Well Done Auckland

By David

Until a year ago I’d never lived in Auckland. In fact for a son of the “Deep South” it was a city to get in and out of in the shortest possible time. I suspect the opportunity to coach at Ross Anderson’s old Westie club is the only lure attractive enough to get me to live in the headquarters of the white shoes and hair gel set. However, take a bow Auckland. As they say in Lawrence, Central Otago, “Good on ya, mate.”

You see, this weekend the Auckland Region put on an event called the “ANZAC Swim for Canterbury”. And it was bloody brilliant. A dozen of Australia’s best swimmers came to Auckland to support the cause. Names such as Leisel Jones, Jessicah Schipper, Libby and Luke Trickett, Brenton Rickard, Marieke Guehrer, Shane Gould, Rachel Goh, Andrew Baildon and American Rhi Jeffrey, plus New Zealanders, Danyon Loader, Helen Norfolk, Hayley Palmer, Sophie Pascoe, Anna Simcic, Glenn Snyders, Tash Hind, Orinoco Faamausili Banse, Jaynie Hudgell and Melissa Ingram. The event was a practical demonstration of why Project Vanguard is a useless piece of old twaddle. “ANZAC Swim for Canterbury” highlighted the huge contribution and unity of New Zealand’s swimming regions. It showed the true heart of New Zealand swimming beating strongly. And do you know what? When all that’s good in swimming was on display, Swimming New Zealand couldn’t even bother to turn up – not a person, not a cheque; nothing.

The weekend began with a dinner. We were lucky enough to have world record holder and world champion, Marieke Guehrer, at our table. She is very good value. She told us the romantic story about her boyfriend’s marriage proposal on the roof top of their hotel in Rome and admitting that after their wedding her name translated into English will mean “the virgin Mary on a cross”. A panel discussion with all the Australian swimmers was interesting. Libby Trickett explained why she had decided to return to swimming; simple really, she just missed it too much. Leisel Jones told us why she felt it was important to have a life outside of swimming and Shane Gould gave us an insight into her new passion for photography. It was good. Swimmers from our Club, who I never would have thought would be into getting autographs, were lining up to get their menu cards signed. Clearly they had gained inspiration from their look into the life of a champion.

On Saturday morning we had about twenty young swimmers attend a series of clinics taken by the visiting Australians. Our group was fortunate indeed. The tutors for their clinic were Shane Gould and Jessicah Schipper. Next week I’m going to have to make sure that our guys are aware, the two strangers teaching them to swim were Olympic Champions, World Record holders and that one of them had once held every World Record from the 100 to the 1500 freestyle, at the same time – and at only sixteen years of age. I was delighted. Even if the things our swimmers were being told were the same as they hear most days at training, to hear it reinforced by Gould and Schipper was priceless. A short time ago I received an email from a parent questioning our use of swimming drills. It was pleasing therefore to see the drills Gould and Schipper used during the clinic. I’ve always been a great supporter of using drills to improve stroke technique. It’s nice to know that Gould and Schipper agree.

And on Saturday evening we had a league style swim meet for juniors at 5.30pm and for seniors, including the stars of this sport at 7.00pm. I must admit that on this occasion, it was not stars that impressed me most. I am lucky enough to have seen the world’s best swimmers compete at many meets around the world. I watch an Olympic gold medallist in practice every day. No, what I enjoyed was the unusual. For example it’s not often you get to see rugby legends Josh Kronfeld and Ian Jones try their hand at 50 meters freestyle. I remember Kronfeld being into surfing when he was playing for Otago and the Highlanders. It clearly had an effect. His swimming is still better than average.

Now, I have a confession to make. For two years or about 1200 training sessions I have coached Rhi Jeffrey. She is an enormous talent. Mark Schubert once told me she had more natural talent than any swimmer he had coached. And he’s coached a few – Janet Evans and Dara Torres for example. I agree with Mark. However Rhi has a failing. In all the time I have coached her; through hundreds of medley sets, I have never seen her swim breaststroke – until last night. There was Rhi swimming 50 meters breaststroke against Leisel Jones – may as well start at the top. She did not win of course and her 40.05 time suggests that some work is required if she is to continue her breaststroke career. The whole evening was like that. Cricketers, yachties, triathletes and media personalities mixed with swimming royalty in an occasion that was just good, clean, honest fun.

There was one cloud though. There was a mix up with the entries for the three swimmers from our club competing in the senior meet. At the last minute it was sorted out and they all took a normal part in the evening. I had been home from the meet for less than an hour when my phone rang. It was Brian Palmer, the CEO of the Auckland Region and the organizer of the “ANZAC Swim for Canterbury”. He’d had a huge weekend, but found time to call and say, “Sorry about the mix up with your swimmers.” I tell you what – you’d wait a bloody long time to get a call like that from Swimming New Zealand. And, you see, that’s why the Regions matter. They are run by decent and good people; people who think that helping Canterbury is important.

Sam Mayhew Photography has excellent photo sets from the event, the dinner and the workshops, on his Facebook page.

  • Paul Newnham

    Hi David,
    Agreed, our great thanks go to Brian and Hayley Palmer for fronting this event.
    The whole thing had a gala feel about it. There was plenty of smiling and skylarking. Kids running around with autograph books and taking photos of their idols. I watched Moss excuse himself from a conversation and happily sign autographs for the kids.
    I was really happy to see Daniel Bell entertaining the crowd with his antics. He got everyone in our section paying attention and laughing. There in lies my point in this reply, maybe swimming takes itself too seriously?
    When the athletes enter the water they want to win. That is why they compete. We don’t need to worry about that, it’s a given. Maybe swimming needs a bit more Daniel and a little less Jan!!
    The ANZAC league did more for my wee swimmers motivation than anything SNZ have done to date in her time as a competitor.
    Paul Newnham

  • Sensible Swimming

    I have just one question – how did they manage to get that line-up of swimmers?

  • Chris

    I too went along and thoroughly enjoyed myself and agree with the sentiments above. But there were several things that fascinated me:

    It has been a long, long time since I have been to a swim meet where swimmers were having so much fun. This league programme that they have in Auckland is intriguing, with 2 pools running at the same time in the Junior section and just the spread of participants, from learn-to-swim right through to Masters swimmers (was that Don Stanley I saw swimming on one of the teams?).

    What an amazing line-up from Australia, and I am gobsmacked that we would ever see such a showing in NZ. They were clearly enjoying themselves, happy just to be a part of their teams, and all-round good sports! And even though most of them were just wearing their trainers, it was probably a nod to our own Glenn Snyders that Brenton Rickard changed into his racers just before the 100Br and swam like a very determined swimmer, just pipping Glenn out. Its not every day we get to see world record holders and Olympic medalists in action.

    And then there were the retired swimmers (and the un-retired ones) who prove that you never really lose that feel in the water. Rhi Jeffrey was a revelation, having never seen her swim before, but big girl or not, she is a powerful swimmer (in fact, I was absolutely fascinated to see how “healthy” the Aussie girls were. Leisel Jones and Libby prove that coaches’ preoccupation with body fat is a whole load of horse dung if trying to substitute for superior technique). Dean Kent still rules the IM, and Moss’ fly will always be a joy to watch (just don’t ask him to do a 200 any time soon). In fact Jessicah Schipper’s fly was beautiful to watch up close. Wasn’t it great to see Anna Simcic and Sarah Catherwood in the water with the other Christchurch swimmers who came up, especially Sophie Pascoe and the other AWD swimmers who swam with everyone else. What a lovely touch! And my word, aren’t Ian Jones and Mahe Drysdale good swimmers. Was that Ant Strachan that I saw?

    It was a long night and the programme ran behind schedule, but people didn’t seem to be too fussed because the music was loud, there was a lot happening on pool deck, and we spent the night playing “Spot the Celebrity”. In fact, the game that was impossible to play (as you elluded to) was “Spot someone from SNZ”. Although to be fair, there was a smattering of Life Members; Danyon, Don Stanley, and I think John Mace was there, but that doesn’t count. And of course Ali Fitch who did a great job as commentator in the earlier programme (although I don’t count her as SNZ either even though she is on the Board). But you are right! Extremely poor show from the governing body.

    I see that SwimT3 still have a donation button on the website – do you think SNZ might have made a donation that we don’t know about? I think that sounds more like a new Tui ad!

  • Rhi Jeffrey

    Thanks Chris ;)

  • This is the first swim meet in years that I’m really sorry I wasn’t at :) It sounds like an absolutely fantastic event. A big congratulations is in order for all the organisers and participants. Colour me envious and highly impressed!


  • Rhi Jeffrey

    Jane, it was a blast. Aside from the fact that I wanted to die of exhaustion after the meet finished, it was something like I’ve never experienced before. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Auckland swimming should put on more events like this. I know the US swimmers wanted to come but are in the middle of their seasons. Maybe later in the year or something. :)