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Is John Bertrand the new savior of Australian swimming?

By Sheena McKenzie, CNN
updated 10:33 AM EDT, Fri August 30, 2013
John Bertrand, pictured here during a friendly sailing competition with Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark.
John Bertrand, pictured here during a friendly sailing competition with Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sailing legend John Bertrand new President of Swimming Australia
  • The Olympic champion is better known for delivering 1983 America's Cup win
  • Tasked with rebuilding a team devastated by woeful performance at London 2012
  • Replaces Barclay Nettlefold who resigned in June amid claims of inappropriate behavior

(CNN) -- The man touted as the next savior of Australian swimming has arrived. Just don't ask him how much he knows about, well, swimming.

Sailing legend John Bertrand has been named as the new president of Swimming Australia, tasked with the mighty mission of turning around a team criticized for its "toxic" behavior during a woeful Olympic performance in London last year.

Read: Bullying, alcohol, drugs -- Aussie swim team was 'toxic'

While 66-year-old Bertrand has no direct experience with professional swimming, he does know a thing or two about breaking sporting droughts.

This, afterall, is the man who skippered "Australia II" to victory in the 1983 America's Cup -- the first foreign team to beat the U.S. in the 132-year history of the race.

Why is Australia faltering at Games?
Emily Seebohm blamed her overuse of social networking website Twitter for her failure to win Olympic gold at London 2012 as the favorite in the women's 100m backstroke, where she finished second. Emily Seebohm blamed her overuse of social networking website Twitter for her failure to win Olympic gold at London 2012 as the favorite in the women's 100m backstroke, where she finished second.
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Australian swimming\'s London woes Australian swimming's London woes

He became a national hero, with the victory recognized by the Confederation of Australian Sport as the "greatest performance in 200 years of Australian sport."

Read: Guts and glory: 162 years of America's Cup yacht design

"I've had an association with high performance sport and high performance teams for more than 40 years and this appointment is one of the highlights of my career," Bertrand said in a statement on Friday.

"Swimming has a proud history in this country and a reputation for hard work, humility and success. This tradition needs to continue and be a clear focus for all athletes and coaches as we head towards Rio in 2016."

Bertrand replaces Barclay Nettlefold, who resigned in June amid claims of inappropriate comments to a female staff member. He had held the position since October last year.

His departure followed a string of controversies for Swimming Australia which is trying to rebuild both its team and its image after its worst Olympic performance in the pool in 20 years.

It was the first time Australia -- a nation renowned for its prowess in the pool -- had failed to win more than one swimming gold medal since 1992.

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Read: London Olympics: What happened to Australia?

An independent report pointed to a lack of leadership at the top and unacceptable behavior from athletes.

"Standards, discipline and accountabilities for the swim team at the London Olympics were too loose," the report said, having canvassed 94 individuals and received 30 submissions.

"There were enough culturally toxic incidents across enough team members that breached agreements (such as getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying) to warrant a strong, collective leadership response that included coaches, staff and the swimmers. No such collective action was taken."

It was a different story for the country's sailing team which emerged from London 2012 as the nation's best-performing sport with two gold medals and a silver.

Bertrand -- himself a dual Olympian and bronze medalist at the 1976 Montreal Games -- served as the sailing team's chairman of selectors at the London and Beijing Games.

Acting chair of Swimming Australia, Clem Doherty, also pointed to Bertrand's business credentials, saying: "He brings a unique mix of corporate expertise, government relations, sporting prowess and leadership of high performance teams and will be a valuable asset to the sport."

One year on from the Games, there have been signs of improvement for Swimming Australia, with the team finishing sixth at the World Championships in Barcelona earlier this month.

Now all eyes will be on Bertrand to see if he can finally return Australian swimming to the top of the medal podium.

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