Career Ending Health Risks, Lure Of Olympics Sees Big Name Aussies Close Door On ISL

ISL: Campbell McKeon
HOME POOLING: London Roar stars Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell make the big decision to stay home and not take any risks in an Olympic preparation. Photo Courtesy:ISL.

Career Ending Health Risks, Lure Of Olympics Sees Big Name Aussies Close Door On ISL

The biggest names in Australian swimming were not prepared to risk career ending health issues or their places on next year’s Olympic team with their decisions to withdraw from this year’s multi-million dollar International Swimming League (ISL) – scheduled for Budapest next month.

Dual Olympian Rob Woodhouse – general manager of the London Roar and Queensland-based coach Dean Boxall – a coach on the US-based Cali Condors have spoken exclusively to Swimming World after a tumultuous day which saw the majority of the Australian Dolphins reluctantly withdraw from the second season of the League.

Swimming Australia’s advice from the travel and health perspective was to stay home – but at the end of the day the swimmers and the coaches had to weigh up all the information and all the risks and make their individual decisions.

The domino effect began this morning Australian time when Olympic champion and London Roar co-captain Kyle Chalmers posted on social media that injury would prevent him from taking his place in the Australian dominant London-based Roar team.


LONDON ROAR LOSE THEIR BITE (clockwise from top left: Season One World Record Minna Atherton, coach Mel Marshall and Pride members; and Marshall with Fred Vergnoux and the coaching staff celebrating a winning night. Photo Courtesy: ISL.

And by the end of the day it had become clear that his fellow Roar team mates, including Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell and Emma McKeon as well as the Australian-based US Condor connection – which included Ariarne Titmus and Mitch Larkin had all confirmed they were not prepared to risk travelling to Europe – with so much at stake – all pulling out.

Others staying at home are ISL season one world record holder Minna Atherton, Holly Barratt, Alex Graham, Matt Wilson and Elijah Winnington (all from the London Roar) and Jack Cartwright, Meg Harris and Clyde Lewis from the Cali Condors and Mollie O’Callaghan and Abbey Harkin (NY Breakers) as well as coaches Peter Bishop and David Lush (Roar) and Boxall (Condors).

It leaves both the Roar – finalists in the inaugural League last year and the emerging Condors both decimated.

It is understood that Australia’s triple Olympic backstroker Emily Seebohm from the 2019 Champions, Energy Standard team and Marion SA-based Gold Coast pair Leiston Pickett and Tristan Hollard (DC Tridents) are amongst a small Australian contingent who are still considering attending.

“All of the London Roar Australians are out including Olympic champion Chalmers who is injured, so he was always out no matter what,” Woodhouse confirmed when Swimming World contacted him in London.

“We are all pretty devastated, it’s just the nature of the circumstances; there is no blame being laid here.

“It’s the uncertainties of the travel itself, the health and safety issues and getting back into the country because it is so hard to get flights and potentially having to stay away with quarantines and the final may not be until December, there are so many unknowns.

“From a London Roar perspective we totally support the swimmers decisions and we are as devastated as they are; all the athletes have said how much they enjoyed the ISL last year and wanted it to be back with the Roar and part of it again.

“Some saying it’s the best thing they have ever done in the sport.

“It was each individual’s choice; they had to make up their own minds because there is a lot at stake here.

“You had to take into serious consideration Swimming Australia’s travel and medical protocols; everyone is looking at the travel scenarios, they would have to quarantine for two weeks and in an Olympic year.

“No one has taken it lightly, they are all pretty gutted at missing out; it’s really hard; there is no right or wrong here, which is why we have to support their decisions

“They lose financially and from competition but there are risks, some like Cate Campbell are asthmatics and they have to weigh up career ending health risks – it could mean career over and long term damage.”

Boxall, who has eight members of his St Peters Western squad signed up said they all really wanted to go.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic so it makes it very, very difficult. Australia is in a strict lock down compared to other countries who also have a lot more cases,” said Boxall, as he walked off the pool deck tonight to host a dinner with his team.

Dean Boxall and Ariarne Titmus

DECISION MAKING: Dean Boxall with Ariarne Titmus make the big call to withdraw from the second ISL season Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia/Delly Carr.

“Coming home to quarantine was always going to be challenging, insurance was going to be challenging; getting flights home would be difficult.

“But we all still wanted to go; we still wanted to find a way and my eight were all committed; we tried as long and as hard as we could and I tried to give as much respect to the team’s general manager (US Olympic gold medallist) Jason Lezak who is just the best, the way he approaches and communicates.

“Jason gave us right until the last moment but we had to make the hard call.”

Boxall said he fully understood and respected Swimming Australia’s advice as well.

“I completely understand where our governing body is coming from – we’ve got the Olympics coming up everything, all our funding, all our focus for the past four years has all been about the Olympics,” said Boxall.

“So I completely understand and respect where Swimming Australia stand – we all do – the coaches and the swimmers.

“We know what the bigger picture is and we know that the ISL will be around next year and they know we have also shown great commitment to the teams and the ISL.

“Imagine coming home and being in lock down let alone getting sick – there are a lot of unknowns – the health risks are very high – what happens to your lungs?

“Athletes just can’t take those risks..not with the Olympics next year and any long terms affects.

“A shame but it’s the right call.”

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x