TWO-time Olympian Justin Norris said yesterday that he doubted anyone would have been game to step out of line during Don Talbot’s years as Australian swimming coach.
Norris, who competed at the Sydney and Athens Olympics, said he had been surprised by reports surrounding the allegedly ‘‘toxic culture’’ among his successors at last year’s London Games.
Without wanting to criticise current coach Leigh Nugent or his staff, Norris said that under Talbot, who masterminded Australia’s successful campaign in 2000, discipline was ingrained.
‘‘I thought Don Talbot was a great leader and he was quite strict with rules,’’ Norris said.
‘‘All the stuff they’re talking about here [in London], people pulling pranks and staying up drinking or whatever, that wouldn’t have happened.
‘‘Don would have just gone berserk.
‘‘He had one rule for everyone. It didn’t matter if you were going to bring back a gold medal or run last.
‘‘He was pretty ruthless ... I thought it was a good thing. Sometimes the iron fist works pretty well. To me, looking in from the outside, it seems a bit different these days.’’
Norris, who collected a bronze medal in Sydney in the 200metres butterfly, said he found it hard to understand reports that members of the 2012 squad were bullied by their teammates.
‘‘I was in an era where there were a lot of superstars; there weren’t just one or two guys who were getting the headlines,’’ he said.
‘‘There was Thorpe, Hackett, Perkins, Kowalski, Susie O’Neill, Petria Thomas.
‘‘There were no kings and queens on the team because we had so many great swimmers. I think if anyone was getting a big head, they would have been cut down to size pretty quickly.’’
A mentor to Charlestown swimmer Thomas Fraser-Holmes, who reached three finals in London, Norris was confident the 21-year-old had not been involved in any of the alleged misbehaviour.
‘‘Probably one of the guys I do speak to is Tom Fraser-Holmes,’’ Norris said.
‘‘He’s a real good kid and I’m sure he’s above all that.
‘‘He just gets on with it. He didn’t really go into it, but he was really proud of himself that he was there for a reason and was one of the people who was really happy with how he performed.
‘‘If we’d had 40 Tom Fraser-Holmeses over there, we probably would have brought home 10 gold medals.
‘‘That’s probably the type of character that was around when I was swimming.
‘‘I’m sure he’ll do really well at the next Olympics.’’