REVIEW

REVIEW: Head Above Water whets the appetite for Olympic swimming campaign

DOES swimming mean as much to Australia as it once did? There was a period two decades ago when Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Susie O'Neill and Kieran Perkins were among our most bankable sports stars.

Our current swimmers are unable to command the same status. That's evident by Amazon Prime streaming the Australian Swimming Trials from Saturday. Olympic qualifiers were once feverishly fought over by Nine and Seven.

To whet the appetite for the trials, Amazon has released a four-part documentary series, Head Above Water, focusing on Thorpe, Olympic 100m freestyle champion Kyle Chalmers, relay gold medalist Bronte Campbell and pop star Cody Simpson, who has returned to competitive swimming.

Simpson provides the most interesting storyline as the LA-based 24-year-old attempts break into the Olympics squad in 100m butterfly, despite quitting swimming at 12 to focus on music. Despite a minor spat with his coach Brett Hawke over his lack of commitment, it's fairly smooth sailing.

There's even less drama from Chalmers, who is learning to deal with fame, injuries and expectation as he prepares to repeat his shock gold medal victory from Rio.

Thorpe provides the role of experienced narrator and explores his status as statesman for mental health and the LGBT community.

However, Head Above Water's emotional anchor is Campbell as she relays the pain of her Rio disappointment and how her teammates rallied around her. With her voice breaking she explains that after finishing fourth in the 100m freestyle final, "half of the team sat up in the village until 2am so I didn't have to eat alone."

Head Above Water lacks the drama which made cricket's The Test and AFL's Making Their Water such compelling documentaries and it does feel sanitised. But there's enough narratives to keep it afloat.