A Whirling Mass Of Fluid

November 14th, 2018

 The internet tells me the definition of vortex is a “whirling mass of fluid”. From this point of view the most appropriately named blog on the internet belongs to Swimvortex; not because of the way it is written, indeed no one could question Craig Lord’s linguistic skills, but because of the confused and disjointed sporting world that is so often the focus of Lord’s attention.

Nowhere is that better illustrated than in the blog’s most recent post. Here is the link. I recommend it as compulsory reading for anyone interested in international or New Zealand sporting reform. The scale may be different but the problems are the same.

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=swimvortex

Lord’s post discusses the recent European Olympic Committee’s (EOC) General Assembly meeting. It seems the IOC and especially its President, Thomas Bach, are beginning to feel the heat that comes with the push for reform. Bach’s unease is well-founded. Athletes are speaking with a new and powerful voice.

For example, a stunning decision by the European Commission recently ruled that a skating regulation that imposed severe penalties on athletes competing in events not authorized by the governing body was in breach of anti-trust laws and must be changed. The decision of top swimmers to support a new international swimming league will have similar long term consequences.

Sadly Bach responded badly to these reforms. He attempted to claim some moral, social benefit high-ground. Here is what he said.

The value of an organisation and an activity is not determined any more by its values and its contribution to a better society.

“But it is determined by money and markets.

“There we are entering into serious problems for our engagement, because the purely market-based approach ignores the social contribution which sport makes to society all over Europe.

“Sports organisations, based on volunteers and social engagement, are being treated like any commercial sport organisers who wish to pick the cherries of sport.

“They just want to harvest the fruits of the trees you have planted and nurtured over so many years.

“They treat sport like any goods in life and speak of free trade and engagement.

“This is putting many of our sports organisations into trouble.

That line of reasoning makes me mad. I have no idea why Bach has decided to fight the reformers. Doesn’t he see the benefits that would accrue to the IOC by openly welcoming reform? Just look at the way professionalism altered the Wimbledon Tennis Club. A moribund and impoverished recreational tennis club has become a multimillion dollar business. The good Wimbledon is able to do now with its huge resources far exceeds anything in its past. Imagine if that transformation was replicated by the IOC. Instead Bach and his blazer mates cling onto the past; claiming that they alone are looking after the welfare of sport. For longer than I can remember sporting bureaucrats have lived like kings at the expense of those the public pay to see.

A few years ago Alison, John Walker and Rodney Dixon were competing in the London Coke Meet. The meet was a big deal. Crystal Palace was sold out. John had just set a new mile world record. He was probably the biggest drawcard in world athletics. I can’t remember the results. Alison ran a good 800 in just a little over 2.00 minutes. John I think won a 2000 meter race. Rodney, I’m not sure, but I think won the 5000. It was a successful night.

The athlete’s invitation to compete included a reception after the meet. By the time a thousand autographs had been signed we were on our own with no idea where the reception was being held. We wandered around and found what looked like a reception venue. The four of us marched in and started to admire the feast laid out for our enjoyment; steaks, crayfish, baked-potatoes, salad, strawberries and cream. Wow we thought this is great. They sure know how to treat athletes around here.

But that thought died. An elderly blazer asked, “Who are you?”

Fearing my status and my times would not be sufficient I said I was with Alison, John Walker and Rodney Dixon.

“Oh” said the blazer, “you’re athletes. This is for officials. Your reception is downstairs.”

Sadly we turned away from the official’s feast and trouped downstairs. What a difference. The athlete’s fare was a few burnt sausages, moist potato crisps and some limp lettuce. I’ve never forgotten that injustice. I know where the fruits were being harvested that night.

Of course New Zealand is just as bad. When Toni Jeffs was swimming she was forced to sign a contract swearing she would not drink alcohol for the period of the agreement. Toni was 25 and legally entitled to have a drink. But what was most annoying was the SNZ officials sitting upstairs in the Kilbirnie Pool during the National Championships getting sloshed on SNZ supplied wine and cheese. Toni gave the officials a well-deserved serve on the back page of the morning’s Dominion newspaper.

And it still goes on today. Johns flies to Japan and SNZ pays the bill. Francis flies to China and SNZ pays the bill. Sixteen swimmers fly to the World Championships to represent their nation and a SNZ Board of six Bachs orders the swimmers to pay for themselves. How is that any different from a plate of burnt sausages and damp potato crisps?

Between them Francis and Johns pocket the thick end of $300,000 in wages. For winning a World Championships Lauren Boyle got $40,000. Dame Valerie Adams won the Olympics and only earned $60,000. It is criminal what Bach, Johns, Francis and their mates get away with. And they wonder why athletes find proposals like the professional league appealing. The reason is not hard to work out. Athletes are sick of being lied to, fed up with being taken advantage of, and tired of eating burnt sausages

To be fair athletes have been slow to react. They have accepted platitudes from Bach and Johns and Francis for far too long. But that is changing. The time has come when swimmers want the crayfish and steak for themselves. And so they should. But don’t take my word for it. Go to Graig Lord’s Facebook Swimvortex site. Read what he has to say. And remember the author is one of the world’s leading swimming journalists. His opinion deserves our unconditional respect.

Show Me The Report

November 12th, 2018

Many readers will know that for some time I have been trying to obtain from Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) the Report prepared by an Auckland criminal psychoanalyst into a complaint made about my coaching. SNZ asked for the investigation and promised me a copy of the Report. I was told the purpose of the investigation was to establish the facts of the complaint. My guilt or innocence was the purpose for which the Report was being prepared. If I was innocent publication of the Report would clear my name. If I was guilty the swimming community deserved to be warned. My coaching was directly related to the purpose of the investigation and the preparation and publication of the Report.

I attended hearings with the psychoanalyst over three days and waited for the Report to be delivered. Eventually I asked SNZ to send my copy of the Report. The CEO of SNZ refused. I appealed the decision to the Privacy Commissioner and that is where the matter currently lies. Whatever the Privacy Commissioner decides I will of course accept. However I thought there may be merit in putting my case for seeing the Report on public record. Here is that case.

I believe I am entitled to see the Report. I also believe SNZ are not entitled to withhold the Report. That view is based on two conditions contained in the Privacy Act 1993. These conditions are copied in the table below.

PRINCIPLE 11 LIMITS ON DISCLOSURE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION

An agency that holds personal information shall not disclose the information to a person or body or agency unless the agency believes, on reasonable grounds,—

(a) that the disclosure of the information is one of the purposes in connection with which the information was obtained or is directly related to the purposes in connection with which the information was obtained; or

(c) that the disclosure is to the individual concerned;

As you can see SNZ are required to keep personal information confidential unless SNZ “believes, on reasonable grounds” specific conditions allow its release. Without question two of the conditions apply in my case.

First, Principle 11 (c). This condition says SNZ can release the information if “the disclosure is to the individual concerned”. I don’t think there is any doubt that applies in this case. Why else did I sit in the psychoanalyst’s office for three days answering questions about my coaching? I can’t imagine what else the Report could be about if I was not the individual concerned. Perhaps the Report calls into question the motives of those who brought the complaint. However even if it does, I would argue, I am entitled to read that because their false accusations still directly involve me. I am still the “individual concerned”. I find it difficult to accept that individuals found guilty of lying should be protected. Don’t SNZ members have as much right to know about those who tell lies as they do about me if I had been found guilty?

So I think we can accept that, based on 11(c), SNZ can and should release the Report. I live in hope that the Privacy Commissioner will see it the same way.

And second Principle 11 (a). This clause says that information held by an agency can be released when “disclosure of the information is one of the purposes in connection with which the information was obtained or is directly related to the purposes in connection with which the information was obtained.”

To determine whether the release of the Report meets this condition we have to examine the purposes behind the investigation and the preparation of the Report. I think it is clear that the purpose was twofold. First to establish whether I was guilty or innocent of the charges being made and second to inform SNZ, outside parties and me of my innocence or guilt. At the time of setting up the investigation the CEO of SNZ was very clear. He said the purpose of the investigation and the preparation of the Report was to “clear the air”; to finally settle, in the minds of SNZ and interested outsiders and in my mind, whether the accusations had merit or not. The CEO of SNZ was resolute; the principle purpose of the preparation of the Report was so that its contents could be “disclosed” to me and others interested in the case.

Disclosure was a purpose “in connection with which the information was obtained.” In other words I believe I am entitled to read the Report because the circumstances are covered by clause 11(a) of the Act. In fact without disclosure the purpose of the investigation and preparing the Report is defeated. If the purpose was to find me guilty or clear my name, how is that purpose served by keeping the Report secret? If only SNZ know the contents how does that affect me? In all probability the only product of secrecy is to leave the impression that I am guilty as charged. Throw enough mud and some of it will stick. Perhaps that’s what SNZ want. Perhaps they want to hide the Report because it clears my name. I don’t know and I should.

Without question, the purpose of preparing the Report is being defeated by keeping it secret. The previous CEO of SNZ said exactly that when he asked me to participate in the investigation. If I had known that the findings of the investigation were going to be kept secret I would have thought twice about my participation. It is a warning to others. If SNZ assure you of something get it signed and in writing. They tell lies.

Why have an investigation if no one apart from SNZ is going to know the result? The whole point is to provide the clarity of disclosure not to create even more confusion and intrigue as is now the case.

Anyway that’s why I petitioned SNZ to see the Report and have appealed their decision to the Privacy Commissioner. We will see what happens.

When They Go Low We Go High

November 12th, 2018

The title of this story is a quote from Michelle Obama. She used it as a campaign slogan to urge Democrats to remain civil when facing Republican insults. It is a difficult standard to meet. “Don’t get mad, get even” is a more human emotion. Even though Michelle Obama advice is unquestionably right, getting even has more primal appeal; an appeal I am frequently too weak to resist.

Swimwatch stories have generated some heat in their time. One Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Chairman, Brent Layton, used the organization’s Annual Report to abuse me and the website. What did he say? Something like, “The credibility the opinions of these bloggers deserve is clear; absolutely none.” As is normal weak people find it easier to attack the person rather than address the issue.

The CEO of SNZ, Steve Johns, also throws around personal insults. His emails to me contain their share of malice. He loves words and phrases like, “write whatever pops into your head” and “constant attacks” and “outbursts” and “personally attack” and “you however continue to not have the decency or courage” and, the pièce de résistance, “vitriolic tirades”. No effort is made to address the issues. Johns specialises in attacking the man not the ball. He must think that by throwing insults the issue will go away. Certainly in his time as CEO I have never heard him explain any if the issues raised in this blog. Why has the number of SNZ members collapsed? Why is income down? Why have we been reduced to one bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games and no medals at the Pan Pacific Games? Why did SNZ lie to their sponsor about Championship entry numbers? No reply from Johns to any of that. I guess “vitriolic tirades” will have to do.

However the ex-Chairman and current CEO of SNZ cannot hold a candle to Dave Crampton of Facebook NZ Swim fame. Since 2009 Swimwatch has posted 1102 stories. Given the quieter period when I was in Saudi Arabia 1102 stories is an average of about 3.5 stories a week. There are not many numbers on my analytics page higher than the number of stories. In fact there is only one. And that honour belongs to Dave Crampton. As at 3.31 this afternoon Dave has visited Swimwatch 1127 times. He is obsessed.

What makes his numbers even more amazing is the length of time it has taken to accumulate his record score. Swimwatch has been posting stories since 2009 but Dave’s interest in swimming is more recent. I don’t know when he started reading Swimwatch. My guess is 2015. If that’s true Crampton visits the website about six times a week. That’s more than me.

While it may be flattering to attract attention like Crampton’s obsession it is also of some concern. The problem with Crampton is he has only been involved in swimming for five minutes. The depth of his swimming knowledge is less than the shallow end of the Cannons Creek pool. When I accepted his email messages he asked the most ridiculous questions. How long was the West Wave Pool, for example? It is hard to escape the thought that a person who uses Facebook to express his self-proclaimed superior views on swimming should really know that the country’s leading pool from 1990 to 2015 is a normal Olympic size pool. Either that or he would be best served keeping his uninformed opinions to himself.

Mind you obsessive behaviour and opinionated views, it seems, are not new to Crampton’s time in swimming. While he was at Massey University the Human Rights Review Tribunal ordered Crampton to pay $18,000 to a former President, Jeannette Chapman, of the Massey University’s Extramural Students’ Society. He was accused of harassing the former President by meeting her in a hallway, saying “nice suit” and pouring a cup of coffee over her, by sending her an average of 150 emails a week and by forcing her to change her telephone number twice in one year. The Tribunal “was satisfied that Chapman had given a truthful account and, if anything, understated Crampton’s degree of hostility. Crampton, on the other hand, conspicuously downplayed his own aggressive actions, it said.”

Very significantly one of the Human Rights Review Tribunal’s findings was that Crampton made, “Adverse comments about Ms Chapman’s reporting skills, spelling and grammar.” Wow, I certainly know what that’s like.

Based on my Swimwatch experience I understand exactly where the Human Right’s Tribunal was coming from. I am astonished at Crampton’s obsession. No one else in New Zealand clicks onto the site regularly in the early hours of the morning. Doesn’t the guy ever sleep? Perhaps it’s time to change the Swimwatch IP address. My telephone number and email are already out of bounds.

In my opinion, the involvement of Crampton and Johns in Swimwatch has much in common. In my view they are both opinionated, both strong on trivial swimming issues and both lack the understanding to address matters of major importance. It seems the Human Rights Tribunal came to the same conclusion. Here is how they concluded their opinion on Crampton’s evidence in the Massey case. “Our assessment is that he is a person who can see only one point of view (his own), believes he is always right and is quick to take offence.  Having little capacity for objectivity his evidence was invariably self-serving and self-justifying.”

Take, for example, a recent Swimwatch post that addressed the move to introduce professional swimming. Here is the link. http://www.swimwatch.net/2018/11/let-eat-cake.html

As one of Crampton’s private page members I was interested to read Crampton’s response to the “Let them eat cake” story. It seems he reverted to type. He questioned the spelling of a swimmer’s name and argued about the implication that Perry and Clareburt were going to China. The point of the post, in case Crampton lacks the horsepower to understand, was what is swimming going to do to transform itself into one of the professional sports that tennis, rugby, cricket and track have become? The sad fact is that while Crampton and Johns argue about the trivial or throw personal insults, swimming treads water. Their behaviour might be juvenile but its affects are serious.

I apologise to Michelle Obama for ignoring her advice. But there are occasions when bad behaviour demands a trip down under.

Judith Wright – 45 Years of Service to Swimming

November 10th, 2018

If you are interested in seeing a fascinating slice of New Zealand swimming history visit the Waterhole Swimming Pool in Parrs Park, Henderson. On the back wall of the club rooms you will see about 20 carefully framed New Zealand national open record certificates. Each one is a record set by the pool’s owner, Judith Wright. The reason they have historical significance is because several certificates represent milestones in the progress of New Zealand swimming. Every record is worthy of praise. But some records stand out in sporting history more than others. Roger Bannister’s four minute mile is probably the best example. Dawn Fraser breaking a minute for 100 freestyle was also historic. The next big one will be breaking two hours for the men’s marathon.

Mixed in among the Judith Wright record certificates you will find two of major importance. You see Judith Wright was the first woman in New Zealand to swim below five minutes for 400 freestyle and below ten minutes for 800 freestyle. I was swimming back in the days when those records were set. To say none of us thought a New Zealand woman would swim that fast was not far from the truth. Judith’s swimming lifted New Zealand women’s swimming. Every swimmer who followed had a higher bar to reach because of Judith Wright.

Judith’s career after swimming was equally ground breaking. She got involved in learn-to-swim and coaching. Nothing ground breaking about that, you may be saying. Except Judith took it a step further and built her own Parrs Park pool. That was back in the days when women were not supposed to show that sort of initiative, that sort of enterprise, that sort of courage.

Ever since Judith and Gwen Ryan have run their enormously successful business from the pool. Several years ago I attended a finance course at the London School of Economics (LSE). Many readers may know that the LSE’s reputation for academic learning is right up with Harvard and Yale. One of our business studies tutors was well known for his complicated mathematical formulas used to measure business success. Toward the end of the course he said how pleased he was that we had learned the importance of debt, equity, inventory and the time value of money. But he said the real measure of business success was not hidden in mathematical formulas. The most difficult measure, the bar many businesses fail to clear, was just to survive. That was the real test of business success. Judith Wright and Gwen Ryan have passed my LSE tutor’s test in full measure. Not only that, they are carefully transferring responsibility for the business to a new generation. Mohammed Ali’s famous quote, “You done splendid” applies perfectly to Judith’s swimming and business careers.

But the Waterhole business has done more than survive. A dozen national champions have learned their trade in the Waterhole pool. From women’s 50 freestyle to men’s 10k open water Judith has coached them all. Her success is based on “old-fashioned” values. And there is nothing wrong with that. Just ask Dick Tonks, Arch Jelley and Steve Hansen. They might not know some of the finer points of swimming but they would sure know and approve of the way Judith Wright goes about her coaching job.

Alison and I have known Judith for about eight years. Alison’s running career was founded on the best values of sport – hard work, honesty, courage and determination. It is hard to be an international athlete without those qualities. The downside though is the difficulty many have reaching the standards top athletes set for themselves. Alison has always recognised those standards and values in Judith. Her praise for Judith is total. And certainly in my dealing with Judith through some fairly stormy waters Judith has treated me with integrity and honesty. She is a rare gift in the swimming world.

I was delighted to hear that the Waterhole Club has decided to celebrate Judith’s career. No one deserves the recognition more. Set out below are the details of the planned occasion. I would recommend that anyone whose life has been touched by the Waterhole Club set aside anything else on 17 November and join Judith at the Falls Restaurant. It will be fun and is certainly well deserved.

THE OCCASION

The Waterhole Swim Club would like to Celebrate Judith Wright’s 45 years of Service to Swimming. We invite you to a Cocktail hour, starting at 6:00 PM, followed by 2-course dinner, Guest Speakers and Entertainment. Tickets are limited and selling fast – $80.00 per person + associated costs

FAQs

Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?

No

What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?

Off-street parking available

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?

021 999181 (Flo Hickey) OR waterholeswimclub@yahoo.co.nz

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

Yes – sent to you via text

Is my registration fee or ticket transferrable?

Yes

Date and Time

Sat 17 November 2018

6:00 PM – 10:30 PM NZDT

Location

The Falls Restaurant

22 Alderman Drive

Henderson

Auckland, Auckland 0645

Give A Little

November 9th, 2018

Some Swimwatch articles cause far more concern than others. This one is at the top of the concern list. I am aware that I may be sticking my nose into an area where it may not be wanted. Worse than that, I may cause harm. That is the last thing I want to do. The subject is Emma Goodwin’s “Give-a-little” page asking for help to get to the December World Short Course Championships in Hangzhou, China.

I am full of admiration for the initiative Goodwin has shown by using the “Give-a-little” website in an effort to raise the money required to get herself to China. She should have been fully funded by Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). But Johns and Francis are, as usual, too busy looking after themselves. New Zealand’s best swimmers have been abandoned by Johns and Francis. Godwin and the other swimmers are required to pay out of their own pockets to represent the country or they don’t go.

Godwin’s solution is to open a “Give-a-little” appeal. Here is the link to her page. https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/swimming-world-short-course-championships-trip

The page tells us that the appeal was opened a month ago on the 11 October 2018 and closes in another month on the 8 December 2018. So far 30 donors have contributed $3,777.67. That is brilliant but it means Godwin is still $1,522.33 away from the $5,300 needed to get to the Championships.

Now I don’t know Emma Godwin. We have never met. I have watched her swim and am full of admiration for the effortless way she moves through the water. Some people are blessed with a wonderful feel of the water. It is an ability, difficult to describe, impossible to teach and vital for international swimming success. Toni Jeffs, Rhi Jeffrey, Nichola Chellingworth and Jane Copland all have the same gift. So does Emma Godwin. She also knows how to win a race. If it is close she somehow knows how to get to the wall first. Her career smacks of talent and common sense decisions; not a bad combination.

I do know Godwin’s Hawkes Bay coach, William Benson. He is a good guy. Certainly he knows about swimming. He has been immersed in chlorine since I lived in Hawkes Bay and William was about 10 years old. He represented New Zealand at the Beijing Olympic Games and won the Oceania Championships 50 Freestyle. He has been a New Zealand national champion and short course champion in Queensland, NSW and Victoria state championships.

Godwin and Benson, swimmer and coach, are a good team. If anyone stands a chance of success in this sport that combination does. My point is that Godwin’s fundraising deserves our support. She is well worth a dollar either way.

I do hope this does not hurt her chances, but if you have a couple of bucks to spare, please click on https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/swimming-world-short-course-championships-trip  and help Godwin raise the $1,522.33 left to get her to China.