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Coach defends Thorpe funding

2012-03-12 10:23
Ian Thorpe (Gallo)

Sydney - Australian swimming head coach Leigh Nugent on Monday defended the financial support given to comeback stars like Ian Thorpe after rumblings within the team about favouritism ahead of the Olympics.

It followed reports in Sunday newspapers that Australian swimmers were demanding their governing body declare how much money has been spent to bankroll the return of the struggling Thorpe and others.

The Sunday Telegraph said there was "considerable friction" within the Australian camp over the perception Thorpe, Michael Klim and Libby Trickett have received handouts above the performance-based funding system.

It said that in the team agreements, where rankings determine pay, Thorpe was given Aus$100 000 (US$105 000) while triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice was offered just Aus$12 500.

Nugent denied any favouritism for the comeback swimmers and said anyone begrudging the support given to them was an "ungrateful Australian".

"I really can't understand why they would (be upset)," Nugent told reporters ahead of crucial London Olympic selection trials in Adelaide this week.

"These guys are multiple gold medallists of recent times, multiple world record holders.

"They're going to contribute, if they make it, to the performance of our team and maybe help some of the other members on the team with relay medals, bring experience to the team, stability to the team with that experience.

"So I can only see positives in this and I think it would be a pretty ungrateful person and a pretty ungrateful Australian to not assist our proven best performers."

Nugent would not comment on the specifics of money spent on the comebacks.

"They haven't been paid to swim, they have just been helped in their training situation," he said.

Thorpe, Australia's most successful Olympian who came out of retirement in November, will attempt to earn selection for London in the 100m and 200m freestyle events at the trials.

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