By David

The America’s Cup series got me thinking about the New Zealanders involved in the Oracle and the Team New Zealand campaigns. Of the sixteen crew on Oracle, seven were New Zealanders. On Team New Zealand thirteen of the sixteen crew were New Zealanders. Of course the bosses of both teams were New Zealanders; Sir Russell Coutts from Dunedin and Grant Dalton from Auckland. Both the boats were built in New Zealand; Oracle by Core Builders Composites in Warkworth and Aotearoa by Cookson Boats in Auckland.

The message is as clear as crystal. New Zealanders do sport bloody well. In fact when you think about it our best sporting moments have been driven by New Zealanders. For example the Rusty Robertson and Dick Tonks eras in rowing, the Fred Allen, Sir Brian Lahore and and Sir Graham Henry rugby years, the track triumphs of Arthur Lydiard and Arch Jelley, the swim coaching of Duncan Laing, Sir Peter Blake around the world on a boat called Steinlarger, Graham Lowe’s Rugby League coaching record even a horse called Kiwi winning the Melbourne Cup. The list is endless; successful sport done by New Zealanders, for New Zealanders.

But the facts produce an interesting enigma. The world’s fifth richest man scours the world to recruit a team capable of winning the America’s Cup and settles on New Zealand talent. New Zealand talent that then wins him sport’s oldest trophy again and again. Compare that decision and match that result, with the thrashing antics of Peter Miskimmin; Miskimmin’s policy of anyone but a kiwi. He went to Canada to find the boss of High Performance Sport New Zealand. He’s been to Australia and England to find national swimming coaches. He imported an Australian to tell us how to run Swimming New Zealand. He thought a Spaniard was best qualified to guide New Zealand’s senior – notice I avoid the word elite – swimming program.

And it is serious. Serious, because imported aliens are not as good at sport as New Zealanders. Serious, because, in the sport of swimming, the use of imported aliens has raped and plundered talented New Zealanders. Every time Miskimmin appoints a foreigner to coach at the Millennium Institute the quality of New Zealand coaches is reduced. Every time Miskimmin appoints a Spaniard or a Pom or an Australian or a Canadian to manage some part of Swimming New Zealand the quality of domestic sport’s administrators is diminished.

The uninformed accuse Sir Russell Coutts of disloyalty. I tell you what. In terms of hiring New Zealanders to work for him, in terms of placing multimillion dollar contracts with New Zealand company’s Coutts has done more to strengthen New Zealand yachting and the New Zealand boat building industry than any man alive. Just imagine the New Zealanders who have full time rewarding careers sailing or building boats as a direct result of Sir Russell Coutts loyalty to his homeland. Certainly Coutts has done more for his sport in New Zealand than Miskimmin has done for swimming. What else could explain a sport where Miskimmin has a Spaniard trimming swimming’s sails a Canadian directing the tactics, a Pom coaching the crew, and an Australian building the boat? Russell Coutts has forgotten more about loyalty to New Zealand than Miskimmin ever knew. A fact closely related to the success of their personal sporting careers. Coutts is a winner.

I have spent the past week at the New Zealand Short Course Swimming Championships. The only Swimming New Zealand employees who spoke to me were New Zealanders; Gary Hurring and, surprisingly, Donna Bouzaid. After the years of abuse the sport of swimming suffered at the hands of Miskimmin’s aliens it is not surprising that some of us do not trust members of the new regime. Neither should we. The stuff that went on cannot be forgiven overnight. If the Canadians, Australians, Poms and Spanish want our trust then they must earn it. Their predecessors bled us dry. We do not want that to happen again. Failing to communicate, never visiting our program is not the best of starts.

However in Wellington that changed. Donna Bouzaid came up into the stands and asked how things were going. And you see; that’s all it takes. Someone at Swimming New Zealand seemed to care. A couple of short conversations will not mend the hurt of ten years but the effort of Donna Bouzaid is a start – a very good start. And it came from a New Zealander. So thank you Donna. The Coach at West Auckland was grateful and impressed and will act accordingly.

It’s off the point but Swimwatch readers will be aware that the Kilbirnie Pool has occupied quite a bit of Swimwatch time. But at these Championships it was not the pool depth that caused concern. One of my swimmers vehemently claimed the pool had a current. I dismissed the notion as the product of an overactive mind. However, then I noticed an interesting fact. New Zealand’s best swimmer, Lauren Boyle, took seventeen strokes to swim one way in the competition pool and eighteen strokes swimming in the other direction. In the heats and finals of the 200 freestyle it was the same story; seventeen strokes one way, eighteen the other. Was my swimmer right? When the pool is converted to 25 metres, is there a current in the Kilbirnie Pool that puts New Zealand swimmers at a disadvantage? It should be checked.

  • Clive Rushton

    There is a current. There always has been a current. It’s a strong current. It’s a different strength of current on the stand side to the window side. Next time you’re there, between sessions when the pool is empty, scrunch up a piece of paper and drop it in the window-side shallow end. Watch.

  • David

    Thank you for that information – Clive. That sort of thing is important if Swimming New Zealand and Swimming Wellington are going to insist on having major event qualifying meets at the Kilbirnie Pool. Perhaps they don’t care. Perhaps they think it’s just fine to ask Usain Bolt to run uphill on a muddy path. Swimmers have a duty to perform, but officials have an absolute obligation to provide swimmers with international conditions. The Layton, Renford organisation could well be failing to meet that responsibility.