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New coach lays out ambitious goal for Australian Swim Team

Jacco Verhaeren

Dutch swimming coach Jacco Verhaeren listens to a question on October 17, 2013 during a press conference in Nieuwegein, The Netherlands. Verhaeren, best known for guiding Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn to Olympic gold medals, has been named head coach of the Australian swimming team. AFP PHOTO / ANP / JEROEN JUMELET -- The Netherlands out -- (Photo credit should read JEROEN JUMELET/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

Australia’s new swimming coach wants an Aussie in every final at the 2016 Olympics.

''The aim for Rio, but especially for 2020, is to have finalists in every final, so that means we have to work on more depth in the team, but at the same time the people we do have and the youngsters that we have coming, we have to maximize their performances,” said Jacco Verhaeren, the Dutchman who once guided Netherlands greats Pieter van den Hoogenband and Inge de Bruijn, in comments posted by The Age.

Verhaeren was hired in October to replace Leigh Nugent, who stepped down last March after a poor Olympic showing. Verhaeren’s goal is to reverse Australia’s recent Olympic fortunes.

The Aussies showed a notable decline in swimming medals at the 2012 Olympics with 10 total and one gold. They had won 18 medals in 2000, 15 in 2004 and 20 in 2008.

Swimming is one of the nation’s most popular sports, but few athletes have risen to fill podium voids left by aging or retired superstars Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Libby Trickett and Stephanie Rice.

How ambitious is Verhaeren’s goal of Aussies making every Olympic swimming event final?

Well, Australians made 27 of 32 pool finals in 2008 and 24 of 32 in 2012.

‘‘I think we know the gaps that are there to cover,’’ Verhaeren said, according to the report.

Australia’s star swimmers are sprint freestylers James Magnussen and Cate Campbell, and Aussies are still relay forces, but the nation has been lacking gold medal hopes in backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and individual medleys the last few years.

They’ll get a chance to show improvement at the Commonwealth Games in July and August and, in a more competitive meet, the Pan Pacific Championships against the U.S. and others three weeks after that, in Australia.

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