As he passed by, Marc Fabre clicked on the swimming federation’s press officer. A subtle but clear reminder that the interview with his student Caspar Corbu should not last too long. After all, more racing awaits us these days during qualifying in Rotterdam. Moreover, the plane will depart for Bucharest on Sunday evening to participate in the European Short Track Championships.
Until now. The work-to-rest ratio is always important in a multi-day tournament, and never before has a ten-minute conversation at the edge of the pool been such an issue. The atmosphere is clearly tense in the friendly world of Dutch swimming. Accessible and open? not now.
There can be no pressure to perform. From Thursday to Sunday, it is possible to swim in the Mastenbruck Ree Basin during the so-called Rotterdam qualifying meet for next year’s main tournaments: the World Championships in Doha and the Olympic Games in Paris. But most of the national achievers have already met those times.
Questions about performance culture
It is the Faber case that is causing unrest and raising doubts about the performance culture and organizational structure of Dutch swimming. Two weeks ago, it was announced that the New Zealand Federation was conducting an external investigation into the performance of Faber, one of the most important coaches at the present time. The association said there were “signs of dissatisfaction with elements of the abusive behaviour.”
Marit Steenbergen, the medalist at the last World Championships, has had a good training period, and is friendly as always, she says. “I ran heavy blocks and passed them well, which is nice to note.” But as soon as Faber’s question was asked, the smile disappeared from her face and she immediately cut off the question. “I will not make any statements about that.”
She’s not alone. Technical director Siurs Lemerz does not want to talk to the media at all, and neither does Faber himself. Aggressive behavior is a collective concept that includes abuse of all degrees. according to De Volkskrant, who broke the news, this case involves – in short – bullying, intimidation, and nepotism. A number of athletes are said to have reported this. Much remains unknown and the investigation is ongoing. This makes it difficult to assess the crisis. It is clear why this issue is so sensitive. Regardless of individual suffering, Dutch swimming is in danger of splitting into two camps.
There are so-called high performance centers in Eindhoven and Amsterdam. The greatest talents train there. Faber has been in charge in the capital for years, working with Corbo, Kenzo Simons and international assets Arnaud Kammenga and Tess Schouten. In addition, he was also the head coach for a while during this Olympic cycle, so to speak, the national coach. This dual role does not seem to have done the unit any good. Lemaertz has been head coach since August.
“Trying to maintain a team feel.”
Nils Korstanje wants to talk. He’s worried. After years of living in America, he now makes his base in Eindhoven, just like Steenbergen, for example. In Paris, the butterfly specialist hopes to reach the individual final, but the chance of success may be greater in the relay race. At the last World Championships he placed fifth individually and fourth alongside Kamminga and Steenbergen in the 4×100 medley.
Corstani believes it is a shame that there are no joint training courses. “I made it clear to the head coach that we have to make sure we don’t get too separated, that we don’t polarize but try to keep that team feeling, even though there’s some drama now.”
“This whole drama doesn’t take away from them as a person.”
It’s not the takeovers that he’s too worried about – they’re always a risky part of carryovers. Because in the past this was always practiced only two weeks before the tournament, in the preparatory phase. It is the loss of mutual camaraderie that he wants to guard against.
“Normally, we don’t spend a lot of time on these acquisitions during the year anyway,” says Corstanji. “Ultimately, we are all so experienced that in principle we can feel it. But during joint training camps, you talk to each other, you see each other training, and yes, we don’t have that now.
“As swimmers, we are also responsible for maintaining some communication, trying to stay on the same page and not becoming adversaries. I messaged Arnaud (Kamminga, ed.) during this time. Because yes, he is their coach. I just want to remain friendly. This whole drama doesn’t take away from them as a person. I don’t want us to look at each other differently because of this.
Let’s go back to that conversation with Corbo, that very short conversation. The American-born, breaststroke-raised swimmer, who has a Dutch father, recently settled in Amsterdam to train full-time with Faber. He didn’t want to waste any words on this issue. “I’m happy that I can swim under him. Mark has had great success as a breaststroke swimmer with Arnaud and Tess.
On Sunday evening, Corbo will be on the plane to Bucharest for the European Championship, just like the rest of the Amsterdam group. Korstanje and his teammates from Eindhoven do not. They chose a different path to 2024.
Did Marc Faber create an unsafe performance culture? Swimming coach under fire
Swimming coach Marc Fabre, who until recently was the federation’s technical director, is under investigation for inappropriate conduct.
“Professional reader. Award-winning gamer. Zombie buff. Social media junkie. Bacon maven. Web scholar.”