A Month Away

By Jane and David

David: When we relaunched Swimwatch in 2006, we promised never to abandon it again. Sadly, the past month has been a bit of a fail on our part, as Jane has been traveling the world doing her real job and I’m not good at working the publishing software, as elementary as Jane says it is. To be more accurate, Jane has been in Sydney, Australia, speaking at an SEO and internet marketing conference. She also stopped for a week in Auckland, New Zealand on her way back to Seattle.

Jane: My trip to Australia, whilst having nothing to do with swimming, was an incredible trip down memory lane. The conference I attended (SMX Sydney, for those of you who are into search engine optimisation. What? None of you?) took place in a building at Luna Park. Everyone who’s been swimming in Australia knows that Luna Park is right beside the North Sydney Pool.

In Swimwatch’s opinion, the North Sydney Pool is the greatest swimming pool of all time. I didn’t list it first on my “Best Least Recognised Pools” post, but I would now. I’d forgotten just how fantastic it is. The closest I came to swimming in the pool again was going to dinner at Aqua, a restaurant that now overlooks the pool from the fifty-metre end. As you can see from this picture, taken before the New South Wales swimming championships in early 1996, the restaurant has not always been there. In fact, twelve years ago, it seems that the place was little more than a ratty office. Underneath the white and red striped canopy at the end of the pool now resides one of Sydney’s better restaurants.

This is what is there now.

For anyone else who’s vaguely interested, there are quite a few more of my pictures of the views of the pool on Flickr; this links to the first picture taken at Aqua. One word of warning: it’s probably not good pre-practice food. And don’t drink as much port as I did, either.

David: Jane tells me Auckland has changed in the six years she has been away. Much more impressive, she says, with lots of waterfront cafés selling New Zealand’s increasingly popular wines. Boutique shops are preferred to concrete jungle malls. All that sounds like progress.

Certainly New Zealand’s swimming made progress during the month. They finally won a race that mattered. Moss Burmester won the 200m Butterfly at the World SC Championships in Manchester, England; very well done Moss. Never again will I be able to say that Moss’ coach Jan Cameron has never won a decent championship. The country is still worse off than when Loader, Kingsman, Simcic, Bray, Winter, Langrell and Jeffs were winning medals at similar events, but any win for Cameron is a good win. In his early career, Moss had an excellent coach called Clive Power who clearly laid an important early foundation. Cameron is fortunate to inherit such a well coached product.

I see New Zealand’s sport funding agency, Sparc, hasn’t changed. This time they are writing threatening letters to New Zealand Rugby League telling the sport how to run its affairs. It’s all the usual blackmail, “Do what we say or we will cut off your funding.” They only give the sport about $200,000 a year. I’d tell them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s hard to have respect for an organisation whose Chief Executive insists on abusing the Queen’s English. His comments on the Rugby League situation include the following gems, “[they need] to put their sport on a proper footing going forwards” and “they need help to move forward by identifying key issues” and, “Sparc would need to consider how justified continuing investment going forward would be.” That “going forward” stuff is all so unnecessary; a sure sign you’re talking to a guy of little substance. The head of New Zealand Rugby League made the issues most telling comment, “They are too powerful to ignore.” Isn’t that the truth? It’s sad though when might replaces right like it has in New Zealand’s sport funding.

While we’ve been away, Swimwatch has continued to receive its share of loony messages. For some reason, one genius decided to have a crack at Jane and wrote the following:

You’re just bitter because you weren’t that fast of a swimmer and are mad at yourself. You could look at the positive things like the amazing work ethic that every swimmer leaves the sport with. Or you could examine yourself and decide whether or not you actually put it all on the line and gave the sport your all. If you had you would have found out things about yourself that you would never find out otherwise.”

Although the comment was “anonymous”, I recognise the writing style and can confirm it is the product of personal failure; a not unusual reaction. For the record, Jane was a four time national open or age group New Zealand record holder, three times national open women’s champion, Division One NCAA Championship qualifier, Caribbean Regional Champion and record holder, Pan Pacific Game’s representative and an Oceania Games silver medalist. In the course of accumulating that record she swam 27,548 kilometers, that’s an average of 53,000 meters every week for 11 years. What sort of insulting, stupid fool says “Or you could examine yourself and decide whether or not you actually put it all on the line and gave the sport your all” to someone who put in that sort of work and achieved those sorts of results? Shame on you, whoever you are.

Here, in Florida, things are pretty normal. The team has just begun their summer racing program. Andrew and Skuba were first and second in the men’s 50m free last weekend at a local meet; a pleasing result for the season’s first race. They will race in four more meets before heading off to the European Mare Nostrum tour and meets in Monte Carlo, Canet and Barcelona. That’s where the big boys come out to play. It will be fun to find out how our two get on. The Americans are an amazingly generous people. They give willingly and without condition. We needed to raise money to help with the cost of going to Europe. The response has been humbling; thank you. Many of the Master’s swimmers are preparing for their triathlon season. Most notably Greg has the Hawaiian Ironman this year. Darcy continues to win her age group in every event she enters. She is an amazing athlete. I guess that’s what 52 looks like these days.

Next weekend our team hosts a Florida Gold Coast Sub JO Meet. That’s the beginning level of competition around here. Through the course of a year all the local clubs share the hosting of one of these events. They are well run and a terrific introduction to swimming competition. The only change I’d like to see are ribbons being given for personal best swims rather than for first, second and third. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against winning and losing. I just think establishing a culture of “I did my best” early in a swimmers career is a good thing.

It’s good to be back.