International Sport

September 21st, 2018

Normally Swimwatch avoids getting involved in international sport. There is enough to talk about in New Zealand swimming. However two events occurred this week that do merit attention.

First the world doping agency has approved the reinstatement of the Russian Federation into world sport. That is bad news indeed. The recent expulsion of Russia was long overdue and needed to continue if that country was going to change. When Alison was running at her best, back in the 1970s, competing against the female runners from Russia was so blatantly unfair. In 1979 Alison ran a 1000 meter race in Berlin that ranked her 4th in the world. Two of the runners ahead of her were Russians and were banned in later years for using steroids. I have no doubt that they were using steroids in 1979 as well. They just had not been caught. There is a big difference in meet invitations, sponsorship opportunities, income and recognition between being 4th in the world and 2nd.

That experience was personal, upfront and real. It certainly brought home to me the hurt caused not only by cheating Federations but by countries that let the cheats get away with cheating.

A few years later, in 1991, I was the coach of Toni Jeffs when she swam in the World Short Course Finals in Majorca, Spain. The event was the forerunner of what was to become the World Short Course Championships. The New Zealand team was Toni, Danyon Loader and Phillippa Langrell. I believe, to this day, it is the first New Zealand team to travel to a world class event and have every team member win a medal. Toni won a bronze in the 50 freestyle. Ahead of her were two swimmers from east European communist countries. Both later had drug test problems. Once again there is a huge difference between being 1st and 3rd in the world.

And so for a second time I experienced the hurt of having an athlete beaten by cheats. Sadly, of course, I am not alone. Many coaches and athletes can tell similar stories. It is not fair. It is unjust and it is still happening.

I am proud that New Zealand was one of a minority of countries that stood up for clean athletes and voted for the ban on Russia to continue. Sport needs the protection offered by the ban. For 50 years the Russian Federation has shown itself to be a dishonest cheat. When the country is led by a politician who thinks nothing of state sponsored international murder it is not hard to imagine that the morality of international state sponsored doping presents him with very few problems. Concern about his country’s swimmers cheating is not going to keep Putin awake at night. Winning is all that ex-KGB spy worries about. So thank you New Zealand for taking a stand for the good guys. Now all we need to do is find a way of getting Russia kicked out of world sport again.

And second, on the international scene, I see today that the International Swimming League (ISL) and American marketing company the Wasserman Media Group presented, to an American Swim Coaches conference, their concept of a pro swimming league with pro teams competing frequently in competitions globally. ISL presented near and long-term goals seeking feedback from the American swimming coaching community.

Supporting that is something Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) should be doing. The World Cup circuit is looking old and tired. It is in need of replacement. The old days of FINA spending only 5% of its income on paying athletes is no longer acceptable. The concept of a pro swimming league touring the world, paying athletes at least 50% of their income, should be an ideal replacement. SNZ should support the concept. Just imagine the good it would do for New Zealand swimming to have three or four of New Zealand’s best swimmers touring the world in a professional league. Excitement in the sport and participation would grow. The country’s best athletes would strive harder to reach a level where they could earn a good living from their sport. The idea is nothing but positive.

But will we hear anything from Antares Place? I doubt it. You see a world league does nothing to improve the income or power of Johns and Francis. In fact a world league would cause them to lose power. They would never vote for that no matter what good it did for the sport. No, in Antares Place a world league is not nearly as important as the Francis Folly. Just give Francis and Johns a list of fictitious numbers invented by a university academic  mathematician and leave them to shipwreck the sport on the rocks of the Francis Folly. Don’t worry them with the dream of Perry or Hunter or Clareburt or Fa’amausili or Galyer traveling the world, possibly becoming rich because they are good at swimming. That’s not part of the Johns and Francis plan at all. But it should be.

And so we have two international news items this week that could have a profound effect on swimming in New Zealand; one bad item of drug news where New Zealand stood proud and did the right thing and one item of good news where SNZ are, as usual, nowhere to be seen.

You Have To Be Joking

September 19th, 2018

POST SCRIPT

It appears there may be more to the SNZ transfer request story, reported below, than I thought. Ailing Cui is indeed a swim teacher at the West Wave Pool. Recently the Pool Manager, Alex Calwell, embarked on a crusade to grow his empire. In particular he decided the Auckland City Council should get involved in coaching competitive swimmers. Previously Auckland City had restricted its swimming tuition role to teaching learn-to-swim. Quite rightly the Council believed that coaching competitive sport was not one of their duties.

It seems however that Alex Calwell may be a law unto himself. Recently Ailing Cui was appointed to coach the West Wave venture into competitive swimming. Nothing should be said to diminish the seriousness of that decision. Where will it stop? Will private clubs everywhere be taken over by Council Calwell clones?

However Ailing Cui faced a problem. She couldn’t coach swimmers at a competition unless she had a coaching membership pass from Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). To get a SNZ membership she needed to be a member of a club; hence the application to join West Auckland Aquatics. What we don’t know is whether the transfer request is simply a mistake by someone unaware of West Auckland Aquatics’ demise or does it signal a move by Calwell and his mates to resurrect the old club under Auckland City Council control? If it is the latter I would be asking the Registrar of Incorporated Societies to look into any liabilities left behind by the club. They should be transferred to Auckland City. In addition, if the club is renewed, I am still a Board member. I never resigned. I would require my position to be recognised by the resurrected club.

 I know there are many members of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) who support the current management. I imagine that supporters also feel the criticisms made in Swimwatch are unfounded. Even when we provide example after example of incompetence Steve Johns and his mates prefer to blame the messenger rather than message.

Perhaps the critics could explain events that occurred yesterday. Some readers may remember that there once was a swimming club based in the West Wave Pool in Henderson. It was called West Auckland Aquatics. The club had been coached successfully by Ross Anderson and Donna Bouzaid. Most recently I was the Head Coach.

Sadly three years ago conflict broke out in the club. You can read all about the events that tore West Auckland Aquatics apart on Swimwatch. Here is the link – http://www.swimwatch.net/?s=West+Auckland+Aquatics

SNZ got involved in the conflict. Chairman Cotterill attended four meetings in an effort to bring peace to the west. In my view he did a good job. He maybe got involved a little too late but once he was there Cotterill seemed determined to find a solution to the club’s problems. He made a proposal that I thought should have been accepted. However the West Auckland Aquatics’ Chairman was not one for compromise. Ridiculously, she rejected the Cotterill peace offer. Eventually SNZ had no option but to expel the club from SNZ membership. And that is what happened.

Christian Renford was the CEO of SNZ at the time. On the 14 December 2015 he advised WAQ members that the club’s membership was permanently terminated. Renford told me it was the first time in SNZ’s 125 year history that a club had been expelled from the organization.

After attending four meetings on the subject; after expelling a member club for the first time in swimming history you would think SNZ and especially its Chairman, Bruce Cotterill, would remember the name West Auckland Aquatics. But apparently not.

You see yesterday SNZ sent me the following email.

transfers@swimming.org.nzTo:info@swimmingnz.org.nz,nzdaw@yahoo.co.nz,info@swimmingnz.org.nz,info@akswim.co.nz

‎18‎ ‎Sep at ‎1‎:‎59‎ ‎PM

A transfer has been requested for Miss Ailing Cui from Course Contact to West Auckland Aquatics.

Please login to approve this transfer.

As you can see there are several things wrong with the email. First they sent it to my personal email address. I stopped working for West Auckland Aquatics before the club was terminated. Clearly SNZ email contacts have not been upgraded for three years. Second the swimmer is asking to transfer to a club that hasn’t existed for three years. The SNZ list of member clubs clearly needs updating. And third I have no idea where the club Course Contacts is based. I doubt that a club of that name even exists.

Several years ago SNZ demanded the power to approve all inter-club transfers. They said it was to make sure the rules were being followed. They wanted to avoid swimmers being poached – that was ironic when you consider, for 20 years, the biggest poacher of swimmers has been SNZ. For years the Federation openly advertised their poaching intentions on the SNZ website. I have always been suspicious that their real motive in approving transfers was to eventually make money out of the transfer market. I suspect that is still to come.

However, even SNZ must admit that their oversight role looks a touch ridiculous when they let emails through to a non-existent coach from a non-existent club to another non-existent club. Does the swimmer even exist? I suspect not. Miss Ailing Cui is a learn to swim teacher at the West Wave Pool and the mother of Elizabeth Cui, a west Auckland diver, currently studying at Louisiana State University in the United States. SNZ oversight? I doubt they have even read the transfer request. Too hard at work on the Francis Folly perhaps.

I have not approved the transfer. I would be grateful if SNZ could tell Miss Ailing Cui that the Waterhole Club and the Diving Waitakere Club are both reasonably close. They are better options than RIP West Auckland Aquatics.

Miskimmin’s Empire Crumbles

September 18th, 2018

A recent Swimwatch post discussed the blind loyalty of Trump fans. We compared them to the equally puzzling loyalty of some Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) supporters, members who see no error in the Federation’s bizarre behavior. Their irrational devotion however is wearing thin, especially as the wheels are beginning to fall off other sports that have succumbed to the lure of Miskimmin’s money.

Swimming, cycling, netball and soccer are a mess. But now we have the jewel in Miskimmin’s crown crumbling before our eyes. This weekend rowing raced in the 2018 World Championships. They won nothing. Winning and losing is what sport is about. Even the All Blacks lost a game to South Africa this weekend. But with the All Blacks there was the impression that the loss was a temporary setback, a blip on a successful path towards the World Cup. There were lessons to be learned, of course, and I’m sure a good coach like Hansen is well aware of what needs to be done to return his team to winning ways.

But a blip in a successful path is not the impression left by rowing’s World Championship disaster. This was more like the beginning of a slide into oblivion. Miskimmin’s centralised dream has become a nightmare. So what happened in Bulgaria? Here is how the NZ Herald reported the World Championship results.

Rowing: Time to panic after NZ Rowing’s worst world championship haul in 15 years?

New Zealand have become used to a steady stream of success at world rowing championships.

So does the national body write off a disappointing collective return from this year’s event, which finished in Plovdiv, Bulgaria last night, as a one-off blip or something more concerning?

This is the halfway point in the four-year Olympic cycle leading to Tokyo. New Zealand bagged three medals, two silvers and a bronze, out of the 13 Olympic class events they entered. New Zealand didn’t enter the 14th Olympic category, the women’s quad.

It is the weakest return since 2003. By comparison, last year New Zealand won seven medals at the worlds, finishing second top nation. This time they finished 18th.

Manson was among the disappointments in Bulgaria, finishing fifth in his final, despite having won both World Cup leadup regattas and appearing a formidable presence. Both eights crews had a poor return. Neither made their A finals. There were two fourths, a fifth and a sixth placing from other crews in A finals while the men’s four were third in their C final.

RNZ said an internal review began last April to look into pinnacle event performance at pinnacle events. It added that was tied in with the sport looking ahead “so we can refresh and continually improve to maintain our place as world leading in the high performance environment”.

Why has this happened in rowing? The answer is – for all the same reasons as it has happened in swimming and is about to happen in cycling. It is because the influence of Miskimmin and his money is like a cancer, destroying good cells in the sport and replacing them with malignant Miskimmin look-alikes.

In the case of rowing, two men have held that sport together for the past 15 years. Coach Dick Tonks and high performance boss, Alan Cotter, were the backbone of the sport. Both were old-school, tough, opinionated and very good at their jobs, not at all in the Miskimmin mold. Gradually Miskimmin’s influence won through. Tonks and Cotter were increasingly sidelined. Petty fights broke out about who Tonks could coach and whether Cotter’s work should be the subject of yet another Miskimmin “internal review”. Whenever Miskimmin wants to extend his power he prefaces the move with a review, a review that he controls and manipulates to arrive at the conclusions he wants in the first place.

In rowing it was to get rid of Tonks and Cotter. And, hey presto, just like that they have both left. I am unaware of their replacements but, if swimming is the model, they will be replaced by members of the white shoes and pink socks brigade. Miskimmin prefers to see that city latté sort in positions of power. Just look at Cotterill, Johns and Francis. The problem with white shoes and pink socks is they can’t win a rowing race – or a swimming race for that matter.

And that is why I am pretty confident that the All Blacks’ loss was a blimp and rowing’s losses were the beginning of a slide. You see the All Blacks still have their boss, running the ship. Steve Hansen knows what he’s doing and in his rough ex-freezing worker manner will make sure of the team’s success. Rowing on the other hand has thrown their Steve Hansens overboard and replaced them with university trained novices who I suspect know very little about how to row a boat.

The way the Johns and Francis set talk is a dead give-away. Just look at the last sentence of the NZ Herald report. It says the purpose of the Miskimmin review is, “so we can refresh and continually improve to maintain our place as world leading in the high performance environment”. Can you, in your wildest dreams imagine Steve Hansen or Arthur Lydiard or Duncan Laing saying garbage like that? And the highly educated Arch Jelley never indulged in that sort of meaningless twaddle.

As sure as God made little green apples rowing’s white shoes and pink socks bureaucrats are going to need a lot more than a Miskimmin review for rowing to return to being a world leader in the high performance environment. In one year the sport has plunged from being the second nation in the world to eighteenth. It’s going to take more than a cup of latte to sort that out. That’s a task only Hansen, Jelley, Lydiard, Laing, Tonks, Cotter and their likes could solve. Problem is the six of them combined couldn’t come up with a pair of white shoes and pink socks.

Well Bugger Me

September 17th, 2018

Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has sent out an email today announcing that the centralised training group is about to be closed. That’s good news. It is twenty years and thirty million dollars too late. It is especially too late for the talented New Zealanders who put their trust in SNZ and were rewarded with incompetence and chaos. But I guess as they say, “Better late than never”. It will be interesting to see how long it takes SNZ to actually stop the program. Announcing the change is one thing, causing it to happen is another. They were all still there this morning. Through Swimwatch, I will let you know when they, thankfully, leave.

Today’s announcement does highlight the random nature of SNZ decision making. The way things are done leaves the impression of making up policy on the fly. Someone read or heard something today and that became the new plan. The way SNZ do things gives no impression that decisions are part of a long-term and well thought-out strategy. Johns calls it part of the “2018-2020 High Performance Strategic Plan”, but that’s hard to believe.

For example, a couple of months ago SNZ held their first meeting in Wellington to discuss the introduction of the new High Performance Strategic Plan. Johns, Francis and White were all there explaining, in great detail, their plans for the Francis position. One feature, made abundantly clear, was that the centralised training group in Auckland would remain in place. Francis explained that the centralised training group was needed for swimmers who were limited by what he thought they could achieve in their home clubs. At the time I asked what gave a club age-group coach like Francis the right to decide what a swimmer could achieve and how was anything done in the failure that is the SNZ centralised program any better? So there we had it. Word from the top; the SNZ centralised training program was here to stay. It was a settled part of the 2018-2020 High Performance Strategic Plan.

Two months later the centralised training program has gone. How does that work? The decision has to be a knee-jerk reaction to something. Clearly the squad was part of the plan two months ago. Why is it not now? I’m happy that it has gone. I just wish I could feel more confident that SNZ are not making all this up as they go along. A knee-jerk here, a knee jerk there. I guess we are lucky that this time the knee jerked in the right direction.

Perhaps I should also be pleased that the decision reflects so well the argument pushed endlessly on Swimwatch that the SNZ squad should be terminated. Remember when Johns wrote to me and said, “If you think your little blogs and constant attacks are helping swimming in NZ, then you are seriously mistaken.” It seems on this occasion Swimwatch may have helped. Certainly what Johns has finally done reflects the Swimwatch position perfectly.

Here is how Steve Johns told New Zealand about his new idea.

 I write today to formally announce that as part of our continued roll out of the 2018-2024 High Performance Strategic Plan, we will be ending the daily training squad programme currently operated here at the National Training Centre.  The move away from offering this daily training environment to selected performance athletes, will enable Swimming NZ to relocate the resources currently required to deliver this programme into other priority initiatives contained within the strategy including greater support for all targeted athletes and coaches and increased opportunities for coach development and education.

In ending the daily training squad programme, we acknowledge the commitment made by the swimmers in the squad, some of whom who have moved away from their homes to train, and the support provided by AUT Millennium in terms of the world class facilities provided, but believe that the time is right to move away from a centralised training environment to a system where Swimming NZ is able to provide support to a larger group of athletes and coaches regardless of where they live and train.  The introduction of the Targeted Athlete & Coach Programme at the beginning of this year has been a positive step forward but one that requires additional financial resource to ensure it can be delivered to a level and quality that means it will make a real difference to the swimmers involved, whether in NZ or overseas.  With a reduction in funding from High Performance Sport NZ in early 2017, we simply don’t have the funds available to continue to deliver a daily training programme and implement other priority initiatives contained within the strategy.

We will however continue to promote the Sir Owen G Glenn National Aquatic Centre and AUT Millennium facilities as our National Training Centre.  We have already increased the number of training camps and development opportunities available to both the Targeted Athlete & Coach Programme and the wider swimming community with the October National Squad Camp and December Senior Squad Camp and a further seven (7) on the 2019 National Squad Calendar.

We are currently working with the swimmers who have been training at the centre on their individual transitions into suitable club programmes and will continue to have a high level of interest and involvement in their swimming careers.

Should you have any questions relating to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss.  I would ask that you circulate this information to your clubs and members as you see fit.  For your information, we will be circulating the above to all coaches on our database today.

What all that boils down to is, “We needed more money to pay for our new idea of a dozen training camps. We don’t get enough money from Sport NZ so we’ve dropped the centralised training group to save money and will use the cash to pay for the camps.” Conveniently, I’m sure a chunk of the cash saved will be spent preserving the Johns and Francis’ bloated life-styles.

Isn’t that typical Steve Johns? It is all about money. No thought for whether the centralised training program worked or not. No discussion about the damage it has caused the people who swam there. No mention of the ever decreasing number of swimmers wanting to trust the training they got there. No swimming information at all; just money, money, money.

On this occasion we appear to have a got a good decision, made in unseemly haste, for purely financial gain; not a good way to run a business. The chances of getting a series of good decisions out of a repetition of that process are next to nil.

The next step is to convince SNZ that the camps and the Francis Folly’ squads are a waste of time and money. We will start next week by pointing out that both costs are likely to put pressure on SNZ to honor the Johns and Francis pay checks. That argument seems to have worked on this occasion. Let’s try it again.

Swimming New Zealand & Trump Have This In Common

September 16th, 2018

 I am amazed at how tolerant many Americans are of Donald Trump’s bad behavior. The people in, what they call his base, seem happy to put up with any abuse and any obscenity. Trump said he could shoot someone in the street and it would not affect his popularity. He was probably right. He may not have shot anyone but consider what he has done. In two years he has lied to the American people over 4000 times. Four months after his son was born he slept with a porn star and a Playboy bunny and paid for their sex with hundreds of thousands of dollars. He has defrauded the American people with fake Universities, fake premium steaks and second rate wine. He has boasted about sexual assault and he has cosied up to Putin.

And his base thinks that’s all great. As long as he continues his campaign to stop American women’s right to choose, then Trump is fine by them. I know several American families who wouldn’t tolerate Trump’s behavior in anyone else but happily defend the conduct when it’s Trump. One girl who trained with me was extremely religious. She even owned a plastic Bible that she read during long kick sets. Trump and she would be as far apart as you can get. Yet she voted for him to be President. How does that work? There seems to be no logical reason. But it is real enough. For those Americans any obscenity is allowed as long as the culprit is called Donald Trump.

Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) live the same charmed life. They waste millions, they are world experts in losing, they lie to the membership, they disregard the organisation’s constitution and they violate the law of the land and yet, for a large portion of the membership, that’s just fine. To SNZ’s base the evidence doesn’t seem to matter. Cotterill and Johns are doing a sterling job.

Trump said recently all power is based on fear. In the case of SNZ I think that’s right. SNZ hold onto power because those who should call them to account are too scared. Scared that SNZ might not select their child in the next national team, scared that they will miss out on the next training camp or be overlooked for a lifetime service award. The fear is groundless. SNZ need members much more that the members need SNZ. It may be groundless but, for all that, it is no less real.

I will give you an example. I got an email last week in response to the Swimwatch story about the fake new direction being taken by SNZ. The email sought to defend SNZ. The author must know SNZ lie and cheat and yet every time they come up with a new coach, or a new plan the email’s author grasps the idea that this time it will be different. No it won’t.

Here is the email.

1.    Centralised program has gone.

2.    Now supporting targeted athletes and coaches in their home programmes.

3.    Only swimmers needing to train in Ak from outside Ak for Uni or work are at Mish.

4.    New squads announced (some issues there) and series of camps planned.

5.    Open water still coming together slowly but what’s new.

6.    By the way they pay to be there unless in top squad

Let’s look at each of these points.

Centralised program has gone.

I have no idea why anyone would buy that fiction. Perhaps because SNZ told them that the centralised program had gone. But SNZ lie. They do not tell the truth. It has not gone at all. Every day I am at the SNZ pool and the centralised program is alive and well. And the email author knows that’s true. Point six says, “By the way they pay to be there unless in top squad”. Those two things don’t make sense. The centralised program has gone but top swimmers are swimming there without paying. What’s that if it’s not still the centralised program? The email answers its own question.

Now supporting targeted athletes and coaches in their home programmes.     

We will see how that works. Remember SNZ had no option but to promote the fiction that they were going to support swimmers in their home programs. It was their last chance at holding onto power. The centralised program had clearly failed. No matter what SNZ decided swimmers were sensibly staying with their clubs or accepting opportunities in Australia or the USA. SNZ had become irrelevant. And so in order to hold onto power what better way than to muscle in on a swimmer’s home program and sell it as a benefit. And that is what Francis has done. Sadly there are many who are taken in by the con.

Only swimmers needing to train in Ak from outside Ak for Uni or work are at Mish.

I have no idea what that thought is attempting to justify. Because a swimmer comes from outside Auckland does not mean they can’t swim at the North Shore Club or United or Waterhole. Where the swimmer comes from and their reason for shifting to Auckland is irrelevant. SNZ should not be competing against private operators in the provision of coaching. Incidentally local swimmers don’t train with the SNZ centralised program because they sensibly don’t want to, not because SNZ wouldn’t take them.

New squads announced (some issues there) and series of camps planned.

If anything proved that nothing has changed this point does. Several Swimwatch posts have discussed why the selection of squads by SNZ is a recipe for disaster. Whether a squad is selected to swim in Auckland permanently or in a weekend training camp the issues around having designated elites remain a real danger. A second email last week also told me about the wonderful new camps planned by SNZ. That too is a con. SNZ’s power demands that they are seen to be doing something. What better way than to put on a camp and call it something new. But it is not new. SNZ have been putting on camps for thirty years and swimming has got worse and worse. My argument has only ever been that nothing has changed. The “new policy” is not new. If anything proves that nothing has changed, the mention of selected squads and camps must come close. Both of those are old and discredited.

Open water still coming together slowly but what’s new. 

I know very little about open water but I’ve yet to see anything new or relevant happen in that area. Open water will likely remain as neglected as it has always been. Certainly nothing I have seen alters my view that the great Francis folly has changed nothing.

By the way they pay to be there unless in top squad 

I have mentioned previously that the fact swimmers in the top squad do not have to pay proves my point. Nothing has changed. Besides which paying, or not paying, is irrelevant. The point is nothing has changed. Training fees should not be paid to SNZ. They should be paid to North Shore or Coast or United or Waterhole. But it has forever been that way.

It is nice that there are good people who are loyal to the national federation. It is sad when their loyalty and old fashioned values are taken advantage of. Both Trump and the occupants of the Antares Place office are masters of exploiting trust – beware.