Archive for January, 2011

Coulter Byrne Cameron

Monday, January 31st, 2011

By David

Swimwatch readers will have realized by now that we think it’s time these three found something else to do. Swimming is clearly not their thing. It’s amusing to imagine the careers that might suit their talents. It’s about time Coulter spent more time on his banking job. Stints on the NZ Olympic Committee and Swimming NZ have failed to impress. I do hope he is really good at banking. Byrne could join Ringling Bros. as a lion tamer. A similar job in swimming hasn’t worked out but may be fine preparation for the easier circus version. I’m not sure what Cameron could do. I did hear Sky Sport was looking for a commentator capable of convincing New Zealand that WWE bouts are genuine combat.

But enough of that nonsense. It is true; the three of them have not worked out at Swimming New Zealand. Over the past few weeks Swimwatch has made the case that Coulter, Byrne and Cameron have failed on five accounts.

  1. Competitive membership numbers have collapsed during their tenure.
  2. For over a decade the sport’s elite performance has been dismal. During the Coulter, Byrne and Cameron tenure Swimming New Zealand has failed to win an Olympic medal of any description or break a world record.
  3. They have recklessly poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the power grab known as Project Vanguard.
  4. They have created a unique atmosphere of mistrust and fear. An ex-swimmer visiting the Millennium Institute recently, told me, “You know, I’m still scared of her.”
  5. And to get these outcomes they have spent ten million dollars of tax payer’s money.

We would like to add two further transgressions to this impressive charge sheet. The three accused are specialist in an endless line of spin. Jan Cameron just about got away with convincing New Zealand that the New Delhi Commonwealth Game’s result was a sporting triumph. That deception was exposed as spin. The sort of thing they are expert at was laid bare this weekend when the three of them held a High Performance Distance Training Camp. Swimming New Zealand ran a news item on their website announcing the camp. The item included the following description of the Millennium coach, Mark Regan.

“who also coached Denmark’s Lotte Friis to a Beijing Olympic medal in the 800m freestyle in his role as coach of the Danish national squad.”

That statement is deliberate dishonesty. Swimming New Zealand members are being conned, duped and deceived by their leaders. A casual Swimming New Zealand member reading that would be led to the conclusion, “We are lucky to have that guy Regan in New Zealand. He coached a Danish swimmer called Friis to an Olympic medal.” But he didn’t. That’s a lie. Lotte Friis was coached by a chap called Paul Wildeboer. I went to a conference in Florida where he spoke about the training program he used to prepare Lotte Friis for the Olympic Games and World Championships.

Swimming New Zealand has used the fact that Regan was the Danish National Coach and Friis was on the Danish National Team to convey the impression Regan coached the swimmer. They’ve covered themselves by adding the qualification “in his role as the coach of the Danish national squad.” But that just makes the deception worse. They knew what they were saying wasn’t right or honest but sought to make it technically correct by adding a esoteric qualification. That’s called dishonesty with intent.

I was coach of the Virgin Islands’ national team for two years. The best swimmer in the Virgin Islands was a chap called Josh Labon. He swam on a scholarship at the University of Georgia and competed in the Athens and Beijing Olympic Games. I would never include his career in my coaching Resume. Sure, Josh swam on the Virgin Islands’ national team but his coach was at the University of Georgia. Swimming New Zealand’s leaders appear to be less concerned with candour when it comes to their spin.

The next charge is the one I find the most personally offensive and illustrative of the character of the people currently involved in running Swimming New Zealand. In their Code of Conduct there are two terrible clauses. Here is what they say:

  1. To not speak to any media in a negative way regarding Swimming NZ Inc.
  2. Understand the possible consequences of breaching the SNZ Code of Conduct.

My disgust at the censorship of the first clause and the threat of the second probably stems from three years I spent studding political science and a lifetime I spent as the son of a WW2 veteran.

John Stuart Mill in his landmark text “On Liberty” (1859) made the following observation on censorship.

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

Mill is right. It is unfortunate that Coulter, Byrne and Cameron appear to lack the understanding or education to appreciate the evil contained in their rules. The censorship they sponsor reflects the organization’s lack of confidence in itself. It is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime. If they don’t believe in the freedom of expression for people they despise, they don’t believe in it at all. If you want to understand the thought process that prompted their promotion of Project Vanguard you need look no further than the effort they have made to silence dissent. I’d happily bet next year’s wages that Byrne has looked at ways of expelling me from the organization. He can’t of course. I’m not a member. It’s unlikely I ever will be while those totalitarian rules prop up their oppression.

It is an overused argument, but in this case it’s true. In the 1940s my father lost an arm and an eye fighting a regime that would not tolerate dissent. My wife’s father worked his way through North Africa and Italy fighting the same tyranny. A friend’s father was shot down over France and spent four years in a prison camp defending the right of us all to openly criticise our leaders. Accepting Swimming New Zealand’s petty rules would be to ignore the opinion and the sacrifice of a generation. It would be a better decision if, in 2011, we paid our regional fees (about $25) but refused to pay the Swimming New Zealand portion (about $52) of the fee. That way Coulter, Byrne and Cameron may understand the revulsion a society like ours feels about their rules, their authoritarianism, their Project Vanguard and their performance.

Jill Vernon

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

By David

There are some very good officials in the sport of swimming. I’ve known a few. I’m not going to list them here. Lists always miss the person who should be included. Instead I want to tell you of four very good ones and in no particular order.

First there is Jay Thomas from Florida in the United States. He’s been an official at some of the world’s biggest swimming events. He is also a Captain for American Airlines. He flies their huge jets out of Fort Lauderdale to South America and Europe. On a stormy night, with lightning all around, if you are on an American 757 struggling to get into Fort Lauderdale Airport, you will be fortunate indeed if Jay Thomas is up the front, responsible for getting you home. I have no idea what it would take to excite this man. I’ve tried. Like most coaches, I’ve aggressively accosted the Meet Referee when some disaster has befallen one of my swimmers. My excitement was wasted on Jay Thomas. His calm manner demanded that I settle down. It is impossible to argue with his reasonable replies. His pacific style makes your tantrums look a bit pathetic and a touch silly. Without speaking a word he expects good behavior. I guess it all comes down to respect.

Then there is Arch Jelley. He’s the guy who shared with me the coaching duties involved in helping Alison become one of the world’s best middle distance runners. He also coached Sir John Walker to world records and an Olympic victory. And he was President of Athletics New Zealand and Head Coach of numerous national track teams. In the 1979 World Cup finals in Montreal, Arch was the National Coach. I was upset that Anne Audain had been selected to run the 1500 meters when Alison was running far faster and had just set a New Zealand record for 1000 meters. A record that, 32 years later, still stands as the fastest time run by a New Zealander. I was so incensed with Athletics New Zealand I threatened to stop Alison going to Montreal. Arch quietly called me in London and gently asked for my trust. I took Alison to the airport. A week later she ran the 1500 meters in Montreal. I guess it all comes down to respect.

For many years Beth Meade was one of New Zealand’s most charismatic and successful swimming officials. She was also my coach for ten years. A week ago I told the story of how two Gisborne clubs censured Basil Dynan, the HBPB President, for using his annual report to convey his petty spite for my daughter, Jane’s, swimming achievements. It was Beth Meade who moved the AGM motion demanding Dynan withdraw his report. Gary Martin from Enterprise seconded the motion. It passed with a healthy majority. On that occasion Beth Meade supported my position. But that was not always the case. On many occasions she would say, “David, I was telling you off when you were sixteen, don’t think you’re so important I can’t do the same thing now.” She was strong. She was honest and she was fair. I guess it all comes down to respect.

The quality shared by these officials is the respect that comes so naturally when you meet a person of class.

Jill Vernon was one of those. Jill Vernon died last week in Auckland, New Zealand. She was just 53 years old. On the Auckland Swimming website you can read a marvelous obituary that details her achievements in the worlds of helping the disabled, Girl Guiding and swimming. I recommend you take a look at the Auckland obituary. It describes a wonderful life; a life of hard work, service and outstanding achievement.

Possibly a little selfishly, here on Swimwatch, I would like to describe how I felt about Jill Vernon. Readers will probably realise that as a result of various fights and events such as strip club sponsorships and opposition to Jan Cameron even my friends describe me as “controversial”. A relation recently decided “eccentric” was more applicable. My enemies are not so kind. A Hawke’s Bay official, called Gwenda Cowlrick, once told a friend of mine that I was “that horrible man.” I’m not sure how she knew. I’ve never spoken to the woman.

Anyway as a result of all that stuff, the majority of swimming people I meet have made up their minds. They bristle with antagonism and reek of suspicion. A Northland swimming club official recently called to say she would like to meet me but could we meet in a downtown Starbucks. She didn’t want to be seen talking to me at a swimming pool.

Jill Vernon was made of sterner stuff. I recall our first meeting because it was unusual. There was none of the distrust; none of the suspicion. She was handing out the snacks and drinks that get distributed at swim meets. She said, “Welcome back to New Zealand, David” and she meant it. You could see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice, feel it in her manner. She was prepared to cut the “controversial” newcomer some slack. That open honesty demands good behavior, requires good manners. You are aware immediately that you have met a person of dignity; a person of genuine class; a gentle woman.

A few weeks later, one of my swimmers was disqualified. I did not agree with the decision and decided to protest the disqualification. Jill Vernon was the referee. She quietly listened to my point of view and softly asked me to wait a few minutes while she consulted the Turns Judge and her rule book. I knew then that, win or lose, whatever her decision it would be fair, it would be honest; it must not be debated. On this occasion she agreed with my protest and reinstated the swimmer. However, that is of little consequence. What is important is the way Jill handled the protest. The sport of swimming is a better place because of Jill Vernon. I guess it all comes down to respect.

Ethics Addresses Good and Evil, Virtue and Vice

Friday, January 21st, 2011

By David

Here at Swimwatch we have a soft spot for the writing of Massachusetts Institute of Technology philosopher, Noam Chomsky. That is hardly surprising. He is the eighth most cited source of all time and is considered the most cited living author. Perhaps he had Swimming New Zealand in mind when he wrote:

“Those who do not rise to the minimal moral level of applying to themselves the standards they apply to others plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil.”

I am constantly reminded of this thought when I consider Cameron’s New Zealand High Performance regime. She has created a culture of divine right. She has brilliantly peddled the tale that her Millennium Institute is New Zealand’s sole source of swimming excellence. Her coaches are better, her standards are higher and her results are without peer. As some of New Zealand’s best swimmers leave to train in foreign programs I’m picking her celestial authority will soon go global. It will not take long for her to pass judgment on the foreign coaches chosen by some of New Zealand’s best swimmers?

Sadly, the whole thing is a fabrication, a falsehood, a pile of cock and bull. At Olympic Games after Olympic Games Cameron has spent our money and returned with nothing. She is an ex-school teacher without a snowball’s chance in hell of delivering on her promise to the nation that pays her wages. I’m certain that won’t stop her casting her critical stare over the foreign and domestic coaches some New Zealand swimmers have chosen ahead of Cameron’s increasingly irrelevant Millennium program.

Actaually the thought of Cameron questioning the value of any world class training facility would be both bizarre and hilariously funny. It would be a bit like an extra at the Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre questioning the acting skills of Meryl Streep.

Take Hayley Palmer and Lauren Boyle for example. Palmer is coached by Randy Reese and Boyle swims in San Francisco with Terri McKeever. In the time Cameron has won nothing at an Olympic Games and seen not one world record, the coaches of these two special New Zealand swimmers have shown us what good coaches can achieve.

Here is what the Cal website has to say about Terri McKeever’s achievements.

“In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing six of McKeever’s pupils competed and three came away with a total of eight medals, including the greatest women’s swimmer in Cal history – Natalie Coughlin – with six, and Emily Silver and incoming freshman Sara Isakovic of Slovenia each with one. In addition to that historical milestone, McKeever is proud to have trained the best of the best. McKeever helped guide Coughlin to 11 Olympic medals, including three gold, alumna Haley Cope to a silver medal and the entire U.S. swimming team to 28 medals, including 12 gold. McKeever also coached Staciana Stitts, who became the first Cal woman swimmer to earn an Olympic gold medal since Mary T. Meagher in 1984, when Stitts was a member of the United States’ gold medal-winning 400-meter medley relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.”

And remember McKeever did all this while Cameron won us nothing.

Hayley Palmer’s new coach also has a pretty impressive Resume. Here is what Wikipedia have to say about Randy Reese.

“Randy Reese is best known for coaching the Florida Gators swimming and diving teams to four national championships, and coaching the winners of eighteen Olympic gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals. Reese is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. His U.S. Swimming team, Florida Aquatic Swim Team (FAST) and Holmes Lumber Aquatic Swim Team were among the best in United States club history and collectively won fourteen national team championships. Reese’s individual swimmers set sixteen world records, including five world records by Tracy Caulkins, four by Rowdy Gaines, two by each of Martin López-Zubero, Craig Beardsley and Dara Torres, and one by Duncan Armstrong.”

And remember Reese did all this while Cameron won us nothing.

All this inevitably brings us back to the moral standard set by Noam Chomsky. Remember? “Those who do not rise to the minimal moral level of applying to themselves the standards they apply to others plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil.”

Perhaps Cameron does not understand. What this means, Jan Cameron, is when you look at the record of McKeever and Reese you should apply the same standard to your own record. That is the obligation of a moral person. While these two coaches were winning 45 Olympic medals and breaking 17 world records what were you doing? Are you applying the same standard to yourself as you apply to others? Because, if you are not you simply, “cannot be taken seriously”. You lose the authority to speak of swimming “right and wrong, good and evil”.

To rise to a minimal moral level you need to recognize your barren record. Looking at your Olympic results would you employ yourself? Would you allocate SPARC funding to a swimmer choosing your program? Are you applying the same standard to yourself as you apply to others? Clearly we don’t think so, which is why we think you have forfeited the moral authority to head New Zealand’s High Performance program.

I don’t know, but I suspect Noam Chomsky would think it was time you were gone.

In The Vanguard of Political Intrigue

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

By David

“Approval from the membership will continue to be sought at the end of each phase of the project seeking continuation to the next. Any resulting outcomes or recommendations requiring constitutional change will need to be considered and approved by a Special General Meeting of SNZ.”

On Sunday 12 September 2010 this remit was passed at the Swimming New Zealand AGM. There are 22,000 members of Swimming New Zealand. Everyone should pin a copy of the resolution to their bedroom wall. It is the sport’s lifeboat on a sinking Titanic. The Board, its Chairman, Byrne and Cameron are required to obtain the permission of the regions before they can move Project Vanguard to the next stage. The current stage will conclude in February when Cathy Hemsworth submits her report to the SNZ Board.

Our guess is that Hemsworth will recommend Swimming New Zealand adopt a Gym Sport organizational structure: something called the Professional Services Delivery model. That has been the Coulter, Byrne, Cameron and Hemswoth’s plan all along. A quarter of a million dollars spent on reports, meetings and presentations have all been window dressing; a sting of Newman and Redford proportions. From SNZ’s point of view all the money will be worth it if they can get the organization out from under the scrutiny of New Zealand’s swimming regions. They are not the sort of people who appreciate being held accountable. Manipulating the appraisal of a hundred and eighty small clubs will be a breeze compared to sixteen skeptical, independent regions.

They are probably also acutely aware that their jobs depend on pushing SNZ into some sort of organizational change. Their personal capital is completely wrapped up in the result. Many good things could have been done with the money they have spent on the Project Vanguard folly. Giving $12,500 to each region to help the Clubs they claim to cherish or investing a bit more in reducing the country’s horrible drowning statistics or paying decent prize money at the Open Championships would have been a start. Certainly if Project Vanguard falls over, Coulter should excuse himself from standing for re-election. If he does decide to stand, someone who appreciates the value of SNZ’s money should contest the position. For Byrne, the loss of Project Vanguard will be the final straw. The SPARC review would almost certainly recommend his departure. I wonder if Hemsworth is polishing her CV for the vacant CEO job? Out of the frying pan, into the fire springs to mind. Cameron is more used to losing than the others and is capable of turning the rejection of Project Vanguard into a triumph ranking alongside Obama’s health reform.

It is ironic that the central core of Swimming New Zealand’s argument is that as professionals their executives can deliver the sport better. Things will improve. That’s why they call it “professional services delivery”. And yet today I heard that in December three of their swimming education staff packed their bags and left for greener pastures. Regions considering Swimming New Zealand’s proposal need to reflect on what would happen to their affairs when the next mass exodus of staff involves the “professionals” responsible for the region’s business. It would be interesting to know why the three education staff decided to leave. The moral though is that it is safer for the Regions to look after their own affairs. Experience says, they do it better.

Regional members attending the Swimming New Zealand Project Vanguard road shows will have heard Hemsworth hint that the State Insurance sponsorship was not all it could have been because some Regions had other insurance deals. I was surprised therefore to note that in Byrne’s speech at the Taupo Open Water Nationals there was no mention of State Insurance. Even advertising State Insurance was next to impossible to find. Not much in the way of looking after the sponsor here I thought. It seems that there may have been a sponsorship conflict all of Swimming New Zealand’s own making. As we have said before, Swimming New Zealand would do well to look after its own affairs before meddling in ours.

Once the Hemsworth Report is received SNZ’s Board is required to obtain the approval of the regions before moving to the next stage. SNZ must be held to this obligation. If they try and avoid a vote, the Regions should consider legal action requiring SNZ comply with the AGM approved instruction of its regional owners. Swimwatch would gladly allocate $1000 of its meager resources to the judicial cause. It is about time the central players at SNZ were brought into line and showed the respect due to the regional owners of the organization. The member’s are supposed to run SNZ. They have instructed Coulter to have a vote and that is what he must do.
I have long had enormous respect for both the swimming clubs based in Gisborne. For ten years I was a member of Comet Club when it was coached by the charismatic Mrs. Beth Meade. Her son Greg is the successful current coach. Gisborne’s other club, Enterprise, is coached by Gary Martin and for years produced some very fine swimmers and won the Hawkes Bay and Poverty Bay championship by a country mile.

However the incident that demonstrated the caliber of the people involved in those clubs occurred about nine years ago. A guy called Basil Dyan was the Chairman of the HBPB Region. He didn’t like me or Swimwatch and decided to make his feelings known in the Region’s annual report by claiming my daughter, Jane, was not a worthy recipient of the HBPB swimmer of the year trophy. Being as Jane had just won an open national championship and broken a national open record, Dynan was clearly venting his personal spite; an altogether disagreeable individual. Anyway, at the regions AGM and without my prior knowledge, Comet moved and Enterprise seconded a motion censuring Dyan and requiring his Chairman’s report be withdrawn. I remember Dynan sitting at the front of the meeting saying, “I think I’ve been a naughty boy.” He got that right.

With that history, I was fascinated to read, in the Project Vanguard’s minutes of the HBBP meeting, the following comment.

Only members of the Hawkes Bay Region attended the workshop. The two clubs from Poverty Bay requested it to be acknowledged that they did not want anything to do with Project Vanguard.

I am proud of them. Two clubs, making a statement that again exerts the proud independence of regional New Zealand. It appears that the position Poverty Bay holds of receiving the sun first each day may be symbolically accurate as well.

In the next two or three months SNZ must hold a vote, requesting permission to proceed. They will want to move on to the next stage. According to their website this involves creating an implementation plan and executing the implementation plan. When the vote is taken SNZ’s request for approval should be rejected. It is time to stop this nonsense.

There should be no misunderstanding. Communication shortcomings between SNZ and its members are not the product of structural flaws. Nor will they be fixed by organizational tinkering. The business of SNZ can be conducted perfectly well using the current federal structure. Communication problems and mistrust are the responsibility of Coulter, Byrne and Cameron. They clearly are not up to the job. Read the Project Vanguard minutes. Over and over again they say they can’t make the federal system work. The answer is clear. Replace them with people who can make it work; who can communicate. It will cost us all a lot less than quarter of a million dollars.

Nothing to Lose But Your Chains and a World to Win

Monday, January 17th, 2011

By David

Last week Swimwatch discussed the management of elite swimming. In particular, we talked about the difference between the collective socialist method followed by Jan Cameron and the philosophy of “rugged individualism” as practiced in the United States. We concluded last week’s article by recommending New Zealand dump the Cameron system that has failed to produce any Olympic medals. In its place we recommended New Zealand introduce the free market principles of “rugged individualism”.

What we did not do, was reflect on what this would mean; how would “rugged individualism” be introduced, how would it affect those involved in coaching New Zealand’s best swimmers. We avoided these questions because they raised issues far too complex to be resolved in a thousand words or by a writer whose interest is in coaching, not restructuring elite swimming programs. However it may be of interest to consider the most fundamental change “rugged individualism” would bring to coaching swimming in New Zealand.

It would mean the end of the current Cameron cult of personality. Through clever use of the media Cameron has created an idealized image of herself as the nation’s ultimate authority on elite swimming. Sky Sport broadcasting junkets and SNZ propaganda have carefully shaped her image as an expert; the benevolent guide of all New Zealand’s best swimmers. Without her, the transformation of New Zealand swimmers to a better, more successful future would not occur. Popularity is used to impose conformity to her plan and program by way of peer pressure and herd mentality. In spite of her astonishing lack of success, I know of a dozen good swimming people and a handful of sport’s journalists who just could not imagine New Zealand’s elite swimming program without Jan Cameron’s picture on the wall. “Dear Leader Kim Jong-il” inspires the same emotions among his North Korean subjects.

There seems little reason why 15,000 New Zealanders should continue to support swimming’s “Dear Leader”. Three Olympics have come and gone without a medal, ten million dollars has been spent; sixty thousand of it paying for the “Dear Leader’s” son to coach at the Millennium Institute and another check to pay for the “Dear Leader’s” step daughter to be her personal assistant. A score of fine athletes have passed through the Millennium Institute without realizing their potential and another score have been discarded for failing to secure the “Dear Leader’s” approval.

Her position goes unchecked because the SNZ Board is not doing its job. For example, it enforces a strict regime of collective responsibility. Dissenting opinions simply never see the light of day. The SNZ Board is required to obtain the approval of the Regions before proceeding to the next stage of Project Vanguard. There is every indication that legally binding instruction is about to be ignored. Certainly the question was not answered at the Auckland Project Vanguard road show. Any organization that publishes minutes of meetings where opinions not to their liking are highlighted in red or printed as a separate set of minutes deserves to be disbanded. SNZ’s Board has done that on their website with the minutes of Project Vanguard meetings. I wonder which set of minutes the Chairman is going to sign as a true and correct record. He is standing for re-election later this year. It would be good to question him on how he has managed the organization’s “Dear Leader” and the general affairs of SNZ before electing him to another term.

Cameron’s cult of personality should be replaced by a doctrine of “rugged individualism”. This is a more difficult world, of course. In 1700 the French economist described what we propose here as “on laisse faire la nature” (let nature run its course). In this system responsibility for producing New Zealand Olympic champions falls on every New Zealand coach. Swimming New Zealand’s role is to clearly articulate the responsibility New Zealand’s best coaches have to produce world champion swimmers. This should not be a concern. I know of coaches in Auckland, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and a number of other towns who are able to exercise that responsibility better than anyone currently hired by Cameron at the Millennium Institute. Swimming New Zealand just needs to give them the chance, the freedom and the responsibility.

Instead of pouring huge resources into the bottomless and barren pit called the Millennium Institute, Swimming New Zealand should reward coaches and swimmers all over New Zealand who achieve agreed standards. It should always be a matter of policy that whatever funding a swimmer is paid their coach should be rewarded equally. Instead of Cameron or Cameron’s son or some other Australian coach always attending overseas meets, coaches such as Hurring, Bouzaid, Winter, Kent, Miehe, Duncan, Speechley, Francis and others should lead New Zealand teams to international events. I imagine there are some who are saying. “That’s ridiculous – those coaches are never good enough.” The answer is simply, “Yes they are.” Land those coaches with the responsibility and watch them respond. For example I bet Bell would have won the New Delhi Commonwealth Games 100 Backstroke if Winter had still been coaching him. Hind seemed to be a far better swimmer when she was with Hurring. Come to think of it, Bouzaid did a really good job with Lauren Boyle. I know Greg Meade fairly well and I’m certain he was capable of coaching Thomas to better than a bronze medal at the Pan Pacific Games. To those misguided individuals who wander around saying New Zealand’s private enterprise coaches can’t produce Olympic champions, I say, “How would you know?” For a decade SNZ have denied them the chance. And remember they used to say that Arthur Lydiard and Arch Jelley weren’t up to it either. Freedom is swimming’s best steroid.