What A Tanged Web We Weave…

By David

This week New Zealand’s largest Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Star Times reported that:

“New Zealand’s top swimmers have been short- changed after a row between Swimming New Zealand and government sport funding agency Sparc. Administrators from both organizations are at loggerheads over performance enhancement grants which are the livelihood of many top Kiwi athletes. It appears a misunderstanding has left swimmers out of pocket and, in some cases, struggling to make ends meet.

The problem was caused by Sparc changing the criteria for awarding grants. If athletes perform well in pinnacle events they qualify for more funding. Sparc and Swimming NZ initially agreed the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne would be swimming’s “pinnacle” event of the year. But Sparc decided the world short-course championships about 10 weeks later would be used as the grant benchmark. The ill feeling ramped up several notches when many of their grants in the following months were considerably smaller than had been budgeted for.

“We trained and trained for the (Commonwealth) Games. That was what we peaked for so we were all pretty flat at our next meet, which as it turned out, was much more important than anyone realized,” one swimmer said.”

The whole sad episode is typical of New Zealand’s Cameron led swimming. Here’s the things that stand out to us.

Only Swimming New Zealand and Sparc would agree to the Commonwealth Games being a “pinnacle event”. Sure, it’s a hard meet to win; the Australians and the Brits swim there. However, getting through to a final is a far less difficult task. For depth, the Woman’s NCAA finals being held the same weekend in the USA would leave the Commonwealth Games for dead. Swimming New Zealand wanted an easy meet to be the basis on which they were judged, and that’s dishonest. Honest people provided Sparc with honest tax dollars to support honest world class sport. Selecting the Commonwealth Games as a measure shows no respect for the nation’s investment or the integrity of those in charge.

Fortunately, it seems that someone at Sparc realized the deception and moved the “test” to the World Short Course Championships. That was the proper thing to do. We will never know whether the change was prompted by the realization that Swimming New Zealand had conned them, or whether it was a genuine effort to measure world class performance. I suspect Sparc probably caught on to the North Auckland sting. No one likes being “done like a dinner”, not even Sparc.

The best part of all this is the quote from one of New Zealand’s “elite” swimmers. It is typical of what they are learning in the era of Jan Cameron’s leadership; any excuse will do. “We trained and trained for the Commonwealth Games so we were pretty flat for our next meet.” Your next meet, whoever you are, was the World Championships. What on God’s earth are you doing going to a World Championships, representing a proud little country, feeling “pretty flat”. Why is it only now, when it has cost you money, that you realize the World Championships are pretty important? The fault of course lies in those who lead whoever said this. To Cameron and the beurocrats in Wellington, is this quote what you have brought the sport of swimming to in New Zealand?

Whoever said this need to be told, “If you went to a World Championships, feeling pretty flat, not realizing it was an important event and admit that to us now, I’m afraid you do not deserve to be funded, you have not earned that money. And those who taught you all this should resign.”