Archive for February, 2011

Glory Days Well They’ll Pass You By

Monday, February 7th, 2011

By David

The last thing we ever wanted Swimwatch to become was a one issue activist. The blog was intended to be a forum that discussed a wide range of swimming related topics, that debated different methods of training and examined the careers of world class swimmers. In recent months however the dreadful performance of New Zealand’s High Performance Program has forced us into the role of militant campaigner. We do not apologize for taking this position. In fact the recent revelation that Swimming New Zealand used a press release to pad the National Coach’s Resume caused a 22% increase in Swimwatch’s best ever daily readership in New. Zealand and a 125% increase in readers from Denmark. Clearly SNZ’s dishonesty struck a nerve with swimming supporters. Several prominent New Zealanders have been fired recently for Resume fraud. Swimming New Zealand should be held to the same standard.

The Cameron show not only performs badly it is actually causing damage to successive generations of New Zealand’s best swimmers. SPARC have spent and plan to spend millions on New Zealand’s elite swimming program. Not unreasonably, they expect Olympic medals in return. Cameron has not done this. At the Olympic level she has won nothing; not even close. Worse, her management demonstrates a level of incompetence and bitter partisanship that will never win an Olympic Gold Medal. Cameron is no Lydiard, Talbot, Schubert or Haynes. Cameron is not even a shadow of these national coaching greats. I’ve met all four and can assure you that Cameron fails the test of vision and character that was their defining trait. Mind you, at international swim meets, these leaders were up to their eye balls in chlorine and training schedules. At Swimming New Zealand’s 2010 pinnacle event, the Commonwealth Games, Cameron was off on a junket, commentating for her husband’s television channel. Leadership? I don’t think so.

SPARC have just commissioned a review of Cameron’s performance. It is not perverse to argue that the cardinal recommendation of their report must be the removal of Jan Cameron. In a way it is sad that her career in swimming should come to this. Like many rulers Cameron has no appreciation of when her time is done. Instead of retiring gracefully, her intransience compels revolution. It should not be that way, but for the good of this sport, it is what the SPARC report must recommend.

However, it would be a grave error if Cameron were the only casualty of the SPARC review. The CEO of Swimming New Zealand, Mike Byrne, is equally culpable. He has allowed the shambles, the mistrust and the bias that saturates elite swimming here to breed and prosper. It is his responsibility to control and manage the Cameron’s program. He has not done that. Instead Cameron has roamed around New Zealand doing whatever she likes; distributing largesse or imposing sanction as she sees fit. They say, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. In Swimming New Zealand, Byrne is responsible for the escalation of that sorry state of affairs. He also shares with Cameron the unfortunate feature of going walk about when he has serious swimming duties. Why else did I see him at a netball match when the New Delhi Commonwealth Games heats were being swum?

Cameron and Byrne are a single unit. They share the guilt for elite swimming’s abysmal results; for the spin, the lies, the nepotism, the favors, the mistrust and the fear that is the reality of elite swimming in New Zealand. SPARC can fix all that, but only if they insist on the removal of Cameron and Byrne.

Every Swimming New Zealand partner or member can test the importance of replacing Cameron and Byrne. Just stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself this question. Can I really imagine any swimmer training at Cameron’s Millennium Institute winning a gold medal in eighteen months at the London Olympic Games? While you consider the answer, think about the fact that no one in Cameron’s care could win a race at the 2010 Commonwealth Games or Pan Pacific Games. Consider the effect of Burmester’s frank analysis of the Cameron program. Think about New Zealand’s fastest swimmer finding better coaching in the United States. Reflect on the public dissatisfaction expressed by Institute swimmers on the management of Daniel Bell and his financial privilege. Does any of that sound like a winning formula?

You see the real problem is that Cameron’s centralist, socialist collective is just not appropriate for winning modern Olympic events. Certainly the best of New Zealand’s swimmers are good enough. I’ve only recently returned to New Zealand and don’t know New Zealand’s best swimmers as well as I should. However swimmers that I do think are potential Olympic medallists are Daniel Bell, Mellissa Ingram, Lauren Boyle and Hayley Palmer. Swimming New Zealand’s website continues to lie about the Cameron program. It list Boyle and Palmer as Millennium swimmers, when to the best of my knowledge, both swimmers train in the United States. Why can’t Jan Cameron tell the truth about her program? However these two swimmers have given themselves a real chance of exploiting their potential. They are with good programs; with good coaches. They have escaped the toxic demise that goes with Millennium membership.

Ingram and Bell are not so fortunate. Swimwatch readers will be well aware of my admiration of Ingram’s prodigious talent. I can think of several programs around the world where she would already be a world record holder. At the Millennium Institute – will she be able to beat Jing Zhao, Elizabeth Simmonds or Elizabeth Pelton? I’ve been fortunate to see all three swim. Ingram is capable of beating them all; could beat them all. But as a member of Cameron’s program she has no chance. The people she’s involved with are just not up to the job. Bell has a huge task. He has to find a way of beating Camille Lacourt, Liam Tancock, Mathew Grievers and Aaron Peirsol. However Bell is good enough but not while his preparation is Cameron’s responsibility.

Swimmers being prepared away from the Millennium Institute have a chance of delivering for New Zealand in London. Cameron however will fail. She will not deliver on SPARC’s investment. And the fault will have nothing to do with her swimmers. The fault belongs to Jan Cameron and Mike Byrne.


Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

By David

Swimwatch readers may recall that in our last post we referred to a lie posted on the Swimming New Zealand website. This is what we said:

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 coaches 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.

There are two versions of this story floating around the Internet. One contains the lie; the other does not. However, the version of the story that does not contain Regan’s Danish distance coaching exploits is only available on the Swimming New Zealand website, here.

Other versions of the story–which was syndicated as a press release on or before January 25–can be found here.

There are various other differences between the syndicated story and the one Swimming New Zealand displays, such as the number of swimmers attending the camp: it decreased from 22 to 15.

Unfortunately, Google no longer has a record of the press release in its original form on the Swimming New Zealand website. Its cache dates from January 28th, after the story was apparently changed. The original was published on January 23.

But why, Swimming New Zealand, were these mistruths allowed to be syndicated as a press release in the first place? And should the corrected version of the article not be released now, since the omissions it makes are so important? As you can see, the new version of the story only appears on Swimming New Zealand’s site. They did not re-release it with the corrected information.

In a few days the SPARC investigation into the affairs of Swimming New Zealand will get underway. Out of that study we may end up with an organization that does care where we want to go and how we are going to get there; an organization that is honest with its membership.