Three weeks before the Olympics, Swimming Australia imposed a new 'high-performance' funding model on its swimmers, reportedly to 'see medallists rewarded'. The timing made it difficult, even unpatriotic, to question the new model but in the wash-up after the Olympics, it warrants scrutiny. The new model meant swimmers received a low base rate for participating and then a sliding scale of bonuses depending upon their performance. These performance bonuses ranged from $35,000 for individual gold medals to $4,000 for 8th position ... and nothing for less than that. The model is profoundly revealing in two ways. First, it highlights the extent to which an economic understanding of human motivation has permeated all corners of Australian society. Second, it starkly demonstrates the limitations of financial incentives in achieving outcomes. The model failed. It is generally agreed that the Australian swimmers performed well below expectations.