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Who is Maddie Groves, and why is she in the news?

Maddie Groves made headlines last week after announcing she would be withdrawing from the Australian qualifying trials for the Tokyo Olympics in response to “misogynistic perverts in sport and their bootlickers”. Let’s take a look at her career, and her story over the last two weeks. 

Background 

Born in Brisbane, Groves started swimming from a young age. After entering into competitive swimming at age 12, she began to win competitions at several international events, gaining momentum early on in her career.

Swimming career 

Groves then took time off swimming in 2011, and returned to the sport a year after completing high school. Her career began to take off in 2013, she became the national champion in the 200 metre butterfly event at the 2013 Australian Swimming Championships. She was national champion for the same event in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

In 2014 she had medal success at the Commonwealth Games, receiving the bronze medal in the 200 metre butterfly event, as well as participating in the gold medal-winning Australian freestyle relay team. Two years later in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Groves competed in her first Olympics, where she won silver in the 200 metre butterfly and in the 4×100 medley. 

Outside of swimming, Groves is quite active on social media, and is an advocate for the diseases endometriosis and adenomyosis after being diagnosed with both, while also advocating for various other social issues.  

2020 and 2021

In December last year, Groves announced on social media that she had made a complaint to Swimming Australia after a coach made an inappropriate comment towards her. “I think he went through some personal development first hopefully to teach him to not stare at young women in their toga (swimsuit), THEN he got promoted”, Groves wrote on Twitter. 

In June 2021, Groves announced she was pulling out of Australia’s swimming trials for the Tokyo Olympic Games. She posted, “let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers — You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus. Time’s UP”. 

A day later, she followed up on her decision saying, “my decision is partly because there’s a pandemic on, but mostly it’s the culmination of years of witnessing and ‘benefitting’ from a culture that relies on people ignoring bad behaviour to thrive. I need a break. If starting this conversation will save even one young girl from something like being told to lose weight or diet, not going to the Olympics will have been worth it”, she wrote on Instagram. 

Swimming Australia has spoken since, calling Groves’ story “very concerning”. Swimming Australia announced a plan to tackle allegations of mistreatment of women in the sport, including the creation of an all-female panel tasked with investigating these allegations. Groves is set to meet Swimming Australia in the immediate future, after a meeting was confirmed last week. 

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