Archive for August, 2013

A Game Of Two Halves

Monday, August 5th, 2013

By David

It has been an interesting week; watching the world’s best swimmers performing in Barcelona. For some time I was unsure what I thought about the results of New Zealand’s swimmers. Was the $1.7million tax payer dollars spent preparing this team justified by the results. Had the foreigners employed by Miskimmin to run swimming in New Zealand made a difference? Were Renford, Lyles, Layton and Villanueva really wise men from the east bearing gifts of gold, silver and bronze?

But then, as the week drew to a close, what we were watching came into focus. This really was a game of two halves, or at least a team of two halves – Lauren Boyle and then the rest. And that fact confirmed the validity of our opposition to the Miskimmin/Swimming New Zealand training empire. Their state program competes against every club in the country and without reservation they spent $1.7 million and they failed again. Consider this.

Lauren Boyle has had a successful meet – a very successful meet. Three bronze medals and a string of personal best times is a fine result. She deserves full praise for a job well done. Those that beat her, Ledecky, Costa Schmid, and Friis are exceptional talents. Lauren Boyle is now a fully paid up member of the same class. Prior to the meet the Swimming World website described Lauren Boyle as a “dark horse” in the distance events. There is nothing dark about Lauren Boyle any more. It would not be overstating the position to say that to beat Lauren Boyle in Barcelona took world record swims. Because, in the 1500 (15.36.33) and 800 (8.13.86), that’s exactly what Ledecky had to do. As Mohammed Ali once said, Lauren Boyle, “you done splendid”.

But how much did Miskimmin’s millions contribute to the success of Lauren Boyle? The answer is very little. How do we know? Well consider Lauren Boyle’s history and the results of the rest of the New Zealand Barcelona team.

Like every swimmer in New Zealand, Lauren Boyle learned her trade in a regular club program. That experience nurtured a swimmer good enough to attract the attention of one of America’s finest college (university) swim teams – Cal Berkeley’s Golden Bears. Boyle was offered a scholarship to study and compete in their program. For four years Boyle’s swimming career was placed in the hands of the Cal Head Coach, Teri McKeever. With considerable justification McKeever is described on the Cal website as “one of the best swimming mentors in the United States”.

Lauren Boyle had just dodged a bullet. Instead of going off to study at the AUT Campus in Mairangi Bay and train at the Swimming New Zealand state run farce at the Millennium Institute, in 2006 Lauren Boyle caught a Boeing 747 to San Francisco and became a world class athlete. In 2006 Boyle swam around 4.20 for 400 meters, 8.53 for 800 meters and 17.30 for 1500 meters. In four years of very hard work and world class attention all that changed. The Boyle who came back to New Zealand in 2010 now swam the same three events in 4.07, 8.35 and 16.11(Cal yards converted).

More importantly, Boyle was a knowledgeable, toughened competitor, tempered in the unforgiving fire of American NCAA swimming. Her resume includes, three-time All-American at NCAA Championships in the 500-yard freestyle (2nd), 800-free relay (2nd) and 1650 free (3rd). Boyle won the 500 free at the 2010 Pac-10 Championships in a then-career-best time of 4:38.77, was second in the 1650 and fifth in the 200 free. In the world’s toughest school Lauren Boyle proved her worth. The only question was – would Swimming New Zealand screw up a good thing? Well, they gave it their best shot.

They changed coaches on her six times. She put up with more variations in training philosophy in four months of Swimming New Zealand than in four years at Cal. In twenty years coaching at the University of California, Teri McKeever’s single biggest achievement is that she prepared Lauren Boyle to survive Swimming New Zealand. Lauren Boyle will be used by the Miskimmin gang to justify another three years of tax payer largesse. But Boyle’s medals are the product of her own courage and McKeever’s talent. Lauren Boyle did well in Barcelona in spite of Swimming New Zealand; not because of them.

And how do we know this? Well just look at the performance of the rest of the team; swimmers whose “Cal Berkeley” experience was provided by Swimming New Zealand. Swimmers who were taken from their club programs to train in the New Zealand government’s Wellington and North Shore swim teams.  The Swimming New Zealand website tells me these socialist programs are, all about excellence. It’s not about ‘we can be winners’, it’s about ‘we are winners’. And more importantly, ‘we will be bigger winners’. That attitude is not bravado: it is built on knowledge, experience, commitment, and above all a sound strategy to deliver.”

Well these swimmers (excluding Lauren Boyle remember) competed in twenty six races; no one won a race; small or big there were no winners in Barcelona; the average placing by a New Zealander in the heats was 18th; two swimmers made two finals; two swimmers swam three personal best times; that’s a scandalous PB ratio of only 11%. Every club coach in New Zealand would be asked to explain what went wrong if their swimmers failed to swim a personal best 89% of the time. It is cause for real concern. New Zealander’s paid $1.7 million to buy an 89% failure rate. By any standard, and with the exception of Lauren Boyle, nothing has changed. It’s the same old, same old. The lot that run the government’s Millennium Institute swim school wouldn’t know how to beat an egg.

But the name and performance of Lauren Boyle will be used to justify Miskimmin’s coup d’etat of swimming in New Zealand. In the next three years the New Zealand government will spend $6 million financing its Wellington and North Shore swim schools. And, come the Rio Games, do you know what it will have bought – the same old, same old.