FORMER Shoalhaven swim coach Rohan Taylor this week became one of the most important people in the lead up to Australia's assault on the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Taylor, who used to run Shoalhaven Academy Swimming Club, was on Wednesday named as the new Australian Dolphins swim coach, taking over from Dutchman Jacco Verhaeren - who's had to return home for personal reasons.
Taylor, who grew up in Hong Kong and the United States due to his father's work commitments, takes over the top job after working under Verhaeren in a number of campaigns as the Dolphins team's coach leader.
Verhaeren, who congratulated his colleague's appointment, said he would spend his remaining time in Australia supporting Taylor through a 'transition phase'.
Taylor, currently state head coach for the Victoria and Tasmania squads, said he was confident of leading Australia to success in the Tokyo pool.
"Firstly, I would like to thank Jacco for his friendship and leadership over the past six years," Taylor said to Swimming Australia.
"I have been privileged to work as a team coach under him for numerous campaigns and I wish him and his family all the best
"Jacco has laid the groundwork for our Olympic campaign and I have worked closely with him and our Olympic leadership team, so believe I am well placed to see those plans through and lead our team to success in Tokyo next year.
"I want to help make a difference, provide support to people to achieve their goals and see everyone - the coaches and the athletes - really get rewarded for their hard work.
"If I can help in anyway and lead in that space, that's what motivates me and what I'm looking forward to."
One person who is confident the Dolphins have hired the right person is Milton product Sarah Lynch (nee Katsoulis).
Lynch first met Taylor in 1996 as a 12-year-old, when she joined the Shoalhaven Academy Swimming Club in Nowra.
"Up until then, I had just been swimming at Ulladulla but the pool manager at the time knew Rohan and encouraged me to go train with him after I showed some promise," Lynch said.
"Rohan came into town with a great reputation and thankfully he accepted me into his squad."
Lynch, at first, trained with Taylor three times a week, which transitioned into sessions every afternoon when she started year seven at St Johns the Evangelist Catholic High School in Nowra.
This eased back to two sessions a week when travel got too much and Lynch started up at Shoalhaven Anglican School in Milton.
"On top of these weekly sessions, we would do training blocks during the school holidays where I'd stay at a friends house in Nowra," she said.
Taylor left such an impression on Lynch that when he moved to Melbourne in 2000, after the Sydney Olympic Games, she decided to follow him.
"It got to a point where I would either have to move to Sydney, Canberra or Melbourne to continue my training and my heart was set on following Rohan," said the then 16-year-old.
"It was a big move but I knew what an amazing coach he was, I couldn't not follow him."
This move proved career-changing, as Lynch was selected for her first Australian team just a couple of years later.
"What set Rohan apart from every other coach was he saw the potential in me," Lynch, who was coached by Taylor for 16 years in total, said.
"He was my biggest supporter and I improved immensely under his tutelage, which was also helped by our strong training squad.
"He was the biggest influence on my career and just had a knack of turning small tweaks in my stroke into big improvements."
Taylor was also pivotal in helping Lynch secure numerous international medals, including a bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and a bronze at the 2012 FINA World Short Course Championships.
"One memory of Rohan that always sticks with me is from my last international meet in Turkey [2012 FINA World Short Course Championships]," the now 36-year-old said.
"I was swimming strongly in the 50m breaststroke, so much so Rohan thought I could medal - even though he didn't tell me.
"So together we analysed my start off the blocks and slightly tweaked them between the semis and final.
"As an athlete, you need to be willing to adapt and I'm glad I did, as it helped me claim bronze in the final.
"It's because of this attention to detail that I know Rohan is the perfect person to coach the Australian team moving forward."
Although she admits Taylor takes over at a challenging time, Lynch knows he will excel in a role she believes he was always 'destined for'.
"I'm stoked for Rohan - he's worked so hard during his career and deserves this opportunity," she said.
"His knowledge of the sport is second to none and when Rohan speaks, people listen - he's just one of those engaging and supportive personalities.
"He's a great leader and inspires athletes to go to a level they didn't know they are capable of.
"Obviously all of the swimmers have been out of the water for some time during the COVID-19 lockdown, which will present a challenge but I know he will have them all primed for a big Olympic campaign - I can't wait to see how it all unfolds."