Archive for February, 2013

Auckland Open Championships

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

By David

Do you remember The Fast Show? Especially the line, “This week I have mostly been doing – – -.” At which point you fill in the rest. In my case I spent a worthy and entertaining few days at the Auckland Open Swimming Championships. I liked the meet. It was unusual. It was important. However it was certainly not your typical swim meet. The entries were low. I’m told that was because many of Auckland’s age group swimmers were preparing for the national age group championship in Wellington next week.

To digress for a second – I did hear that the Wellington meet will start from the deep end of the Kilbirnie Pool. It’s hard to escape the feeling that words like dishonesty, fraudulent and duplicitous characterize some of the behaviour of Swimming New Zealand. A year ago they tore into me like savage dogs for protesting the use of the shallow end at the Championships. Their press release actually called me a trouble maker. Certainly my protest was rejected and my $50 confiscated. Swimming New Zealand looked pretty pathetic when FINA officials supported my protest. A few hurried meetings and a quarter of a million dollars later and deep end starts have become normal. However I’m still waiting for my $50 back. Come on Swimming New Zealand – do the descent thing. FINA said my protest was a good one. You changed the Wellington Pool because of it. You owe me $50. I want it back – please.

Anyway back to the Auckland Opens. The number of entries was small but the quality was good. The Millennium Institute plus its Wellington Branch office turned up. They had been at a training camp last week and must have decided to swim the meet as a sort of end of camp fling. The best swimmers from Roskill, North Shore, WAQ and a few smaller clubs made up the balance of the entries.

The presence of the Aqua Blacks gave me a chance to observe them en mass; to decide first hand whether they were any different from the last time I saw them together. The answer is worse. You must appreciate that none of this has anything to do with the swimmers. This is about a toxic, losing environment nurtured by Miskimmin and those he employs to look after his Millennium folly. Swimmers subjected to that environment will need to be super good – good enough to beat the world’s best swimmers and good enough to overcome the disadvantage of being coached in an environment that has institutionalized failure.

Their real problem is entrenched arrogance. Miskimmin and his mates do not see this as a problem. For them it’s team spirit and pride. But it’s not. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach at meets that have also included, Matt Biondi, Camille Muffat, Ian Thorpe, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Oussama Mellouli, Amanda Beard, Amanda Weir and a host of other Olympic Champions and World Record holders. In every case, even in the most extroverted “Gary Hall” type champion, there is a characteristic modesty about their demeanour. They are good at what they do. They are very, very good and they are consciously aware of the need not to flaunt it. Like the time I saw Gary Hall, Olympic sprint champion, happily pay at the spectator gate to get into a meet at which he was due to present winner’s medals. Or the morning in an Indianapolis café when Michael Phelps was mistakenly charged and paid for my breakfast and steadfastly refused my offer of a refund.

But that’s not the personality Jan Cameron fostered at her Millennium Institute. It’s not the temperament Peter Miskimmin wants today. What they want is a small select assembly of New Zealand’s best swimmers who train together, dress in the same fake national uniforms and sit with each other at meets; avoiding the great unwashed. Understandably the majority seem to buy into their own importance; with three exceptions. It seems to me that Lauren Boyle, Hayley Palmer and Gary Hurring preserve a humility that does them proud – probably because all three have been really good and appreciate the pretention of local success. International swimming success for the others will be difficult; probably impossible. Peter Miskimmin is already providing them with all the self-esteem they will ever need. In 1954 Abraham Maslow could have explained to Miskimmin why his grand Millennium scheme will never work. “Man”, he said, “is a tension reducing animal.” From what I saw at West Wave Pool this weekend there’s not much call for self-actualization at the Millennium Institute. They have all they need already.

Even more interesting was the number of coaches and support crew that Miskimmin employs to care for New Zealand Swimming’s chosen Millennium people. I didn’t see the expensive Bill Sweetenham. Perhaps the comforts of the Crown Plaza were irresistible. Swimming New Zealand’s new Director of Swimming Luis Villanueva was present; running along the pool deck clutching a stopwatch; timing the warm up laps of the selected few. Then there is Gary – he was certainly legitimate. There was also another guy who, I’m told, normally does lactate tests. He had a stopwatch as well; ready to pick up any swimmer Villanueva missed. A data analyst and an office person completed the Millennium army. My guess is that Miskimmin employed six staff this weekend to look after a dozen swimmers.

But back to the Auckland Open Championships. I enjoyed the weekend. The meet plays an important role in preparing swimmers for the National Championships, three weeks away in March. West Auckland Aquatics’ swimmers would like to thank Brian Palmer, the Executive Director of Auckland Swimming, for the chance to compete over four days. Putting on this event must have involved a huge amount of work. Work undertaken, I imagine, without the benefit of Peter Miskimmin’s money and staff numbers. Take heart though Brian, according to Maslow satisfying the need of self-esteem is a far more worthy human goal than Miskimmin’s Millennium money.

Good Old-Fashioned Gossip

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

By David

You may wonder what going to a swim meet, clearing emails, having breakfast in a quiet Glen Eden café, reading text messages and even strolling through the Henderson Mall have in common. Well, this past week they have provided good old fashioned gossip. Most readers will know that gossip is notoriously unreliable. When it involves the new Swimming New Zealand, you must add – and almost impossible to confirm.

Therefore, to let you know the sort of things I’ve been hearing, I will put what I’ve been told in the form of a series of questions. That way Swimming New Zealand can drop Swimwatch a short email confirming their validity or otherwise.

  1. Is it true that Dr Who and the other new owners of Swimming New Zealand are shifting the Head Office again? This time to Auckland. If it is, the money spent playing musical offices is immoral. I can’t remember every location but, during my time in swimming, my guess is Swimming New Zealand has had six homes; the Dominion Building, the new Wellington City Council Building, the Water Safety New Zealand Office, Pelorus House, the Millennium Institute in Auckland and, when I lived in Florida, another place somewhere in central Wellington.
  2. Is it true that Swimming New Zealand’s Wellington staff have been given a “Dear John” email – move to Auckland or find another job? If it is true, we warned you the new owners are tough buggers.
  3. Is it true that Bill Sweetenham flew first class or business class to New Zealand?
  4. Is it true that the cost of his accommodation alone is in excess of $300 a day at the up-market Crown Plaza hotel and his meals and other living cost are over and above the accommodation bill?
  5. Is it true that Sweetenham’s fee for a month’s work is $50,000?
  6. Will Swimming New Zealand confirm the Sweetenham fee without me having to apply for the amount through the Official Information Act?
  7. Is the total cost of the Sweetenham visit to the Millennium Institute in excess of $70,000 – or $5800 per Millennium swimmer per month? If all that is in any way close to the mark – the Millennium swimmers are going to have to produce some stunning world records to justify the expense. Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Camille Muffat together don’t cost that much a month to coach.
  8. Is Sweetenham really worth a pay rate of $840,000 a year. Is he 14 times more productive, more valuable than the average domestic swim coach?
  9. Is it true that at afternoon training this week Sweetenham offered any swimmer who sincerely felt he or she had given their all, the opportunity to go home? Is it true that, when several swimmers decided they had done enough, and began to take up Sweetenham’s offer by getting out of the pool, Sweetenham cynically announced, “Now we’ve got rid of the liars”?
  10. If that is true, do we want New Zealand swimmers addressed in those terms? Is that the sort of behaviour that got Sweetenham into trouble in the UK? If this is what was said, should Sweetenham be sent back to Australia, on a budget airline, economy class?
  11. When Miskimmin and the new Swimming New Zealand employed Sweetenham, were they aware of his reputation? If they were, can we assume they approve of this type of comment and see it as a normal part of guiding young New Zealanders? And, if they do approve of people like Sweetenham, is it time for them to stand aside and let decent New Zealanders do their job?
  12. Is it true that the Meet Director, Ross Bragg, verbally ripped into one of the referees at the New Zealand Junior Championships? The referee asked me to check where one of my swimmers, who had been acting as marshal at the meet, had disposed of her start list. Evidently the list had some relevance to a question about Waikato’s participation in a relay. Were Bragg’s comments rude, bad mannered and unnecessary? More importantly were they in violation of the Swimming New Zealand Code of Conduct that demands Ross Bragg, respect the rights, dignity and worth of others, be fair, considerate and honest in all dealings with others, refrain from any form of abuse towards others, refrain from any form of harassment towards others and refrain from any form of victimization towards others? Should Mr. Bragg be reading Luke 4.23 – “Physician heal thyself”?
  13. Was the referee, and presumably Ross Bragg, approved decision to allow Waikato to swim their relay teams on their own twelve hours or so after the other teams had concluded the event based on any Swimming New Zealand or FINA rule? If so what was that rule? Did the official’s decision provide Waikato with an unfair advantage? And if there is no provision for allowing Waikato to compete on its own after a good night’s sleep, was the Bragg led team guilty of a further Code of Conduct breach – “be aware of, and maintain an uncompromising adhesion to, standards, rules, regulations and policies”.
  14. Were the Bragg led team of officials at the New Zealand Junior Championships aware that they disqualified a swimmer improperly for a backstroke violation? Did the Bragg led team of officials decide they would only acknowledge their error if Auckland filed a $50 protest? Is an attempt to intentionally hide an official error in violation of the Code of Conduct rule – “be aware of, and maintain an uncompromising adhesion to, standards, rules, regulations and policies”?

The new and harsher Swimming New Zealand owners have decided they will prove the value and validity of the Miskimmin and Sport New Zealand’s socialist philosophy. The Millennium Institute will be made to work. No cost will be spared, no obstruction will be tolerated. However Miskimmin, Dr. Who, Sweetenham and Villanueva will fail. Their efforts will never match the entrepreneurial coaching skills nurtured in the American and French diverse and scattered private enterprise delivery structure. Private enterprise ideally adapts itself to provide the coaching environments best suited to the different needs of Phelps, Lochte, Muffat and Agnel. You see, even if a New Zealand Phelps does arrive at Miskimmin’s Millennium monument the chance that the Millennium Institute’s environment will successfully nurture the New Zealand Phelps to Olympic success are odds of lotto proportions. But as our questions show, Sport New Zealand and Swimming New Zealand will waste millions attempting to defy the odds – for that is all they understand. Any New Zealand swimmer wanting to replicate the feats of a Danyon Loader would be well advised to do it with their home coach just as Danyon did. Certainly don’t go anywhere near the Millennium Institiute. Just look at the record. No one who has swum there has ever won an Olympic medal. Swim at the Millennium Institute and that’s how you will end up as well – even if the coach does cost close to a million dollars a year.

Testosterone Disorder

Monday, February 18th, 2013

By David

Jane Copland, the editor of Swimwatch, lives in London. She works in the SEO (search engine optimization) industry. There may be a few readers who don’t know about the purpose and function of SEO. Although it is not relevant to this story, Wikipedia will explain. “SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s un-paid search results. In general, the earlier and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.”

And so, that’s what Jane does. There is an interesting discussion going on in her industry. It involves the question of gender equality; not only, are women treated fairly but are they treated with respect and dignity? I have read a number of articles that have debated the position of women in SEO marketing. You may find them interesting. I’ll ask Jane if she can provide you with some links to the SEO discussion.

[Here are a few, including one I wrote]:

http://www.stateofsearch.com/fighting-sexism-a-digital-conferences/

http://janecopland.co.uk/2011/12/women-as-entertainment-in-the-seo-industry/

http://www.stateofsearch.com/female-speakers-in-search/

http://www.aimclearblog.com/2013/01/21/female-online-marketing-speakers-counted-12-evangelists-shred-the-data/

And a two from other areas of in similar tech industries:

http://www.sazzy.co.uk/2013/02/speaking-up/

http://www.standalone-sysadmin.com/blog/2011/09/seriously-stop-with-the-booth-babes/

… and there are more, linked to at the bottom of the second post linked to here, which I wrote]

The type of behaviour women in that industry find annoying is the regular involvement of Playboy strippers at an annual SEO conference in Munich, the expectation that women attending SEO conferences must be available for a night of sex, the feeling that men hold women presenters to a higher standard than their male colleagues and vapid male comments women endure such as, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing at a conference like this?” All of these examples are discussed in the links above.

I agree with the SEO women. It must be impossibly frustrating; maintaining professional standards when male peers can’t get past the fact that women are an inferior species, available to provide for male sexual demands.

In my coaching career I have been fortunate enough to help some outstanding female athletes. So far ten have been national representatives and five won medals in international competition. One of the ten is SEO Consultant, Jane Copland. Because of their gender, I have seen these women subjected to the most outrageous behavoiur: behaviour that few males would ever experience. In my swimming career I never had to put up with the stuff I’ve seen and heard dished out to these women, proving it is not a performance thing. Without exception every woman on my list, was or is a way better athlete than I could ever hope to have been. No, the abuse is only because they are achieving women. For many men, women who excel are an attack, an affront to their maleness. Let me give you some examples.

In the pool, the women on this list are so obviously superior, the majority of men simply move into another lane to avoid the comparison, or to kindly make space for a faster swimmer. Even here however there are males who risk permanent physical injury trying to prove their superiority. Most of these women comfortably swim their warm up at 5.00min, 400 metre pace. That is not fast for them but is well beyond anything your average male recreational swimmer can swim. Undeterred by the impossibility of the mission I’ve watched male swimmers increase their stroke rate, burst into a six beat kick and sprint the length of the pool to stall of the spectre of being passed by a woman. Reaching the far wall they stop and let the woman through; hoping the world believes they could have stayed in front if only there swim hadn’t ended when it did. Their red backs and pounding chests put a lie to the idea their stop was pre-planned. I’m delighted our pool has a pretty sophisticated heart defibrillator to attend to men that risk it all in the name of masculine supremacy.

I’ve coached several good male swimmers as well. Andrew and Skuba were Florida State freestyle champions. Ozzie held two world master’s butterfly records. I have seen the same male recreational swimmers who fought so hard to avoid being passed by Rhi or Missy or Jane happily move over and let Andrew, Skuba and Ozzie swim quietly by. The male ego knows little logic.

But it is in the gym, doing weights, that the male ego knows no limit. This is man’s work. Pumping iron is the measure of a man’s worth. Just look at Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger – three real men, men of “heart, soul, blood, guts, perspiration and plenty of muscle.” They would never be out lifted by a girl.

But – and I love it – it does happen; every day in fact. By any standard these women lift some very heavy weights. Jane did 3×7 sets of elbow raises with 46kgs. Toni did 3×7 dips with 20kgs strapped to her waste, Nichola did 3×7 Lat. Pull Downs with 102kgs and one of my current female sprinters does 3×7 chin ups with 10kgs on her waste. Certainly the gym work of these women is well in excess of the average male gym junkie. So how do the male egos respond?

The answer is – in two ways. One style of male rush over, full of concern. Being a woman, the swimmer won’t realize that the technique she is using is so wrong it will likely cause serious injury. Her health depends on lifting a lighter weight; a weight just a little less than he is lifting. He will show her how it should be done. Of course, he is unaware that the woman has been lifting weights for years without injury. The second type of intervention is more confrontational. One guy, who had been lifting seven plates on the Lat Pull Down machine, simply walked across to my swimmer and shifted the pin from the eleven plates she was lifting and put it back in seven plates. He exclaimed, “That’s all you should be lifting.” Another hero demanded to know why my swimmer was putting her chances of child birth at risk by doing chin ups. They would never say this stuff to a male. But they assume a God given right to order and instruct when a female is doing the lifting.

We’ve come a long way since Emmeline Pankhurst chained herself to fences in support of women’s suffrage. From what I’ve seen of the life of some of the world’s best female athletes and SEO business women, we still have some way to go.

PS – I’ve just heard Swimming New Zealand may have decided to shift Pelorus House north to Auckland. That’s good. When they are all in the same place, with their Millennium mates, it will be easier to hold them to account.

[The most ridiculous thing ever said to me personally was that “I’d end up in a wheelchair by 30″ by lifting the sort of weights I lifted as a teenager. To be fair, he might end up being right. I’m still walking, but I’ve only just turned 29. – Jane]

Mightest Still The Enemy

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I was in Hamilton this weekend at the Central North Island Swimming Championships. During the meet I was reminded of the title of this Swimwatch story. It is a quote from the Book of Psalm, chapter eight, verse two. The full King James version says, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”

The event that prompted this thought occurred when two young ladies from the Sundevils Swim Club in Hastings asked me if I could autograph their t-shirts and have my photograph taken with them. This was a most unusual invitation. However, I agreed but did ask what had prompted their request. “Well,” they said, “We’ve been told you are famous because you write a blog called Swimwatch. You tell Swimming New Zealand everything it does wrong.” They assured me that my reputation, as the author of Swimwatch, met with their full approval. When they got back to Hawkes Bay Swimwatch was going to be high on their list of required reading.

Well you Sundevils, I have no doubt you were dared into this adventure. But you did it very well; with good manners and in the best of taste. If you are reading this story, the author of Swimwatch enjoyed the moment. Because, what you did and said is an inspiration. Swimwatch is about you. Two young women spoke words that should provide us with the strength to carry on; to “still the enemy”. The Coalition of Regions fought and lost a battle recently. But that must not be the end. The war must go on. Thank you Sundevils. Thank you because, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”

To help the girls from Sundevils understand Swimwatch better it may be useful to explain what it is about Peter Miskimmin, Sport New Zealand, Dr Who and his traveling companions in the tardis called Pelorus House that prompted me and two of my friends to start the Swimwatch blog. I guess it boils down to greed. In New Zealand sport we detected an avarice for power, status and wealth that has nothing to do with the two Sundevil swimmers; that abandons them and their toil. The world that Miskimmin and Dr Who inhabit has no time for my Sundevil friends. You don’t believe me. Then look at the facts.

Last year Peter Miskimmun, Dr Who and their Pelorus House companions got their hands on $4.35 million dollars. Of that $2.82 million came from the taxpayer, $0.92 million came from the members, $0.04 million was earned in interest and $0.57 million came from sponsorship.

Last year Peter Miskimmun, Dr Who and their Pelorus House companions spent $4.46 million dollars on swimming. Of this Dr Who and the crew of Pelorus House cost us $1.06 million, the Millennium Institute’s pampered few cost us $2.16 million, learn to swim education cost $0.77 million and various championships cost $0.47 million.

In other words, of the $4.46 million dollars spent on swimming, $3.22 million went to keep Pelorus House and the Millennium Institute afloat. The rest of the organization received $1.24 million that it spent on learn to swim and championship events.

Swimming New Zealand has 22,061 members. I’m told Pelorus House has about 25 staff. The Millennium Institute is home to about 21 swimmers and staff. In simple terms those membership figures mean that 0.2% of Swimming New Zealand’s members get 72% of the organization’s money. The other 99.8% of us have to share 28% of the money. And remember 86% of the money came from us either as tax money or membership fees. Swimming New Zealand is an organization that cost its 22,061 members, in tax and fees, $4.46 million to care for and pamper 46 (0.2%) of its people.

And what did we get from Dr Who and Peter Miskimmin for all this money. Not a damn thing – that’s what; certainly no medals at the London Olympic Games. Worse than that, not a phone call to ask how things were going, not a visit to check on progress – nothing. You don’t believe me? Well, give your club secretary or treasurer a call. Ask them the last time they got a cheque from Swimming New Zealand to help with lane hire or coaching costs. Ask your coach when he or she last had a visit from one of the privileged 46. The only thing Swimming New Zealand do for the grass roots is to strip us of every cent. We gave the organization $3.22 million and we got nothing in return.

Peter Miskimmin is quick to threaten the withdrawal of funding. We have shown that for 99.8% of our sport Peter Miskimmin’s money and Dr Who’s presence makes no difference at all. Take your bloody money and go. All but 46 of us would be better off without you. You and your money are nothing but trouble.

If the two Sundevil swimmers I met at the weekend are to have a chance to progress their swimming careers swimming cannot sustain this top heavy, haves and have-nots organization. The way Cameron organized swimming involved too much waste. Peter Miskimmin and Dr Who know no better. The waste of talent has been and still is criminal. Thomas Gray described why Swimwatch exists when he referred to my two Sundevil friends thus:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast

The little tyrant of his fields withstood;

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,

Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.

There is a better way; a way that has been described many times in the pages of Swimwatch; a way that was trialled and approved in the United States and in France and by a New Zealander called Arthur Lydiard when he managed the coaching of track and field athletics in Finland. I want to see a more democratic, even handed Swimming New Zealand. I want to see an organization where more people get a chance; where the Sundevil girls are provided with Swimming New Zealand support to pursue their dream.

But that’s not the way things work in the Miskimmin, and Dr Who world. They have an elitist view of sport that is as wrong as it is a failure. Swimwatch will continue until that point is understood. You see, there are two swimmers in Hastings who deserve no less.

Miskimmin Is In Our Tent

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

By David

A close friend recently used a metaphor that he called, “the camel’s nose”. I’d never heard the expression, so I looked it up. I found that the “camel’s nose” image entered the English language in the middle of the 19th century. An early example was printed in 1858 in which an Arab miller allowed a camel to stick its nose into his tent, then other parts of its body, until the camel was entirely inside and refused to leave. In a 1915 book of fables by Horace Scudder, the story, titled “The Arab and His Camel”, ends with the moral: “It is a wise rule to resist the beginnings of evil.”

For a long time now Swimwatch has urged every member to be cautious of the camel called Sport New Zealand and its owner Peter Miskimmin. But I suspect it’s too late. This camel is well and truly in the swimming tent. There will be blood on the tent floor before this beast leaves and returns the pavilion to the ownership of its members. The last two Swimwatch stories have suggested that Sport New Zealand is not only in the tent; it has begun wearing our clothes, eating our food and drinking our wine.

But, as they say, wait there is more. The camel is beginning to reveal its personality. Until now coaches and officials have been valued for their contribution to the sport. For one hundred thousand hours an army of unpaid volunteers have stood selflessly on the side of swimming pools starting stopwatches, judging turns and collating results. For no personal gain the sport survived because people like Beth Meade, Jo and Alan Draisey, Jill Vernon, David Jack, Barbara Neish, Leigh Johns turned up to put in the timing pads, stack the timekeepers chairs and print off the meet program. And do you know what the camel decided at its last meeting? Every volunteer is now going to have to pay Pelorus House in Wellington $15 per year for the privilege of working as a swimming official. The amount is small, the principle is huge. This camel is a greedy, amoral son of a bitch.

In addition, the camel decided to charge the coaches it values so highly $25 per year and increased the amount it charges swimmers by 10% and the club’s fee by 16%. Those three charges are bad enough but the new charge on volunteer officials is beyond redemption; unspeakably despicable. Swimwatch has come in for some criticism over the years. Some of it well deserved. However our warnings about the motives and intention of this camel’s nose are proving to be right. And it will get worse. A levy on each Region, to pay for the excesses of Pelorus House and the Millennium Institute, is not far away. We would strongly recommend that every Region does not register any officials from now on. That way swimming officials can continue helping the sport they love without feeding Wellington and Millennium fat cats as well.

So what else has the camel been up to this week? Well I see it has appointed an Australian as Acting Head Coach, an Australian as the new CEO and a Spaniard as the new High Performance Director. Their admiration for things foreign knows no limits. Jan Cameron was Australian. One of the early coaches at the Millennium Institute was English, followed by a German and two more Australians. And now I see the camel is delighted that enquiries about the permanent Head Coach job have been received from “several countries”.

British Swimming has been through a similar period of worshiping things alien. Sweetenham was Australian, the current Head Coach is American and another Australian is a senior member of their administration. It got so bad that the UK’s best swimmer, Rebecca Adlington recently made the following recommendation. “Hire a British head coach: “make your own people responsible, make them step up; pick a British leader, one that will be bold and capable of being a British leader. The non-Brit leader is always going to ‘go home’ – coaches know it, athletes know it. Commitment and pride in the leader is half the battle’”

The camel would do well to heed Adlington’s advice. New Zealand has a proud history of world class coaches; Duncan Laing, Ross Anderson, Lincoln Hurring, Hilton Brown, Tony Keenan. Numerous current New Zealand swimming coaches are just as capable. The camel should trust its own. It won’t of course; camels never do. On the subject of coaches, I was surprised to read in the Swimming New Zealand’s Board minutes that the new Chairman, Dr Who, didn’t know that the organization’s Head Coach in Wellington is Gary Hurring. Dr Who’s minutes call him Gary Hutching. Dr Who – your organization is paying a man who has coached in Wellington since 1989, who was 1978 New Zealand Sportsman of the Year, who won the Commonwealth Games in the same year and would have won the 1980 Olympics if New Zealand had attended the Moscow Games. Gary has an equally famous swimming mother and father. Their name is or was Hurring as well. Your knowledge of things swimming is hugely suspect when you can’t get Gary Hurring’s name right.

On the subject of Rebecca Adlington’s recommendations, I see she also made the following recommendation. Hold “fewer national team camps and when you do hold camps make them more discipline-specific to bring the best freestylers, the best flyers and so on together in a competitive environment.” Coming in a week when Swimming New Zealand has ordered all the swimmers it controls to a training camp in Rotorua, this too is timely advice. Quite how the new Swimming New Zealand intends to get any mileage out of a camp that includes the country’s fastest 50 sprinters and 10,000 open water specialists, will be revealing, to say the least. Especially when no one knows yet who is going to coach this assorted crew.

The whole thing is a joke, but not a funny joke. No matter how meaningless – any swimmer who recognizes the futility of a week wasted in Rotorua and choses a good week’s training with their home coach has been threatened with financial ruin. It seems the only way Dr Who can get loyalty is to buy it. The threat of withholding money is the new Swimming New Zealand’s option of first choice. But that should not be a surprise. It is, after all, the way Dr Who and his Sport New Zealand friends got their nose and eventually their ample being into our tent in the first place.