We live in an amazing country. The more one travels, the more we can only appreciate how we are blessed. But this is also a tough country. Droughts, bushfires, floods. The planet is becoming warmer and our massive continent is more vulnerable than ever. This became stark reality over the last several months of raging bushfires.
Tens of thousands of volunteer firefighters from around the country and from around the world fought these fires. Ultimately the military were involved. In some areas the fire devastation was catastrophic.
But our people are resilient. It’s part of who we are as a nation. This was not the first major crisis and it will not be the last.
Our athletes can only look on with pride. In our own way we have been supporting the recovery effort with swim clinics to raise funds and an online call to action from the Dolphins. We understand that recovery takes many months if not years, and want to continue to support impacted communities for the long term.
The resilience our country has shown is an inspiration to us all. In five months time, our Dolphins will compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and three weeks later, the Paralympic Games. As a team and as individuals, we hope to show the same resilience, to show the world what we’re made of.
Much planning has gone into this Olympic and Paralympic campaign. We anticipate we will send approximately 34 Olympic athletes and 32 Paralympic athletes. All at least top eight in the world. Our athletes are now in intense training. The program is clear…more and more focus, fewer distractions, training camps for sprinters, specific strokes, relay teams and long distance. We are now into count down mode.
Soon we will be on the world stage. Week one is the sport of swimming. Hundreds of millions of people will be watching. Competing against the world's best. There is nowhere to hide.
With the thousands of thousands of hours put into training, the preparation by athletes, coaches, technical support from around the country and supported by parents and loved ones, this is a big project.
Ultimately the glue that combines our team is the culture we as the Australian swim team must live and breathe.
Our cultural values are succinct and simple.
Courage, unity, excellence. Within this is the key ingredient of ’trust’. We have each other's backs. What we say is what we do. Honesty, authenticity and transparency. Easy words to say, but hard to do. Execute these values through thick and thin, draw on each other's strengths and magic can happen. For this is a team sport as well as the performances of individuals.
As a team from down under, perhaps we can generate extraordinary performances. That is our plan.
We saw this spirit in our firefighters and the incredible toughness and resilience of our people who lost their loved ones, homes and possessions. The immense courage of our people. Yes, this is our country, the country of which we are so proud.
John Bertrand AO