Anthony Mosse Swim Meet

January 21st, 2018

Since 1990 I have entered swimmers in the Anthony Mosse Classic. Of course, in those days it wasn’t called Anthony Mosse. But it was a very prestigious meet; frequently being reported on Television One news. There have been some good memories.

On one occasion, Gary Hurring, Toni Jeffs and I checked in at Wellington Airport for the flight to Auckland. In those days Air New Zealand domestic flights had a business class section. For some reason, probably related to the star power of Gary and Toni, the three of us were upgraded. As we boarded the flight I noticed Toni was sitting in the front next to Roger Douglas, New Zealand’s Minister of Finance.

I quietly said to Gary, “Who’s that grey haired old bugger sitting next to Toni Jeffs from Whakatane, New Zealand?”

Evidently not quietly enough. Roger Douglas stood up and smilingly said, “Hello, my names Roger Douglas from Wellington, New Zealand. I’m the Minister of Finance.”

I’m pretty sure it was at the same Auckland meet that Toni lowered the New Zealand long course 100 meter freestyle record and collected a $5000 prize offered by the Sport’s Foundation.

Today it is really sad to see the mere shadow of what the meet used to be. Let me explain.

Two years ago I posted a story on Swimwatch that compared the senior winning times at the Anthony Mosse meets in 2012 and 2016. I chose 2012 because that’s when New Zealand swimming received the twin blessings of a new constitution and Bruce Cotterill’s “leadership”. In the four years between 2012 and 2016 had the sport profited from its new look. Here is a copy of the conclusions drawn from the comparison.

“In 2016 twenty-eight of the thirty races were won in times slower than the winning times in 2012.  Not just slower, a lot slower.  The average male winner in 2016 was 6% slower than in 2012.  The average female winner in 2016 was 5.4% slower than the winner in 2012.  

The administration of the sport has failed its participants. Over eight years the management of the sport in New Zealand has undermined and eroded the position of coaches and swimmers in 101 different ways.  The sport has been badly managed. It’s a disaster. And it’s getting worse.”

Of course the Swimming New Zealand sycophants sprang to the defence of the establishment. I received messages that said things like:

“I don’t think your comparisons are entirely apples to apples for the following reasons:
There were no finals held at this years AMC Classic, so you didn’t get the fastest eight swimmers for each event competing in a final. Several younger swimmers swam much faster times than you posted as the ‘top time’ for events and were in fact faster than your 4years ago times.

David you seem to have spent a lot of time on comparing stats for a meet where none of the first tier swimmers were at. Uniteds top swimmers were in Aus on a swim camp, North shores top swimmers were not there, just the younger ones, Counties were excluded and the high performance swimmers were in Wellington so of course the times were slower.”

 At the time I thought, “Excuses, excuses. We will wait until next year and see what happens.” Unfortunately I missed the 2017 Anthony Moss Meet. I was coaching in Saudi Arabia. However this weekend I have been at the 2018 version. And so I have updated the 2016 comparison with times from 2017 and 2018. Is swimming getting worse or are the Swimwatch critics right? Is swimming, under Brucie’s inspired leadership, striding confidentially from success to success?

The tables below show the men’s and women’s comparison for all four years. Have you ever seen anything like it? You would have to be really blind not to read the story revealed by these figures.

  1. In 2016 twenty-eight of the thirty races were won in times slower than the winning times in 2012.
  2. In 2017, unbelievably, things got even worse. Another twenty-seven of the thirty races were won in times slower than 2016. That is not an adverse trend. That’s the Olympic downhill championship.
  3. Imagine the senior men’s breaststroke, in New Zealand’s biggest city, being won in 36 or the women’s being won in 39. I coached a New Zealand breaststroke champion Jane Copland 20 years ago. When she was thirteen she could swim four seconds faster than 39. Come to think of it, at thirteen she was also one second faster than the 2017 Anthony Moss men’s time. Toni Jeffs’ winning times were also close to the men’s 2017 Anthony Moss 100 freestyle time and were six or seven seconds ahead of last year’s winning women’s time. And that’s THIRTY years ago.
  4. The meet in 2018 has seen an improvement. Twenty-nine of the thirty senior events have been won in times faster than 2017. However that is not a particularly high bar. Sixteen of the 30 senior events in 2018 are still slower than the 2012 winner’s times.
  5. Although 2018 is very much better, there is still not a lot to get excited about. When the women’s 50 meter freestyle sprint is won in a time slower than Lauren Boyle swam for the first 50 meters of her 1500 meter record, there is a problem. When the women’s 400 meters is won thirty-seven seconds slower that Boyle’s 400 split the problem is becoming terminal. Swimmers like Toni Jeffs, Nichola Chellingworth, Jane Copland, Rhi Jeffrey and a dozen others would rate their chances of winning every race on the program against the 2018 competition. Rhi swam faster than the winner of the 50, 100 and 200 meters freestyle when she was 13. That is important only as an indication of the problems faced by the sport in New Zealand.

Responsibility for these numbers lies squarely at the door of Swimming New Zealand. They created a negative environment that rewarded a privileged and underserving few. In the process they destroyed New Zealand’s coaching infrastructure. “They that sow the wind, are in the middle of reaping the whirlwind.” Those responsible for Swimming New Zealand should pack their cardboard boxes and leave the building. If they don’t, the same catastrophic figures will repeat themselves. That is certain. Why? Because the guys at Antares Place have no idea how to fix it. Brucie’s website tells me he is a “transformation leader”. Swimming New Zealand certainly needs transforming. My guess is Brucie could lead that best by getting out of the way.

Event Women
  2012 2016 2017 2018
50 Free 26.00 29.83 29.90 28.64
100 Free 57.24 1.02.26 1.02.65 1.00.80
200 Free 2.02.99 2.14.68 2.14.88 2.14.55
400 Free 4.22.67 4.42.96 4.43.15 4.38.65
50 Back 30.23 31.41 34.00 32.12
100 Back 1.06.34 1.07.36 1.13.89 1.08.89
200 Back 2.21.97 2.33.06 2.39.82 2.31.63
50 Brst 36.21 38.27 39.16 38.04
100 Brst 1.19.68 1.20.62 1.23.76 1.21.20
200 Brst 3.02.63 3.05.40 3.03.35 2.48.87
50 Fly 28.99 30.85 31.04 30.48
100 Fly 1.01.70 1.08.86 1.10.32 1.07.92
200 Fly 2.32.14 2.40.30 2.34.51 2.28.90
200 IM 2.27.51 2.35.27 2.38.04 2.37.30
400 IM 5.35.94 5.24.33 5.31.84 5.11.07

 

Event Men
  2012 2016 2017 2018
50 Free 23.58 23.54 25.44 23.72
100 Free 52.36 51.78 55.35 52.45
200 Free 1.57.46 1.51.93 1.56.72 1.56.47
400 Free 4.18.57 4.06.24 4.02.04 4.08.92
50 Back 28.07 27.41 29.58 28.38
100 Back 1.07.33 59.94 1.03.57 1.00.89
200 Back 2.10.03 2.11.88 2.20.89 2.13.78
50 Brst 32.51 28.25 36.11 32.24
100 Brst 1.11.39 1.02.80 1.17.20 1.10.43
200 Brst 2.37.83 2.22.47 2.45.96 2.33.20
50 Fly 27.42 25.39 27.63 25.77
100 Fly 58.54 56.43 1.03.03 57.80
200 Fly 2.19.46 2.01.73 2.22.85 2.09.96
200 IM 2.16.43 2.14.46 2.22.09 2.17.71
400 IM 4.51.67 4.46.43 4.55.19 4.51.66

PS I have attended swim meets in eighteen countries around the world. Never, in all that time, have I come across the number of disqualifications handed out in this year’s Anthony Mosse meet. Eighty-two disqualifications seemed like a lot to me. Strangely more than half came during the Sunday session. I wonder what the reason was? Either coaches in Auckland are not teaching their swimmers properly or swimmers are not listening or the officials are being far too strict. I imagine you can guess my pick.

Clarity Through The Rotorua Steam

January 18th, 2018

I received a message today from Rotorua that clarifies and changes important aspects of the last Swimwatch story. The Swimwatch story commented on the following Facebook post.

Rotorua Aquatics SOS – Save our Swimming Pools

January 15 at 7:55pm · Rotorua ·

In the last year RLC Group Manager for Sport and Recreation – also the President of Swim Rotorua – oversaw a Memorandum of Understanding on a 5 year partnership between the two entities. So did this person sign on behalf of both parties? Coincidentally he steps down from the position of President just prior to the outsourcing of Aquatic Centre was agreed to, after the Union starts asking questions about conflict of interest….!! #coffeeconsult

I googled “RLC Group Manager for Sport and Recreation” and discovered that someone called Rob Pitkethley was the Rotorua Lakes Council Sport, Recreation & Environment Manager. Wrongly I assumed Pitkethley was the person being referred to on Facebook. I am now told that is not the case. The person who occupied positions in both the Council and the Swim Rotorua club was the Acting Group Manager, Operations at Rotorua Lakes Council, Henry Western.

Several things of importance arise from that change.

  1. First and most important I apologize to Rob Pitkethley for the error. I should have researched the Facebook post more thoroughly.
  2. I would stress again to Rotorua Aquatics SOS the importance of accuracy and names in reporting events like these. A just cause can be quickly lost when people’s titles and names are incorrectly reported.
  3. Although the names have changed the principles at play remain the same. Has a public official had his fingers in too many pies?
  4. Swimming New Zealand need to investigate whether a Board member of one of its clubs has acted improperly. Has one club in Rotorua benefitted, at the expense of swimming in general, by having a Board member also be a senior Council employee? This is especially relevant given that Henry Western was also once a Board Member of Swimming Bay of Plenty. Swimming New Zealand need to find out what role, if any, Henry Western played in Council negotiations with Swim Rotorua and with the private company appointed to manage the aquatic centre.
  5. I would think that the Rotorua Lakes Council should also look at any conversations Western may have had with Pitkethley during both these negotiations that could have influenced the decisions that were made.
  6. I doubt there has been any wrongdoing. However the perception of something wrong is not good. It is amazing to me that a person like Weston who has worked for Buddle Findlay and the Ombudsman could not see the perceived dangers of his senior Council position and his roles on a favoured swimming club and on the Board of Swimming Bay of Plenty – especially while deals were being done with his club and with a corporate private manager of the pool.

And so, I apologize again for the error. However there may be something smelly in Rotorua swimming. It is best that Swimming New Zealand and the Rotorua Lakes Council check that it is not coming from the local swimming pool.

Boiling Mud

January 18th, 2018

What’s going on in Rotorua? I’ve just read this Facebook post from an organisation called “Rotorua Aquatics SOS”.

Rotorua Aquatics SOS – Save our Swimming Pools

January 15 at 7:55pm · Rotorua ·

In the last year RLC Group Manager for Sport and Recreation – also the President of Swim Rotorua – oversaw a Memorandum of Understanding on a 5 year partnership between the two entities. So did this person sign on behalf of both parties? Coincidentally he steps down from the position of President just prior to the outsourcing of Aquatic Centre was agreed to, after the Union starts asking questions about conflict of interest….!! #coffeeconsult

I wish organizations that post stuff like this would print the names of the people they are talking about. Simply using titles gives the impression that they are so unsure of their facts that they avoid names for fear of being sued. In a story like this, if you are that unsure, if you are that concerned about legal consequences then you shouldn’t have published the story in the first place.

I have no idea of the background or even the truth of what is being said here. But the inferences are disturbing. The statement seems to be saying that the Rotorua Lakes Council Sport, Recreation & Environment Manager, Rob Pitkethley, was also President of Swim Rotorua when a five year partnership Memorandum of Understanding was negotiated between the Council and Swim Rotorua. The Council is, of course, a public body. Swim Rotorua is a non-profit swim club, registered with Swimming New Zealand. Deals done between public and private bodies are subject to a variety of important rules. Every society, even in Rotorua, needs to ensure public funds are managed properly.

The statement goes on to claim that Rob Pitkethley was the Rotorua Lakes Council Sport, Recreation & Environment Manager and President of Swim Rotorua until shortly before a second agreement was signed outsourcing the management of the Aquatic Centre. The inference is that Rob Pitkethley was involved in the negotiations and resigned from the swim club just before the management agreement was signed to avoid the accusation of a conflict of interest.

Whatever the detail, the impression of all this, is not good. I don’t think anyone is saying something illegal happened. But has Rob Pitkethley had his fingers in too many pies at the same time? Has he acted unwisely? It certainly seems like it. I did ask someone with good contacts in Rotorua whether these events were as bad as they looked. He said yes. If that is the case, I am disappointed. A prominent member of Swim Rotorua is Bronwen Radford. She is a long time administrator and should know better than to allow the same public official to do deals in his private and public capacity. Council employees simply cannot do deals with themselves. These contracts do not appear to go that far. But they do appear to be too close, a lot too close. And resigning just before a contract is signed does not improve the situation. If anything, it makes it worse. The impression of trying to hide something bad is magnified by the resignation. The timing suggests Rob Pitkethley knew he should not be there. The impression, or perhaps the reality, of a conflict of interest clearly concerned him sufficiently that it forced him to resign. If that is the case, why did he wait so long? He should have been gone when the idea was first proposed, not when a done deal was about to be signed and Union bosses were asking questions.   

Public officials need to be seen to be cleaner than clean in these sorts of transactions. That principle underlines good government in countries like the USA, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. The Americans thought it so important that, in a clause called the Emoluments Clause, they incorporated the rules for deals like this in their national constitution.

The purpose of the Emoluments Clause was to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be improperly influenced, even unconsciously, through any factor that compromised a clean, “arms-length” transaction. The Emoluments Clause also broadly encompassed any kind of profit, benefit, advantage, or service, not merely gifts of money or valuable objects. It was recognised that many arrangements, not just money, could threaten exactly the kind of improper influence that the clause was intended to prevent.

On the surface of it, events in Rotorua appear to have sailed close to a breach of the Emoluments Clause. If Rob Pitkethley acted for the Council and was the club President when a deal for access to the pool was being negotiated that would not be proper. And in the United States would probably be unconstitutional. If, as is alleged here, Rob Pitkethley, acted for the Council and a pool user such as Swim Rotorua while a lucrative management agreement was being negotiated, that also would not be proper. Apart from his last minute resignation he appears to have shown a Trump like disregard for emolument rules.

These events in Rotorua also raise questions about the fitness of Swimming New Zealand to govern. Swim Rotorua is a Swimming New Zealand registered club. Therefore Swimming New Zealand has a responsibility to ensure good behaviour. In this case the President of a Swimming New Zealand club may have been acting improperly. That needs to be investigated. I have had, “up close and personal” experience of what can happen when a club President behaves badly and is not called to account. When Swimming New Zealand abdicates their duty to monitor the leaders of their member clubs, chaos can result. Rotorua may have acted like the wild, wild west on this occasion. But that is no excuse. Even Rotorua is subject to rules and procedures that control those who govern. And it is the responsibility of Swimming New Zealand to ensure its members act properly. Swimming New Zealand should investigate, but they won’t.

Go Noles; Go Oswaldo Quevedo

January 17th, 2018

I see the Facebook page NZSwim has published a photograph and quote from talented New Zealand swimmer, Paige Schendelaar-Kemp. Paige is clearly enjoying her time at Florida State University. This is what she says.

“Being a Florida State Seminole is a blessing I carry with me every day. I am a Seminole. I live and breathe it through my veins. Why? Because being a Seminole is not just Monday to Friday, it’s a way of life when you become a Seminole. You join a family of incredibly committed, dedicated, driven and loyal athletes.  It’s not just about who’s standing next to you but it’s about those who came before you and those who are to come.  We strive to be the best we can be and uphold the Garnet and Gold.  This year is our year.  Go Noles!!”

I don’t know Paige but I can understand her feelings. You see, I happen to know the guy who recruited her and is now the Assistant Coach for the Florida State team. His name is Oswaldo Quevedo. But we all called him Ozzie. He was a swimmer in my Florida swim team. He specialized in butterfly and, before we met, he swam for Venezuela in the Sydney Olympic Games.

He was also a huge talent. In the time he spent swimming for my Florida Club he broke two Master’s World Records in the 50 and 100 butterfly. He was swimming in the 30 to 34 year age group. Although I can’t remember the world record times exactly, they were 54 something for the 100 metres and 24 something in the 50 metres.

But better than all that you couldn’t find a nicer guy. A huge man at 6 foot 5 inches, he was always happy, always smiling. We had some great times together. Who would imagine a 30 year old Olympian and world record holder missing the final of his main event at the Florida State Championships because he was having trouble fitting into his tight swim suit. Ozzie did that but clearly thought it was hugely funny.

Below is a photograph taken at the same swim meet. Our club 4×100 relay team had just won the long course Florida State Championships. That was pretty special. We were not one of the big Miami or Ft. Lauderdale Clubs. And because of that, winning the blue ribbon relay was a great moment.

In the photograph Ozzie is on the far left, now complete with the tight swim suit. Skuba is next to him. He was a 50 second 100 metre freestyler and Florida Champion. Then there is Andrew who was Florida State High School 100 yards champion and Doug on the far right. Hidden in behind, in the straw hat, is a national 1500 metre champion, track athlete Alison. Her job was to make sure this crew didn’t miss any more events.

The four of them were huge fun to coach. Between them, I suspect they taught the coach more than he taught them. And not only about swimming. Ozzie managed to change another prejudice of mine. Until I got to know Ozzie I confidently held all the stereotype views on the Miss Universe contest. You know what I mean – nothing but a cattle market, all beauty and no brains, exploitation, all that stuff. But then Ozzie introduced me to his wife, Irene. She was certainly good looking but was also bright, well educated, interesting and funny. After a month or so I discovered she had also been the runner-up in the Venezuela Miss Universe contest. It was time for me to change my mind. Never judge a book by its cover.

       

  

And so I can understand the commitment Paige has to her school program. Her Assistant Coach is one of the best. He is one of the gentlemen of the sport. And, believe me, he could swim a bit as well. Paige, enjoy your stay at Florida. I’m sure you will. You made a good choice when you signed to become a Seminole.

 

Performance V Participation

January 15th, 2018

Many Swimwatch posts have discussed the decline in the standard of New Zealand’s top swimmers. The evidence is pretty overwhelming. In 2017 New Zealand suffered its worst performance at a World Championships, a historic low number of New Zealand records were broken and the country could only qualify two swimmers for the 2018 Commonwealth Games individual events.

We have heard very little from the Swimming New Zealand Chairman, Bruce Cotterill, or from the Chief Executive, Steve Johns, about why New Zealand swimming was performing so badly. We were told a new Targeted Athlete and Coach Manager would be announced in mid-January. Well today is the 15th January and we’ve heard no more. Johns did talk to the Stuff website about swimming’s lack of performance. The gist of his argument was that fast swimmers were only a part of the organisation’s role. Swimming New Zealand should not be judged on performance alone. Participation was what was really important, he said.

This is how Stuff reported the views of Steve Johns.

“Swimming NZ chief executive Steve Johns said the organisation can’t solely focus on the performance “shop window” of the sport. “Some people often forget that the mandate of Swimming New Zealand is everything from grass roots – beginners’ swimming – right through to high performance swimming,” Johns said.

“Often the HP bit becomes the shop window – and certainly the bit as an organisation we get judged on. It’s an area where we put a significant amount of time and investment into, but there’s the other part of our business which is about growing swimming and getting more people into swimming, making sure our clubs are more capable and able to attract more people.”

“A lot of our big clubs in Auckland and Wellington can’t really take any more people because they’re at capacity in terms of the water space they have available.”        

The first thing that needs to be said about all that is – it’s a cop out. All he is saying is we might have failed to perform competitively but the important thing is to get more people into swimming. That is what we were really doing. My thought when I read that was, champions don’t talk like that.

But then it occurred to me – John’s is shifting the focus of attention from performance to participation. That’s understandable. He does not have any performance highlights to talk about. So change the subject. But then I wondered, how have Bruce Cotterill and Steve Johns performed as far as participation is concerned? Have their holistic goals yielded success elsewhere?

To test that I went back to 2010; two years before Bruce Cotterill existed at Swimming New Zealand, two years before Miskimmin gave us the flash new Constitution. And for the eight years since I found the number of competitive swimmers, the number of clubs and the number of coaches registered with Swimming New Zealand. The results are shown in the table below.

Year Competitive Swimmers Clubs Coaches
2017 5,660 165 246
2016 5,605 172 258
2015 5,909 170 283
2014 5,498 160 380
2013 5,635 173 474
2012 6,200 181 560
2011 6,161 180 543
2010 6,510 180 627

So here is the deal. In the reign of Bruce Cotterill at Swimming New Zealand and Steve Johns for the last twelve months:

  1. The number of registered competitive swimmers has declined by 850 swimmers, 13%. The decline has fluctuated by small amounts but has also been steadily downwards.
  2. The number of registered clubs has declined by 15 clubs, 8%. Johns suggests that might be a good thing. His view seems to be that bigger clubs deliver better service. There is no evidence of that argument having any validity. Incidentally his pool space argument is puerile rubbish as well. Eight years ago, with fewer pools the sport managed to accommodate almost 1000 more swimmers and 15 more clubs. In the eight years since 2010 more pools have been built (The National Aquatic Centre for example), 1000 swimmers have fled the sport and Johns is still using pool space as an excuse for the failings of the organisation he leads.
  3. The number of registered coaches has declined by 381 coaches, 61%. The decline is the one that would concern me most. Throughout this eight year period these pages have argued that Swimming New Zealand’s focus on the Millennium High performance coaching centre was destroying the infrastructure of New Zealand’s regional coaches. The figures now seem to support that view. And that holds true even if there has been some alteration in the counting method. Coaches deliver this sport. Coaches provide the excitement and interest. And today Swimming New Zealand has only half the number of providers that it did eight years ago. And the blame for that lies 100% at the door of Swimming New Zealand. They pursued policies that tore the heart out of the sport. And they were told. In 2017 membership of the American Swim Coaches Association reached a record level; and so did the number of competitive swimmers registered with USA Swimming. It will be a while before New Zealand sees record numbers in either category again.

And so it seems that, whether the discussion is performance or participation, the message is all bad. I personally don’t think Johns or Cotterill are up to the task of fixing it. My view is that they simply don’t know the product. What they say publically doesn’t make sense. Excuse the pun, but I think they are way, way out of their depth.