Saturday, 18 February 2012

Elbow Gate - Who Targeted Alicia Coutts in the Shanghai Call Room?

In one of the strangest stories to come out in recent years, Alicia Coutts has claimed that she was elbowed in the head multiple times by a competitor in the call room before going out for the 100m Freestyle final at the World Championships. The unnamed European assailant then allegedly turned round and spat at Coutts while they were walking up a flight of stairs to the pool.

Why would an unnamed European target Coutts? 

She was certainly a threat in the final, but was by no means the favourite. Fran Halsall was the fastest qualifier, Femke Heemskerk was in sparkling form, Coutts had an outside chance.

What constitutes an elbow?

The call room is a busy area, swimmers are stretching and swinging limbs at a tremendous rate. Could this have been accidental? Or could the assailant have deliberately warmed up near Coutts, knowing that she would hit Coutts?

The suspects

The European finalists were Ranomi Kromowidjojo (lane 2), Fran Halsall (lane 4), Femke Heemskerk (lane 5), Jeanette Ottesen (lane 6), Aleksandra Herasimenia (lane 8). Coutts swam in lane 5.

In Shanghai the finalists came out in reverse spearhead formation, so lane 8 first, then lane 1, lane 7, lane 2, lane 6, lane 3 (Coutts), lane 5 and finally lane 4. The finalists might have walked up the stairs in question in the order that they came out out of the race, or in lane order... or none of the above. Coutts emerges at 36 seconds in the video below, she doesn't look too happy.

Why did Coutts wait until now to speak out about this?

This is pretty damning stuff, why wait until half a year has passed before speaking out? Why was this not mentioned before the race or immediately afterwards?

She didn't. She wrote about this back in August 2011 in an athlete diary.


Fran Halsall saw the incident

Femke Heemskerk has reacted with shock to the Coutts story. In the Dutch tweets she says she has no idea who might have done this. This is notable as Heemskerk came out for the final immediately after Coutts.


  1. For a second there I thought you might have included a poll at the bottom of the post...

  2. Coutts was not favorite, but she was clearly in form. I was also surprised that she didn't improve much in the 100 free final. Although Coutts said the incident did not rattle her, it clearly did.

    whoever did it is just disgusting. I would think it's between Herasimenia and Ottesen.

    in 2000, amy Van Dyken spat in Inky's lane, no?

    Also, in 2004, I saw very clearly, Inky was giving Jodie Henry full intimidation.

  3. The best revenge for Coutts is to beat the crap out of that evil bitch in the pool.

  4. Firstly Lordy must know that an Australian would never refer to a British as a "European .Hence obviously not Fran.

    My belief is that anyone who has cheated by taking drugs & never explained/recanted is an experienced liar.

    Aswim --The Danes have had some strong Australian assistance in their rise. Mette Jacobsen (correct surname?) was a very regular visitor to the AIS & Mark Regan coached Denmark I believe.

    The Dutch are internationally savvy -Femke trains in France? Ranomi is very popular with some fans here. They are team players.

    Just as I see it but Lordy is really slipping professinally if he is writing this stuff.

  5. Anon, you are right, that's also exactly my suspicion.
    Imo, the culprit is the one who was convicted of taking PED (was she ever punished?)

  6. Aswim -yes a 2 year ban when she was quite young. I remember being quite sad about her taking drugs in her junior years. That really messes things up above & below the neck.

  7. Well, Alicia says on her twitter that it wasn't Ranomi, so we can rule her out. Alicia also says she will not name who it was.

    @ranomikromo no it definitely wasn't you. Don't stress :)
    In reply to Ranomi Kromowidjojo

    @ranomikromo I know who it was I just chose not to disgrace them"

  8. ...therefore, it was one of the gold medalists. Ottesen doesn't exactly practice complete discretion either with her comments during post race interviews at duel in the pool

  9. Fran Halsall' comments seem to imply the incident was not big deal as she described it as a "non entity". If however it was a series of elbow's to Coutts by another swimmer that goes far past sporting intimidation and is actually assault, no?

    Having visited Eastern Europe many times due to my mothers Lithuanian heritage, I can say with experience that spitting at someone's feet is a common and very offensive way of insulting someone in that culture, writing is on the wall for me. The duggie it is.

  10. 17 1/2 & done for steroids - oh dear. She is a pitiful case regardless of any connection here.

    Interesting the association between spitting & steroids. Amy Van Dyken was called on to testify to the Grand jury in te Balco case. She must have been on their books. Guess it is the aggression.

  11. Fran Hallsal may think it was a non-entity because she maybe didn't witness/was not at the end of it, no?
    I'm sure Halsall was too focus on her own to notice the whole thing.

    Anon, the previous proponents of intimidating your opponents were Amy van Dyken and Inge De Bruijn.

    I rest my case.

  12. True Inge was not very friendly but I never got the PED vibe .

  13. If Halsall saw the apology surely she witnessed it? I think if this was really a rarity and something not usual in the holding room then the culprit would have been called into question or out of the race, or in light of the allegations coming to the front of the swimming media should an investigation into the allegations be made? becase as I said, this is actually assault if Coutts recollection is 100% accurate (I say that in terms of her being pumped for her race and having been zoned in, same goes for Halsall, this is evident in Ranomi Kromowidjojo's twitter response to Coutts where she says..."Can't believe it was me....If it was Sorry"...Yes?)

    However, like I said in my experience of Eastern European ex Soviet culture it is common place to spit at someone's feet if you dislike them, there is only one for me.

  14. Jack -

    The USSR only lasted less than 75 years. It takes longer than that to introduce or change innate customs -not to mention you could be killed if you spat at the wrong feet .If you dropped the USSR thing then ......

    I do perceive things are getting much more competitive & even desperate for some . I am reminded of a highly credentialled Eastern Bloc young gymnast who was told -You MUST win.

    She replied -Why ? Is there a war going on ?

    From the mouths of babes.

  15. Anon

    This is not a USSR thing, Eastern Europe had had such a culture for hundreds of years, before the USSR existed. There is nothing to drop, I have visited both Lithuania and Latvia (bordering Belarus) many times with my mother and have witnessed such acts, dropping the "USSR thing" would be ignoring the facts, no argument.

    One young girl in that field of swimmers as aforementioned was an experienced liar and cheat at the age of 17, this is not a thing against the USSR, just simple hard facts.

  16. Jack . That is exactly my point. It is not a USSR thing. BTW if you were Latvian /Estonian /Lithuanian in the USSR you would not be considered East European. As of the 1980s you would considered to be Nazis.

    Now that is cultural context.

    1. The young lady in question (Gerasimenya in our language) is of Russian heritage, as Is my mother. Baltic society is secular and different custom's are rife within different communities (Polish, Russian, Scandinavian (Finnish in Estonia) and those from the Caucuses). Thefore your generalisation about Latvian's, Lithuanian's and Estonian's being considered Nazi's is not accurate, the ruling Russian/Ukrainian/Soviet regime did kill thousands of Baltic people of Polish heritage in the 60s/70s and 80s to a lesser extent, not all Baltic people were referred to as "Nazi" and we would never ourselves allude to us being "Nazi". My mother refers to herself as Baltic, Russian, Lithuanian or Eastern European and not a "Nazi". It I agree is not a USSR thing, it is however what we these days would call a Russian thing, young Gerasimenya is of Russian decent, the same as me and having experienced that culture can say spitting at someone's feet is a way of degrading or showing somebody how little you think of them....Just as you see in movies like "The Kite Runner" Russian (the Soviet) soldiers spitting at the feet of Afghans.