Lauren McAuley is being forced to swim against people of opposite sex and up to 18 years old. Picture: David Crosling
Lauren McAuley is being forced to swim against people of opposite sex and up to 18 years old. Picture: David Crosling

Girls forced to swim against boys

A BATTLE of the sexes has broken out in Victorian swimming with girls forced to swim against men in some elite events.

Female swimmers say they are being unfairly treated with girls as young as 14 expected to swim in the same races as males as old as 18 in 800m and 1500m disciplines.

Swimming Victoria claims it decided to "bracket'' boys and girls together in distance races at this month's Victorian Age Championships because it lacked numbers for individual events.

But the dad of one elite swimmer has filed a complaint with sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, claiming his daughter has been left "visibly upset'' and intimidated by the situation.

Keiran (OK) McAuley said it was "a farce'' his 16-year-old daughter Lauren had to swim against boys and girls aged 14-18 in the 1500m and feared females would pull out of events.

"Theoretically you've got a 14 year old girl in a race against an 18-year-old man,'' he said.

"Girls want to swim against girls.''

Lauren McAuley had to swim against boys and girls aged 14-18 in the 1500. Picture: David Crosling
Lauren McAuley had to swim against boys and girls aged 14-18 in the 1500. Picture: David Crosling

Lauren - ranked the third fastest girl for her age in Victoria - will be relegated to 47th on a list of boys and girls and forced to swim against both because of the system.

She said she would stage a silent protest with placards at the state championships in the hope swimming chiefs changed their minds.

"I feel sort of belittled because I'm not able to show people what I'm capable of,'' she said.

"What's the point of racing if it's not against people my own age.''

Another female swimmer - the fastest in Victoria over 1500m - has been relegated to ninth and will swim against 17 and 18 year old boys.

All other events outside 800m and 1500m allow girls to race girls their own age for the chance to be crowned state champion.

Swimming Victoria chief executive Jason Helwig said girls and boys had been lumped together in some races because of "smaller numbers of participants'' last year.

"Medals are awarded across both genders,'' he said.

"Whilst they swim together they are not competing against each other for the same medals.''

But Swimming Victoria will only hand out medals to winners in the 14-18 bracket on 800m and 1500m events, instead of crowning a boys and girls winner in every age group.

And the program for this month's championships show several shorter distance races with less competitors than 800m and 1500m entrants.

Mr Helwig said a "working group'' had been formed to consider changes to the program next year.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Human Rights Commission, Georgia Waters, said they were unable to comment "to avoid pre-empting the outcome of a possible complaint with the Commission."

peter.rolfe@news.com.au

@rolfep


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