Maddie Groves Says Skipping the Olympics in Protest Was Worth It

Maddie Groves -- Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia Ltd.

Maddie Groves Says Skipping the Olympics in Protest Was Worth It

Just a day before Australia’s Olympic Trials were set to begin, 2016 Olympic medalist Maddie Groves announced on social media she was withdrawing from the meet but not retiring. The runnerup in the 200 butterfly from the Rio Olympics later wrote in a tweet that she was taking a stand against misogyny and harrassment she had faced in the sport.

Now, with the Tokyo Olympics complete, Groves said she has no regrets for her actions and for skipping the biggest meet on swimming’s calendar. Groves spoke with The Sydney Morning Herald to explain why she is glad that she took a stand and why she went about her actions in the manner that she did.

“It was just great to get all that support to be honest, it was a nerve-racking thing to do. It was disappointing to miss out on an opportunity like that (Olympic Trials), but the potential rewards absolutely outweighs the risk,” Groves said, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. “But it’s worth it. If this independent panel can have some meaningful outcomes that make the sport safer and more enjoyable for all stakeholders, not just women and girls, that is more valuable than an Olympic medal.”

Groves spoke to the Herald shortly before departing for Europe, where she is competing in the third season of the International Swimming League (ISL) as part of the D.C. Trident.

Groves added that she had become dismayed when others assumed she had withdrawn because of her longstanding health issues, specifically endometriosis and adenomyosis, for fear that such assumptions might detract from the very real concerns she wanted brought to light. Groves said that poor treatment from key figures in Australian swimming had been a consistent presence for several years, and that’s why she was willing to sacrifice another Olympic run to make her point.

“It sort of annoyed me that so many people thought it was my illness. It was more to do with the way I had been treated because of my illness,” Groves said, according to the Herald. “I was calling a spade a spade. It’s something I have been wading through and dealing with for a few years, so it wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark. I had a lot of time to work out how I feel about things. One of the things I didn’t want to do was to go on and represent people I don’t feel comfortable working with.”

Groves said she considered trying to qualify for the Olympics and then make her protest in Tokyo — “It was very tempting to have a go and try to make the team and win another medal,” she said — but she was confused regarding the restrictions for protest at an Olympics, and she did not want to take any action that would adversely affect the rest of the Australian Olympic team.

“And I really think you should just compete because you are trying to get the best out of yourself, not because you are trying to prove a point,” Groves said.

After the Australian swim team’s amazing performance at the Olympics — 21 medals (nine of them gold) and three multi-event champions in Ariarne TitmusKaylee McKeown and Emma McKeon — Groves said she hopes that the success does not detract from the attention on her concerns within the Australian swimming hierarchy. She also said that if she does qualify for another international team to represent Australia, she does not expect to be well-received from the higher-ups, but that does not bother her.

“I’ve had a lot of support from certain people on the team, athletes, coaches and staff, and I think the outpouring I have already had has made it totally worth it,” Groves said, according to the Herald.

Read the full report from The Sydney Morning Herald here.

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2 years ago

Please keep us informed as to the important work and findings of the independent commission. Maddie Groves’ efforts have been heroic, and it is encouraging to hear that others are stepping forward in support. Some of the problems for female AUS swimmers in the current AUS swim culture are distressingly obvious to even the casual observer of the sport and AUS swimmers, though up to now no one had the courage to speak to them. Others may be less obvious, and hopefully all aspects will be addessed by the commission.