Not A Penny Spared

By David

That’s right. The Miskimmin 2012 coup d’état at Swimming New Zealand saw the introduction of several novel innovations; the autocratic form of government favoured by Sport New Zealand replaced a century of Regional democracy, a management team of foreign imports assumed power and money became no problem at all.

Miskimmin invested a huge amount of personal capital to acquire control of swimming. The sport had to be successful. If it wasn’t Miskimmin would look stupid. Swimming was his baby. Success or failure was down to him alone. And so, what did he do? He did what he does best. He threw money at the problem. Sports that fail at three or four Olympics in a row are normally cast adrift. But not swimming.

Swimming had a World Championship coming up and Miskimmin’s men were on a mission to buy success. A tax payer’s grant of $1.4 million, plus PEG’s payments of $300k were approved. Surely, Miskimmin must have thought, $1.7 million should be enough to buy success. His Swimwatch critics were about to see the power of the government’s money; were about to experience the rewards of sport’s management, Miskimmin style.

And did Miskimmin’s minions spend? Did they ever? Like drunken sailors they worked their way through Miskimmin’s $1.4 million grant. On a per-swimmer basis this team will be the world’s most expensive. It has cost New Zealand $1.7 million to send fourteen swimmers to the 2013 World Championships. That’s a stunning $121,000 per swimmer. The world’s richest economy, the United States of America won’t spend half that amount. The fourteen swimmers will compete in about 30 races. Each race; each time a New Zealand swimmer dives into the Barcelona Palau Sant Jordi Pool, the cost of preparing for that dive will have been $56,600. The average annual wage in New Zealand is $57,158. The opulence; the extravagance of this exercise has been stunning.

But Miskimmin is aware his reputation, his decision making, his credibility is on the line. Money is of little importance when the CEO of Sport New Zealand has pride and position at stake.

In addition to the normal cost of running the Wellington Centre and the Millennium Institute, the 2013 World Championship swim team wanted for nothing. Here are a few of the add-ons.

  1. Bill Sweetenham was flown in from Australia to coach half a dozen Millenium swimmers. I have no idea what that exercise cost but Bill never comes cheap. For three months coaching, an all-up cost of $150,000 would not surprise.
  2. Lauren Boyle and Gareth Kean were sent to a Spanish High Altitude Camp for two week; were flown back to New Zealand for a month and then back to Spain for more camps and finally the Championships.
  3. David Lyles was flown from China to New Zealand twice. Once to inspect the Millennium Institute and then to begin coaching.
  4. The team’s pre-game’s preparation in Europe has wanted for nothing – Mare Nostrum competition, double return flights to New Zealand, high altitude camps in the Sierra Mountains and sea level training in the Catalan sun. It did seem to be a case of – if it might help get it, if it might work do it.

There is every reason to expect stellar results from this team. New Zealand has provided generous funding. Swimming New Zealand has spent it, without restriction. We have been told Miskimmin and his selected foreign imports know what’s best for swimming; can do it better than independent club coaches. Well, Swimming New Zealand has had the money and free rein to do it their way. If Miskimmin is right only a bounteous haul of medals will suffice. Nothing less will do.

But what does a bounteous haul of medals mean. Well this is the first year after an Olympic Games. World Championships held at this time are always less competitive. Many great swimmers have retired (Phelps, Veldhuis and Adlington) and others are having a quiet year (Schmitt and Soni) gathering their resources before pushing on to the next Games in Rio.

Lauren Boyle has been especially fortunate. The retirement of Rebecca Adlington and Allison Schmitt’s quiet post-Olympic year means two of those ahead of her in London will not be in Barcelona. What that means is that just to maintain her London position Lauren Boyle needs to return with at least a silver medal. Progress requires a win. A return on Miskimmin’s investment requires a gold medal from Lauren Boyle. That is the minimum.

Glenn Snyders was 20th and 16th in the London Olympic Games. However the World Championships include Snyders’ favourite 50 meter breaststroke event. To repeat his London performance Snyders will need to make a final in Barcelona. For Miskimmin to claim his plan for the sport works, Snyders will need to return to Los Angeles with a medal.

Matthew Stanley was 15th and 18th in London. He will benefit as much a Boyle from post-Olympic retirements. To just stay where he was in London, Stanley will need to make a final in Barcelona. Only a medal will show a return on Miskimmin’s million.

Gareth Kean was 29th and 13th in London. He too will need a medal in Barcelona to demonstrate that the decision to form a Swimming New Zealand training club in Wellington and the investment in round the world trips to Spanish high altitude camps was justified. Anything less and Miskimmin’s money will have only bought the status quo.

Progress will also require Kane Radford and Cara Baker to medal in their open water swims.

If the others on this team, that’s Sophia Batchelor, Shaun Burnett, Nathan Capp, Mitchell Donaldson, Samantha Lee, Samantha Lucie-Smith, Emma Robinson and Phillip Ryan are going to perform to a level that justifies Miskimmin’s policies and our investment of $56,600 per dive, $121,000 per swimmer they will all need to make a final; they will all need to be in the top eight in Barcelona.

Anything less than a gold medal, five other medals and eight finalists at this World Championships will not be a failure by the athletes involved. This has never been about their application or effort. Anything less will be a failure by Miskimmin and those at Swimming New Zealand charged with implementing the policies of Sport New Zealand. Any team result in Barcelona that falls short of these results and Swimming New Zealand will have wasted another $1.7 million of your money and mine. And for that Miskimmin, Renford, Villanueva, Layton and Lyles should be held responsible. And because we warned them their policies were flawed they should be asked to leave, sacked without notice.

  • Stevie

    Quick feedback on a couple of points in your negative story about the NZ Worlds team in Europe. 1. Swimming NZ’s coverage of its Worlds team has been atrocious over the last month or so. They couldn’t even bring themselves to trumpet Boyle’s superb swim at the recent French Opens where Muffat’s record was broken and Boyle set a new national record in France for the women’s 800 free. Consequently there was nothing in the NZ media about that (because NZ sports journalists don’t know much more than how to “cut and paste” from press releases). So…NZ swim fans wouldn’t know what value is coming out of the current trip unless they look at reputable, international websites that follow elite swimming. If Swimwatch wants to point to significant waste of SNZ money, then look into the cost of the massively over-sized team they took to the WUG in Russia this month, for zero results. 2. My second comment relates to your view that Boyle should find it cruisy at the World Champs, regarding Adlington and Schmitt. I never thought I’d saying to Swimwatch “Don’t Let The Facts Get In The Way Of A Good Story”. But you have. The Olympics can take their toll. Allison Schmitt swam at the US trials, trying to make the Worlds team. She bombed and withdrew from the meet. Sutton is the powerhouse in USA women’s distance swimming. Adlington’s main reason for retirement was the fact that Ledecky as a teen has freakish speed and Adlington couldn’t see Ledecky ever being beatable after London. That fact was reported in the UK newspapers when Adlington quit. Other factors regarding the 800 are these. Carlin GBR has shot to prominence (World number one with 8.18.58) and then there is Ledecky’s 2013 time (8.20.64). Extremely fast. Seconds back from those two are Sutton, Boyle, Belmonte, Friis, etc.
    Informed comment looks to this sort of commentary:
    “Should be a cruise for Boyle at the Worlds!!?” – Yeah Right.

  • David

    I just hate it when the jerks at Swimming New Zealand lie to me. Since I returned to New Zealand their website has lied over and over again. Worse Swimming New Zealand then distribute their lies to the mass media in the hope it will be published. Whoever is responsible just couldn’t lie straight in bed. It’s bloody disgusting.

    Here is what the Swimming New Zealand website reports today – ” Baker, who finished in a share of fifth place in the 5km earlier in the week,”

    Here is the “Official Result” of the 5km race reported from Barcelona and published by Omega.


    by OMEGA

    1 ANDERSON Haley Danita USA


    3 CUNHA Ana Marcela BRA

    4 ARAOUZOU Kalliopi GRE

    5 HARLE Isabelle Franziska GER

    6 BAKER Cara NZL

    Harle and Baker were credited with the same time to a tenth of a second but Harle was given 5th and Baker 6th – probably on the basis of one hundreds. Quite frankly Mr Renford publishing words like integrity as a sign off to your letters makes you look pathetically stupid when your organization’s website indulges in systematic lying.

    • J

      David – OW results at this level are only recorded to the .1 second due to the accuracy of the “RF proximity chips” worn by the athletes. All of the results are reviewed by the OMEGA high speed (100fps) video and the place judging by that system verifies/establishes the official results based on the hand on the finish plate (which by the way is not touch sensitive).

  • David

    Just one other thought on the subject of Swimming New Zealand lying about Cara Baker’s 5km result. It is not as though SNZ did not know what they were doing. This is how they reported Baker’s swim four days ago.
    “Baker finished a career-high sixth. Swimming New Zealand coach Philip Rush confirmed that Baker’s sixth place is the best by a Kiwi in open water at a world championship. Baker, who turned 23 earlier this month, clocked 56:46.2s, out-touched for fifth by Germany’s Isabelle Harle, with both swimmers given the same time.”
    The SNZ lie was not only intentional, it was also unnecessary. Baker’s 6th place was so good, so meritorious, such a fine example of private enterprise effort, it needed no false embellishment be Swimming New Zealand.

  • open water fan

    6th isn’t the best open water result by a kiwi. In 2001 Scott Shepherd finish 5th in the 5km event. I really wish people did their homework before they make comments. The swimmers who work really hard (with no support from SNZ) and achieved some great reults deserve the credit.

    • Chris

      And lest we forget Kate Brookes Peterson, who after being refused support from SNZ went on to win two bronzes in the 5km and 10km at the 2007 Fina World Championships swimming for Australia.

  • David

    Thank you “Open Water Fan”. I am new to open water competition – my guys had their first shot at the ten k in Lake Taupo this year – and regretfully was not aware of Scott Shepherd’s 2001 result. It seems the Layton/Renford’s SNZ are as distant from the truth as the lot that went before them. If you cant do it – lie about it.

  • David

    Stevie – It is great to get your point of view; much of which has my wholehearted support. However I think it does need to be said that SNZ did not contribute a cent to the team that attended the University Games. That team was privately funded and therefore is a journey by swimmers that has my full support no matter what its size, composition or competitive success.
    I think you may have also misunderstood my point about the Barcelona swim team. I did not say winning a medal there would be easy. I just said that if swimmers who were behind our athletes in London, beat our swimmers in Barcelona then New Zealand’s huge investment in this team will not have been wisely spent. Of course that will not be easy but this huge public investment means we have a right to expect Miskimmin’s decisions will yield big results. Failure to do that is not the swimmer’s loss – it is a failure though by Miskimmin, Layton, Renford, Lyles and Villeneuva – a $1.7 million disaster. We will see.