit she refused to continue this conflict by pleading dumb. This was a good option for Rice considering the time and place. This convo definitely fits the definition of a toxic culture and a huge blowout argument would not have been productive and probably led to more "toxic waste."
If all of the above is true, the accusations and Rice's response as well, demonstrates that swim teams need mentoring on communication and rhetorical skills via an employee handbook or classes.
Let me get this out there first and foremost. Even at my age I am very unmeasured, hyperbolic and impulsive. It has been good in ways and it has been bad. These girls have accomplished more than I had when I was their age, but as the saying goes, the second mouse gets the cheese, and swimmers and coaches can learn from these potential situations.