Archive for August, 2013

Bringing The Sport Into Disrepute

Friday, August 30th, 2013

By David

I’ve just read the Notice sent out by Christian Renford calling the 2013 Annual General Meeting of Swimming New Zealand. This is what it says:

Notice of the 2013 Annual General Meeting
of Swimming New Zealand

In accordance with clause of 15 of the constitution of Swimming New Zealand, notice is given of the 2013 Annual General Meeting.

Date and time Sunday 29th September 2013 beginning at 10:30am
Location Brentwood Hotel, 16 Kemp Street, Kilbirnie, Wellington

 

On the surface of it Renford’s Notice seems just fine. Except there is another Swimming New Zealand document published on their website that says:

STATE NEW ZEALAND SHORT COURSE CHAMPIONSHIPS

29 Sept – 3 Oct 2013

Day 1 – Sun 29 September

Session 1 – Heats

Warm-up 7.15 – 8.45 Start 9.00am

That’s right Christian Renford and Brent Layton scheduled the 2013 Swimming New Zealand Annual Meeting on the same day and at the same time as the first session of swimming at the New Zealand Short Course Championships. Someone must have protested that incredible and disgusting decision because I see in the last few hours the meeting has been put back to 1.15pm; after the morning session of heats has ended.

However the facts are that Layton and Renford were initially quite happy to sit in the Brentwood Hotel having their annual meeting while the National Championships were being swum; sipping chardonnay at lunch while Lauren Boyle and a generation of future Lauren Boyles toiled a few hundred yards away.

The message it sends is as distressing as it is predictable. It says the bosses of this sport do not care. This is not about swimming. This is not about Boyle or Stanley or Snyders. It most certainly is not about Ip, Marston, Van Egten, Frink, Johns or Tonkins. That’s the six West Auckland Aquatics swimmers at the National Championships. This is about meetings, money and power. This is about the good life for Miskimmin’s foreign coterie.

Every good swimmer in New Zealand and especially Lauren Boyle would be well advised to remember this incident and take from it one clear message; do not trust those who run this sport. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. While you were plying your trade, while you were hurting through another four hundred meters of effort, while Boyle was demonstrating the skills that put her among the world’s best, while Boyle showed New Zealand the speed that secured the government’s funding of swimming for another three years, the guys who run the sport could not be bothered turning up to watch. They don’t care. Lunch at the Brentwood is more important to the current bosses of swimming than anything Boyle might be doing in the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre.

The message from Renford and Layton is that we should all go to the pool and play our games. They, however, are real men with real business to attend to. Whenever either of them asks anyone, and especially Lauren Boyle, to put what happens in the pool first; to do the hard yards, to swim their heart out for their nation, remember what they put first; and it wasn’t what happened in a swimming pool. My guess is they probably thought a video feed of the heats through to the Brentwood Hotel would be ample involvement with the distraction of national swimming. Watching the kiddies swim on a TV screen would avoid interrupting their wine and cheese. Besides the Brentwood Conference Room hasn’t got any of that horrible chlorine smell that goes with pesky swimming pools. But best of all an early meeting would see those horrible trouble-makers from the Regions off home on an early afternoon flight. Everyone knows it’s difficult to cause trouble at an Annual Meeting when you have a plane to catch. These men are not swimming people. Everything they do smacks of all that’s bad in the corporate world. They are suits devoid of a sporting soul.

Lauren Boyle swam at Cal Berkley in San Francisco for four years. She was coached by the current USA National Coach, Teri McKeever. For much of Boyle’s time in the United States the man responsible for the national team was Mark Schubert; often referred to as the world’s most successful swim coach. Well, consider this. Is there any way on God’s good earth anyone can imagine McKeever or Schubert programming or attending an Annual General Meeting during a session of the US National Championships? Is there any way a meeting about anything would take precedence over what the country’s best swimmers were trying to achieve in a swimming pool. The answer is, of course not. There is no bloody way. And just perhaps that might have a little bit to do with why their program is so very good and why the one run by Miskimmin’s men, stinks.

I see that one of the items of business at the Annual General meeting is to elect two new Board members. In the new Swimming New Zealand, of course, the word elect carries with it all the democratic freedoms of Soviet Russia. The politbureau of New Zealand swimming says there are two vacancies and offers just two nominees – now vote. Democracy in swimming died when Moller arrived.

I would not vote for Ian Hunt. He was involved in preparing the current Constitution. I’m told he advised Moller not to allow the Regions to make any changes or the floodgates would open. There are plenty of Miskimmin preferred autocrats involved in swimming these days. It would be best to avoid adding another. His Resume says he is actively working to implement the recommendations of the working group. And yet he was on the Board that overturned one of the key working party recommendations adopted by the SGM; that SNZ get out of learn to swim. Then he along with the other members of the new Board says all that is just fine; no new authority is required from a General Meeting because the Board has the power to over-rule a General Meeting. I’m sure you’re right, General Soviet Secretary Hunt.

Margaret McKee is a more complex subject. We swam together in the Comet Swimming Club in Gisborne. Margaret was a good swimmer. Swimming New Zealand of course can’t resist padding her Resume by calling her a National Champion. She wasn’t. What she did win, was a New Zealand age group title. Shortly after winning that race she was sent to Wellington to board at the Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington.

I happen to know a bit about that establishment. My daughter Jane spent (she may prefer the word suffered) eight years at Marsden. Two types of girls graduate from Samuel Marsden. The best are very good indeed; polite, well educated, kind and sincere young women. The worst are spoilt, rich kid brats, devoid of any breeding, selfish, status-obsessed snobs. When Margaret left for Marsden the members of Comet, including me, lost any meaningful contact. It will be interesting to see which type of Marsden graduate Margret McKee became. A year on the Swimming New Zealand Board will reveal all.

 

 

John Key’s Swim Team

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

By David

John Key is the Prime Minister of New Zealand. He leads the centre right party known as National. He is insufferably arrogant. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I’d like to throw him. He recently got parliament to approve a measure allowing the domestic spy agency to snoop on the emails of New Zealand citizens. He pathetically tried to justify the measure by playing the George Bush “fear of Al Qaeda” card. The “Desert Road” between Waiouru and Turangi is evidentially a breeding ground for men and women plotting to blow up the finish of another marathon, down a 350 seat jet liner or destroy a tall city building. The idea of New Zealand being central to Al Qaeda’s plans for world domination is as puerile as John Key. He tried to convince us that our personal freedoms were not at risk because he, that’s John Key, would personally make sure we were all protected; that the state’s new powers would not be abused. The devil would protect the pearly gates.

And John Key also owns a swim team. The group of swimmers known as the Swimming New Zealand Aqua Blacks are owned lock, stock and barrel by John Key. Every dollar that pays for their coaching, their management, their pool hire, their meet entry fees, their food and rations and their travel and accommodation comes from Key’s government. The money gets channelled through Sport New Zealand and Swimming New Zealand but the original cheque comes directly from the desk of John Key and his Minister of Finance, a Southland farmer, called Bill English.

Without the 100% sponsorship of the John Key government the Aqua Blacks would not exist. The members of this swim team are as dependant on the state purse as an unemployed beneficiary or a struggling solo mother on the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Regular Swimwatch readers may remember a story I told some time ago about a fifteen year old solo mother breast feeding her son in the West Wave recreational pool. Well David Lyles, Luis Villanueva and the suckling mother have much in common. All three spend much of their time in a swimming pool and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, pays for them to be there.

This weekend I was surprised to learn how seriously the Key family take their responsibility as owners of the Aqua Black swim team. Key’s daughter, Stephanie Key, took it upon herself to model a range of new national swim suits. I’m certain they will get FINA approval as being manufactured entirely of natural materials. Certainly none of the suits seem to breech the FINA requirement that they do “not cover the neck, extend past the shoulder, nor shall extend below the ankle.”

However, I am uncertain what Lauren Boyle will make of the new uniforms. She has a choice of three. Perhaps the aquatic octopus look may appeal to Lauren and her fellow team members. Especially good for open water events, I would have thought. Pause for a moment and consider the heights Radford and Ryan may have reached with such a strategically placed octopus. I like the way Stephanie suggests that the New Zealand swim team should recognise the contribution of her Dad; notice the sign saying “Pop” in the snappy red number. That’s a lovely touch. What a thoughtful way to recognize the team’s principal sponsor. I see Stephanie is even making an effort to reduce the cost to her Dad of having his own swim team. Attracting McDonalds as a prime sponsor is a terrific idea. Way better than State Insurance. It may be even better if the French Fries were Kumara Chips. Camille Muffat needs no further help from us.

But there is a serious conclusion to all this. What on God’s good earth has the ownership of a swim team got to do with the government? Why does the government believe it’s just fine to support a dozen or so New Zealand swimmers ahead of all others? Swim teams are not the business of governments. Swim teams belong in the world of private enterprise.

In a report for the University of Tasmania, Des Moore included the following description of the role of Government.

“1. The reduced role of government in 1980s/90s has produced economic benefits without significant adverse social consequences and is consistent with individuals’ higher education levels and higher incomes.

2. Government’s role today should now be more as a protector of disadvantaged and regulator of private sector activity – not as a direct producer of goods and services other than defence and domestic law and order.

3. Existing government role still excessive – lesser role would improve economic efficiency and living standards — would also improve society by eliminating government assistance to particular groups that have no needs basis for it and by increasing employment of lower skilled.

4. Important to recognize that advocates of big government role often pushing their own barrows – or some barrow that reflects their view of how the world should be organised – history tells us that we should be extremely cautious of jumping on to such barrows.”

Mr Moore is absolutely right. John Key is supposed to be responsible for a central / right wing government. He has no right to be involved in supporting “particular groups that have no needs basis for it.” His government should never be involved as a “direct producer” of swimming services. Ownership of a swim team was not part of his manifesto; is not an area where the people of New Zealand want him to be spending their money. “Protecting the disadvantaged” does include the fifteen year old mother, caring for her baby at the West Wave pool. It does not include a dozen pampered and privileged or their minders in a state run swim school.

Of course Mr Moore’s final point that “advocates of big government often push their own barrows” could not be more accurate. Lyles, Villanueva, Renford, Baumann, Miskimmin and their fellow gang members are never going to agree with the idea that the provision of swimming lessons has nothing to do with John Key’s government and properly belongs in the private sector. If they agreed to that, who would pay them tomorrow? Without John Key’s left wing largess those guys don’t get paid. Without John Key these guys could well be caring for their young in a West Auckland Wave Pool.

Chainsaw Lionel

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

By David

If you ever want a water-feature in your back yard, Iain Trousdell is the person for you. I’m not sure of how Iain’s endeavours in flowform water technology work. He is now a Director of the Healing Water Foundation in the United Kingdom. And that’s fitting. He’s very good at what he does. You should see his impressive water arrangement in the Hasting’s town centre. But that’s not the only water flowform Iain is good at. He has a special understanding of flow and form as a master’s swimmer. I coached him for a couple of years and added nothing to his appreciation of the environment. At best the challenge of this aquatic heretic may have stimulated even further his profound spiritual appreciation of water. Very few swimmers have Iain Trousdell’s deep understanding of what it means to work and flow through water. Certainly the results weren’t bad. Iain won several Master’s National titles and, I’m pretty sure broke one National master’s record. He was best at the freestyle and backstroke sprints.

The Master’s National Championship I remember best was held in Rotorua. I decided to travel from Napier very early, in time to catch Iain’s first heat swim. At 4.30am I was on my way traveling along one of my favourite roads – the Napier-Taupo highway. New Zealand has a stunning variety of scenery. The diversity of South Island mountains, Waikato dairy farms, Auckland and Wellington cities and Canterbury plains is impossible in such a small country. But New Zealand does it all. The Napier-Taupo road is a constant reminder of how big this little place can be; rising and falling through a massive green landscape of farms, winding along beside streams through dense native bush, past mile after mile of man planted pine forests and emerging finally at New Zealand’s largest lake, the dormant volcano known as Lake Taupo.

In those days, my car was a bit of a wreck. Jane christened it the Blue Beast. Actually the Blue Beast became quite famous when Basil Dynan, the President of the Hawke’s Bay Poverty Bay Swimming Centre maliciously told the police it was an abandoned wreck left in the Onekawa Pool parking lot. The Sunday Star Times published the story. With good cause Dynan looked like an idiot. The senior swimmers in our club had t-shirts printed showing a picture of Jane with the Blue Beast and the word “Abandoned” on the front. They also sent one of the t-shirts to Basil Dynan. The picture used on the t-shirt is shown with this story.

Anyway early on a Saturday morning I was happily heading towards Iain’s swim meet in Rotorua along one of the windy bits of the Napier-Taupo road, “beside a stream through dense native bush”. My good humour vanished with a loud bang and a loss of steering control. And before you say, “Well just change the tyre” I have to tell you – cars like the Blue Beast don’t have spare tyres. The four that kept it on the road were all there was.

Worse than that in this part of the Napier-Taupo road there is no cell phone connection, no AA and at five in the morning the road is deserted of passing traffic. Well, possibly not entirely deserted. I was still inspecting the Blue Beast’s shredded tyre when a smart black Holden Commodore pulled alongside. A young Maori chap got out and quietly asked if I needed help. I explained that with no spare, I needed to take the wheel into Taupo for repair. After checking to see whether the Commodore’s spare would fit the Blue Beast – it didn’t – my Good Samaritan removed my wheel, blocked the Blue Beast’s axle and loaded the wheel and me into his car.

It was an interesting ride into Taupo. Lionel was on his way to Tokoroa to the New Zealand National Woodfest Championships. Was he taking part, I asked? Yes, he was going to have a shot at the chainsaw speed events. Half an hour later Lionel left me sitting outside Beaurepaires, waiting for them to open for work. Shortly after eight the tyre was repaired and the Taupo AA service vehicle returned me to the Blue Beast. It was only then I realized I had left my briefcase in the back of Lionel’s Commodore.

There was no option, before going to Rotorua, I would have to go to Tokoroa, find Lionel and retrieve my belongings. At about nine thirty I drove up to the Woodfest car park wondering how on earth I was going to find someone from Napier, called Lionel, who may be competing in a chainsaw event. I decided to start with the car park attendant. My explanation had barely begun when he said, “Oh you’re after “Chainsaw Lionel”. You’ll find him down the far aisle. He will be warming up for the chainsaw events. They are due to begin soon.”

“Is Lionel any good?” I asked. With obvious awe in his voice and some disquiet that anyone would need to ask such a silly question, the car park attendant said, “Lionel, with a chainsaw, he’s the best in New Zealand.” Down the far aisle I found Lionel working on his high tech chainsaw. “I wondered how I was going to get your bag back” he said. “It’s over there beside my other saw.”

I decided to stay and watch Lionel’s preliminary heat. I must tell you what happened next was breath taking. Lionel’s chainsaw was no domestic STIHL 160 C special. His saw was called “hot” for good reason. This was a jet fuel powered monster. In Lionel’s hands it sliced down and up, down and up though a 70 centimetre diameter log. He won his heat with such style I excitedly told a couple sitting next to me that, yes I knew Lionel. He was my friend. I decided to abandon Iain’s swimming and stay and watch Lionel’s final. He won of course. The car park attendant was right; Lionel was the best in New Zealand. Who would have thought it? The country’s best chainsaw competitor has rescued me on the Napier-Taupo road.

Two hours later I arrived in Rotorua in time to see Iain add the 50 backstroke championship to the 50 freestyle title he had won earlier in the day. Iain was hugely good at his sport. For his age the best in New Zealand. But the sporting highlight that day belonged to “Chainsaw Lionel”; a top athlete and a quiet, gentle and kind man from Napier.

Conflict of Interest

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

By David

Wikipedia comes in for a fair amount of criticism. However for many day to day questions it is a quick and easy source of information. So what is a conflict of interest? Here is what Wikipedia has to say.

A conflict of interest occurs when an individual is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in another. The presence of a conflict of interest is independent from the execution of impropriety. The conflict in a conflict of interest exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed to create a risk that decisions may be unduly influenced by secondary interests.

Further clarity on the subject is provided by Michael McDonald from the University of British Columbia. This is what he has to say.

The key is to determine whether the situation you are in is likely to interfere or appear to interfere with the independent judgment you are supposed to show as a professional in performing your official duties. A good test is the ‘trust test': would relevant others trust my judgment if they knew I was in this situation

So, a conflict of interest does not mean wrongdoing. Relationships that may make independent decision making more difficult are sufficient. I wonder then, what Michael McDonald and authors of Wikipedia would make of Alex Baumann’s family circumstances.

Alex Baumann is the Chief Executive of High Performance Sport New Zealand. He was born in Prague and moved to Canada with his family as a child. He was one of Canada’s greatest swimmers, winning gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in both the 200m and 400m individual medley races in world record times. He is married to an Australian and spent 15 years living there, during which time he was the Executive Director for the Queensland Academy of Sport and Chief Executive Officer of Queensland Swimming. He returned to Canada five years ago to work with that country’s high performance athletes.

As the Chief Executive of High Performance Sport New Zealand, Baumann is responsible for leading the high performance sport system in New Zealand. He must work in partnership with national sport organisations by: allocating $60 million to targeted sports and athletes; delivering support to impact NSO, coach and athlete performance and “constantly strive to outperform international benchmarks.”

But there is an interesting addition to the Baumann story. He has two children who are very good swimmers. In fact his son, Ashton, swam for Canada in the recent Barcelona World Swimming Championships. He was twenty fourth in the 200m breaststroke; just two places and 0.36 of a second behind New Zealand’s Glenn Snyders.

Is that a conflict of interest?

It is important to remember that a conflict of interest does not mean or even imply any impropriety. But, if you were Glenn Snyders and knew that the guy responsible for funding your lifestyle, has a son less than a half a second behind you in 200m breaststroke, would that make you just a bit uncomfortable? Has the uncompromising commitment required to excel in international sport been tainted by family ties?

And, you see, that’s enough. That discomfort; that feeling of unease, is sufficient for a conflict of interest to exist. The question is all that it takes. While Baumann has members of his family swimming for Canada; representing a nation hell-bent on beating ours, should he disqualify himself from any funding decision involving swimming?

And is that especially true when Baumann has seen fit to include the following disclosure in his Resume posted on the High Performance Sport New Zealand website?

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to moving is that my wife will be closer to her family. You have to put family first at times. My health is fine now; it’s not an issue any more. But it did make me re-adjust my priorities a bit,” he says.

“You have to put your family first” and “re-adjust my priorities” – of course that is how it should be. However, there are some who would argue that once Baumann was aware his son was going to swim for Canada, in direct competition to one of New Zealand’s best swimmers, he should have avoided any involvement in funding decisions involving swimming.

But, is a possible conflict of interest the only thing Baumann has to explain? This is what he says about the prospects for elite sport in New Zealand.

“I think the new structure is right. All the High Performance components will be under the one roof and there is the opportunity to be as streamlined as possible with minimal duplication.” He has a lot of respect for New Zealand’s sporting achievement and wants to ensure our athletes have the best opportunity for success at the next Olympic Games in London next year and then in Rio four years later. “We will be planning for post 2012, making sure we retain the best people and recruit the best people. Coaching would be the number one priority. I’ve always believed that if you have the best coaches in the world then you have a much better chance of success.”

But I’m confused. If New Zealand High Performance Swimming is so “streamlined – with minimal duplication”; if the sport has “the best people” and “the best coaches in the world”; if Baumann thinks he’s doing such a fantastic job, then how come his children catch a plane to Canada every time he wants them to represent someone? If things are that good here, at New Zealand High Performance Sport, why does Baumann makes sure his family swims for someone else? Presumably Baumann chose Canada for his son and daughter because he thought what Canada offered was better than what was on offer in New Zealand. It is hard to imagine Baumann sent his children back to Canada in the expectation they would be worse off. Should we be following Baumann’s example and look for a foreign ancestral home for our best swimmers? Would they be better off representing Australia, the UK, the USA or even Canada? If a man of Baumann’s experience, and doing his job, thinks swimming for Canada is best for his family, should we be concerned? Do we deserve an explanation?

Perhaps Alex Baumann, the CEO of High Performance Sport New Zealand, needs to tidy up some loose ends.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Friday, August 9th, 2013

By David

On more occasions than I care to remember Swimming New Zealand has spun the truth into a complex fabric of outright lies. They seem pathologically incapable of telling the truth. When Swimming New Zealand decided to appoint Melissa Ingram as their Communication Manager, I hoped that the truth would be a prime beneficiary. That has not happened. For example, we have already reported this bit of fabrication on the Swimming New Zealand website – “Baker, who finished in a share of fifth place in the 5km earlier in the week.” Baker wasn’t fifth, she was sixth. Website lies are becoming a specialty of the new Swimming New Zealand.

And today they are at it again. This time the boss of Sport New Zealand and the real CEO of Swimming New Zealand, Peter Miskimmin, has been talking to the Sports Editor of The Dominion Post, Jonathan Millmow. According to the Dominion Post website Millmow has been a journalist for 15 years and in 2009 won the TP McLean Award for sport’s journalism. With that experience one would think Millmow would be aware that anything a swimming administrator says needs to be checked – and that includes Peter Miskimmin. Sport administrators can err, newspapers never should.

Millmow’s article is called, “Swimming gets a big tick from Sport NZ chief”. In it Miskimmin reels off the stuff we’ve come to expect from that source – “The world championships was really pleasing; this is a very positive step forward; the beginning of building a sustainable programme,”

And then Millmow’s article comes up with a set of statistics to support Miskimmin’s glowing report on the success of Sport New Zealand’s coup d’etat at Swimming New Zealand. A public picture of success is important even if it’s not true.

But the full team statistics were five finals appearances and 12 personal bests. Personal bests were set by Boyle (1500m twice, 800m twice), Snyders (50m breaststroke three times), Sophia Batchelor (50m butterfly) and the Wellington pair of Samantha Lucie-Smith (400 individual medley, 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle) and Samantha Lee (200m butterfly).

I’ve no doubt this paragraph of rubbish is what the Sport’s Editor of the Dominion Post was told. Who told him, or whether he was deliberately lied to or was conveniently misinformed, I have no idea. And if you suspect that might be a little strong consider this.

Glenn Snyders 50 Breaststroke

Barcelona Heat 27.27, Semi 27.22, Final 27.21. Snyders’ personal best and NZ National Record is 27.06 set in the 2012 Open Championships. In four lines of text, that’s Swimming New Zealand’s first three lies.

Sophia Batchelor 50 Butterfly

Barcelona Semi 26.34. Batchelor’s personal best and NZ National Record is 26.30 set in the 2013 Open Championships. In four lines Swimming New Zealand are now scoring one lie a line.

Samantha Lucie-Smith 200 Freestyle

Barcelona Heat 1.58.87. Lucie-Smith’s personal best is 1.58.62 set in the 2013 Mare Nostrum in Canet (scroll to page 14 of the PDF) competition prior to the World Championships. That’s five lies in four lines.

Even by Swimming New Zealand’s impressive standards, five lies in four lines, most certainly is a personal best.

We’ve said this before, but there is no point in Renford telling Swimming New Zealand employees to sign off their emails and letters with words like integrity when we can’t believe a word they say. There is also little point in Swimming New Zealand employing a Communication Manager when the organization misleads the Sport’s Editor of one of the country’s leading daily newspapers. There are some people you just cannot lie to. Jonathan Millmow is one of them.

The Swimwatch view of New Zealand’s performance in Barcelona is reported in the post “A Game of Two Halves”. We are, of course biased, but we do recommend you read it. As an accurate description of what went on in Barcelona and how New Zealand performed, we are certain you will find our story will tell you more than the rubbish provided to Jonathan Millmow and published in his newspaper.