Australian breaststroker Leiston Pickett reveals the agonising move to re-ignite her Olympic dream

NEW WAVE: After 14 years Olympic breaststroker Leiston Pickett waves goodbye to the Gold Coast for a fresh start in South Australia. Photo Courtesy Swimming Australia.

London Olympian and two-time Commonwealth Games breaststroke gold medallist Leiston Pickett has revealed the agonising decision to leave her long time coach to re-ignite her Olympic dream.


PUMPED: Leiston Pickett has Tokyo in her sights. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

Twenty-eight-year-old Pickett has made the move from her coach of 14-years, Glenn Baker (Southport Olympic) on Queensland’s Gold Coast to Marion Swim Club (Adelaide) coach Peter Bishop – with Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers and fellow 2016 Olympians Madi Wilson and Travis Mahoney.

“Leaving Glenn was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life,” revealed Pickett.

“I was always very loyal to Glenn and I didn’t want obviously that relationship to end and to be honest I was swimming very, very well, with Glenn at the time…when COVID-19 happened…so I guess it wasn’t a decision I took lightly that’s for sure.

“It was pretty rough to be honest; I think just being together for so long and to think that I was swimming so well; it wasn’t as if I was swimming poorly and that was the reason why I went.

“I saw it as an opportunity for myself to grow as an athlete, as a swimmer and as a person as well but it was definitely very, very hard and very heartbreaking to do.

“But for my swimming it was definitely the right decision; Glenn was obviously very disappointed but hopefully one day he can look back and reflect and understand why I made that decision.

“I still feel like I have not performed to my ability so I thought that maybe a change is what I need and a change that will spur that on and I would always wonder if I had not done it.”

And how much did the Olympics play a part in her decision?

“I am so hungry for the Olympics and I have been since London in 2012 and obviously missing out for Rio in 2016 and under performing….I’m super hungry for it.

“But I think also I’m hungry to be better myself…..I have not done a personal best in a few years (1:06.88 in the 2012 Trials in Adelaide) so a big part of my motivation is to be better myself and to do a personal best…to improve on that as well.”


SMILE TIME: Leiston Pickett (Left) with Jess Hansen at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. ; Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia Ltd.

When the Olympics were postponed Pickett took the time off during that period and did a whole lot of surfing before seriously considering a change she had thought about previously in her career.

“So I thought ? A change…why not…let’s give it a shot…..if I didn’t change and I got to the Olympics next year…fantastic I qualified…but if I don’t qualify I think it would always have been something I would always question….what could I have done ?

“If I get to next year and I don’t make it I feel like I’d be really happy with myself that I’ve taken on every challenge that I possibly could to better myself and every opportunity.

“That I’d given myself every chance to give myself the best shot that I could….At the end of the day you have to be happy with yourself…..

“Being with Glenn for so long, we had tailored my program to me…and was always very flexible and very understanding…and we had such a great working relationship..the training that I did was very different I guess to probably say 80m or 90 percent of what other swimmers do….”

And on her decision to pack up and move from Queensland to South Australia.

“I just had something in me saying that Peter Bishop was a really great choice….with Kyle, Madi Wilson, Trav and another breaststroke boy James McKechnie and a few other younger girls.

“It’s a great environment where everyone is prepared to work hard…..

“And one of the things that really drew me to Bish…I have always tried to have a good balance between swimming and life…and obviously being on the Gold Coast my whole life I had everything set up very well there.

“I’m a very strong advocate for life balance and the relationship with your coach that is not just swimming.

“So I saw Bish as a great opportunity and I’ve had a little bit to do with him on pool deck before and you could always have a conversation with him and not just about swimming…”


FRESH START: SASI Head Swim Coach Peter Bishop adds Leiston Pickett to his star-studded squad in SA. Photo Courtesy: Messenger Newspapers.

And the changes so far?

“I have been working on my kick a lot more and it was something I had not put enough focus on previously,” said Pickett.

“It has been a really good challenge to be able to change the thought patterns and the muscle patterns from what I had always focused on in the upper body of my stroke so Bish actually pointed out something with my kick so we’ve been working on that and seen some improvements and I’m so excited about that.

“And at SASI (South Australian Sports Institute) they have an absolutely incredible team of sports scientists…so I’ve been changing my diet as well…with the sports science team….”

Pickett also knows she has time on her side.

“One of the great things about it is we’ve got that time and there is no rush…” she says.

“We can take it slow to get it right….I feel like I’m in a great position leading into next year and I kind of feel like it’s a great opportunity for me..

“Of course I’m disappointed the Olympics are not this year but for me it’s an absolutely an incredible opportunity and to be setting the world on fire by next year there’s a bunch of us girls and there are quite a few of us that are so close.

“A few of the girls have stepped up here and there but it’s anyone’s game really….it’s very open….for anyone of us to step up….and really dominate….that’s my plan….”

Of the girls inside the Australian All-Time Top 10, on best times, Pickett sits fourth on 1:06.88 (2012 Trials) behind 2016 Olympian Georgia Bohl (1:06.12, 2016 trials), Jess Hansen (1:06.20, 2018) and another Rio team member Taylor McKeown (106.64. in 2017) – times all inside the eighth fastest time in last year’s World Championships – 1:07.06.




1 comment

  1. avatar
    Hans Pencil

    About time she moved on, good on you Leiston. Baker is all about gym and repetition training and old style coaching. Hope to see her stop pulling her head backwards in the stroke and fix the timing of her kick. Leiston is definitely one of the most talented breastroker’s around but unfortunately we haven’t really ever seen her at her best.

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