Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

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.


  • David

    And then the Swimming New Zealand website makes this claim, “The tally of 10 swimmers qualifying for semifinals was the second highest total since the championship began behind the team in 2005.”
    The truth is that that only 5 swimmers qualified for a semifinal or better. Those people at SNZ seem incapable of telling the truth.

  • Stevie

    David, You recorded the present “mistakes” that SNZ’s media contractor or the communications manager made in their public reporting of HP swimmers’ performances. I agree in connection with BCN 2013 and I have seen it before, many times. It has to stop. It is a disgrace. Swimwatch is doing analysis for free: why can’t SNZ’s paid PR professionals do some too and state it correctly?

    The SNZ media people, including Melissa Ingram, have to do better. I yhink they let down swimming in NZ with web stories or sound bytes that seem like informed opinion or reliable fact, but aren’t.

    Here’s an instance. On radio last Sunday morning, in an interview, straight after the Kiwi podium in the 800, a SNZ media person said that it is a post-Olympic year and so the World Champs were a bit soft. This implied to ‘listeners that a 800 bronze might have been unlikely in any other year.

    Why that would be offered by someone on SNZ’s payroll, I don’t know. In any event the statement was woefully astray.

    While there have been instances of that in the past, the global expert opinion on BCN 2013 has been the opposite. Many BCN 2013 finals times had, by then, told the story – as competitive as London 2012 easily.

    The fact of red-hot competition was as plain as the nose on your face by Day 7. In freestyle, Ledecky’s Day 1 performance had set the tone…her 400 final saw the first woman ever to go under 4 minutes in a textile suit. Katie Ledecky, also, naturally, ripped up the 800 free. That Barcelona women’s 800 made London look like a cake walk – the Olympic silver time (8.18.76) was slower than the bronze at Barcelona.

    Ledecky was made in the same factory as Phelps – I expect the SNZ media people know that. But what else do they know? Not much I suggest, based on Melissa Ingram’s sound byte.