Thank You For Pointing That Out

By David

Two weeks ago Swimwatch published a story that included an email comment received from Arch Jelley’s brother and some emails on swimming in New Zealand. The item was titled “Training Gem”. We received several comments on the article. It is worthwhile looking at one of these. It is a fine example of the level of intellectual debate being applied to the subject of international swimming in New Zealand just now.

In order to avoid the accusation of taking the reader’s comments out of context I have shown the unedited email first and then examined each of its points.

“You seem to have the Barcelona and the Atlanta Olympics both in 1992. You talk about swimmers as though they are the coaches personal property. Swimmers can make their own decisions about who the train with. Hopefully this will involve analising where the best chance of success is. Where the best coaches, facilities and somewhere that has had a good track record over the years. Sounds like North Shore Swimming Club. As for the forigners comment, thats plain racist. Is that why your back? Because the US had had enough of forgien know it alls. Cameron has put a lot more into NZ swimming than you ever had with limited success with a few swimmers.”

The first sentence is absolutely correct. The table in our article mistakenly labeled the Atlanta Olympic Games as 1992. It was of course 1996; sorry about that. However while we are on the subject of editorial correctness this reader may care to note that “coaches personal property” needs an apostrophe, “who the train with” should read who to train with, “analising” is spelt analysing, “forgien” is spelt foreign, “forigners” is spelt foreigners and, in this case, needs an apostrophe, “your” should be you’re, “thats” should be that’s and “know it alls” is better understood with hyphens in place.
One of the email’s most damning accusations is that the foreigner’s comment is just “plain racist.” The reader is referring to the sentence in which I said, “Without question, we were better when New Zealanders took care of their own business.” First of all the statement is true. New Zealand swimmers did perform better when New Zealanders such as Naylor, Lang, Bone, Brown and Cotterill were running things. The table of results is quite conclusive. That’s not racist. It simply promotes New Zealand. For example, I notice the “Buy New Zealand” organization says, “The basic aim of encouraging consumers to buy New Zealand goods has not changed. Most people share the common human inclination to support their local community.” Most people, it seems, does not include this Swimwatch reader. Patriotism should not be confused with racism.

And second, the statement is true. Elite swimming in New Zealand is packed full of imports from Australia, Europe, the UK and now Canada. And it’s not as though we need to import. Most of New Zealand’s best coaches have been New Zealanders; Duncan Lang, Arthur Lydiard, Arch Jelley, Richard Tonks, Fred Allen, Brian Lahore, Rusty Robertson, Lois Muir and Mike Walsh. Every sport has a duty to promote, encourage and develop its domestic coaching talent. That is not best done by filling every available spot with an import. I know a highly qualified New Zealander who applied for an elite performance position at the Millennium Institute recently. He didn’t even get an interview before a foreigner was appointed. Being concerned about that sort of thing is not racist. I’d say it was simply a case of wanting to strengthen home grown coaches and sporting talent in the way Lydiard did when he was imported into Finland.

The reader’s third point is a clear bit of PR for the North Shore Swim Club and, by association, the Millennium Institute. Here is what he says:

“ Hopefully this will involve analising where the best chance of success is. Where the best coaches, facilities and somewhere that has had a good track record over the years. Sounds like North Shore Swimming Club.”

The misspelling of analysing is as unfortunate as it is hilarious. Success in New Zealand swimming requires some analising? Oh dear.

I’m not too sure about the reader’s best coaches’ claim but the money, facilities and general largess implied in his comment is certainly true. Thank you for pointing it out. And that’s the problem. The centralization of resources represented by the Millennium Institute and its associated activities is not in the best interests of swimming. Very soon the Institute will look like those huge hotels, swimming pools and sports grounds built in Moscow during the Soviet era. They didn’t work all that well there and I suspect will suffer the same fate in our hemisphere. It would be far better to apply resources to the work Natalie Wiegersma’s coach is doing in Invercargill or to swimming in Wellington, or to United in Auckland. Whatever happened to the National Party’s values of a “competitive” New Zealand based on “limited government”? Prime Minister Key seems to have strayed from that vision when he endorsed socialized sport on the North Shore.

Swimmers involved in socialized sport can’t really make their own decision on where to train. Not when the “swimming state” provides them with the money to live. I’d bet a week’s pay that several state swimmers can’t stand their training circumstances. But when tomorrow’s dinner depends on staying at Auckland’s North Shore, they stay. I’m also pretty sure it’s not the best way to win an Olympic Gold Medal.

Our correspondent ends his memo with two lines of personal insults. That’s a shame. The future of swimming deserves a debate that does not involve insults from the gutter. When they are used like this it usually indicates a weak argument and a source, desperate to protect the status quo. In this case both are unquestionably true.