MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Three-time Olympic gold medalist Drew Ginn has blamed Australian rowing for a "tradition of secrecy" in its selections after the men's and women's eights failed to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Needing a top-two finish at the final Olympic qualification regatta in Switzerland, the men's eight finished fourth, with the women third.
The failure of the men's eight was particularly galling for Australia's rowing community, given the country's record of qualifying for the event in every Olympics dating back to the 1952 Helsinki Games.
Ginn, Australia's most successful Olympic rower, said the eights crews had paid the price for being treated as an afterthought by selectors.
"I've got no doubt the they would have given the very best account of themselves, the guys and the girls, but we keep making mistakes in the sport which are repeated," the 41-year-old said in quotes published by The Australian newspaper on Thursday.
"We have a tradition of secrecy were we haven't disclosed to people exactly what they've got to do and how they've got to do it.
"The eights have been let down by a selection process which really wasn't well thought out."
Ginn won gold in the coxless four at the 1996 Atlanta Games and back-to-back golds in the coxless pair at Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). He also won a silver in a return to the coxless four in London.
Australia's focus on the smaller boats had yielded results but left the eights in the cold, said Ginn.
"The men's and women's eight get sacrificed, crews get turned over and coaching staff get turned over. You don't see that happening as much in other countries," added the five-time world champion.
"People need to be settled sooner, people need to know what's expected."
Australia had 13 boats at the London Games and won five medals but have only qualified eight for Rio, their smallest contingent since the 1992 Barcelona Games.
The team are still expected to challenge for medals in a number of events, including the men's coxless four and the women's single sculls which has been dominated by world champion Kim Brennan.
Australian Olympic rowing team leader Jaime Fernandez, who was part of the men's eight at Barcelona, Atlanta and the silver medal-winning Sydney crew, defended the Switzerland results.
"We need to celebrate the effort and endeavor," he said. "I don't think there was anything they did poorly execution-wise."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)