Archive for March, 2014

You Own A Book: I Hate You

Monday, March 31st, 2014

By David

Swimwatch is a blog about swimming. Only occasionally have we strayed onto other subjects. For example, rugby, hunting and track and field athletics have had a turn. Not once has there been a blog about a non-sporting event. But today an incident occurred that I find inexcusably offensive. Sufficiently unpleasant that it demands the attention of Swimwatch.

Most New Zealanders will know that Kim Dotcom owns a copy of Mein Kampf. So do I actually. The difference is the Kim Dotcom copy is an original and is signed by the author, Adolf Hitler. My copy was used as a text book during my university years studying Political Science. Kim Dotcom’s copy is clearly a financial investment. Neither of us have Mein Kampf as a biblical tome of how we should lead our lives.

However far more offensive, dangerous and subversive than owning a book is the reaction of New Zealand’s Prime Minister to its ownership. Interviewed on New Zealand television news last night John Key said, “Mein Kampf was not a book I would own.” The fact Kim Dotcom did own a copy was another reason for the Prime Minister to like him even less.

My reaction to that reactionary comment was personal and extreme. Thank you John Key for disliking me as a person because I went to a New Zealand University and studied a book you don’t like. Thank you for looking down on my efforts to understand the men and women who have changed our world. It is sad that New Zealand has a Prime Minister who would restrict my access to only those thoughts and ideas that meet his approval.

How is that different from the Nazi book burning campaign conducted by Adolf Hitler to burn books whose contents Hitler said undermined his political philosophy? After all, how far is the New Zealand Prime Minister’s reaction away from the reaction of the Nazi, Joseph Goebbels? On May 10 1933 Germany’s Minister of Propaganda told German students about to burn anti-Nazi books, “The future German man will not just be a man of books. It is to this end that we want to educate you.” Well, Goebbels and Key, we can do without an education that denies or condemns access to information. Because I own a book is no reason for the Prime Minister to personally dislike me or burn my book.

It is interesting that one of the authors condemned to burn in Nazi Germany was Karl Marx. I also have a copy of his most celebrated book, “The Communist Manifesto”. I’m pleased the Nazi’s would hate me for that. I am wondering whether that too puts me further off side with the Prime Minister of my country.

John Key needs to understand that men like my father went to Europe to fight the Nazis for many reasons. One of them though was to defend the freedom of ideas; even those ideas we might not like. In the case of my Dad he lost an arm and an eye on the side of an Italian mountain called Monte Cassino, in part, so I could study “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto”; in part so that Kim Dotcom could own a signed original. My father did not leave body parts in a foreign battlefield to have a New Zealand Prime Minister tell us both that he personally did not like us because we owned or read a book, even a book whose philosophy we absolutely reject.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, obviously has no idea that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Take note Key, one of the laws your government passed says that Kim Dotcom can “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media” even when it does mean owning an original signed copy. And Kim Dotcom can expect to do that without suffering your petty and spiteful effort to question his freedom.

Last weekend I attended the Central Zone Swimming Championships in Hamilton. See there is a swimming side to this story. We stayed in a lovely country cottage rented to us by a warm and welcoming host. Actually the owner, we discovered, is the father-in-law of the well-known ex-conservative politician, Rodney Hide. During the weekend we were shown our host’s amazing collection of World War 2 memorabilia. We saw Nazi helmets, fragments of the Auschwitz death wall and salt from Polish labour camps. Does that mean Rodney Hide has married into a family of Nazi sympathisers? And if it does, why did John Key form a government with Rodney Hide? The whole idea is preposterous and stupid. We were guests of lovely New Zealanders who have some items of real historical interest. Rodney Hide is fortunate to have them as in-laws.

My point is that Key’s Dotcom tirade is equally preposterous and stupid. I am told that 17 Auckland libraries have copies of Mein Kampf. Is Key about to ask the Mayor, Len Brown, to have them removed and burnt and will he dislike the man if the request is declined?

But one good thing has come from the John Key revelation on New Zealand news. Any questions I might have had about who to vote for at the General Election later this year have been answered in full measure. Much as I support Kim Dotcom’s freedom to own a signed original of Mein Kampf, I will not be voting for the personable media giant. Even more certain I will never again vote for John Key or his party. In one interview he committed a deep personal obscenity. In one interview he made himself too dangerous to vote for by half. And so it is time to choose between Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First. I wonder if Winston’s ever read Mein Kampf?


Perhaps The Pinnacle Of Stupidity

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

By David

Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand is pathetic, it really is. They increase fees outside the sport’s regulations. They lie about their altitude camp. They spin the amount of popular support for their Trial’s decisions. And now they’ve trump all that with this unbelievable bit of incompetence.

FINA Rule GR5.4 says “Before any swimwear of new design, construction or material is used in competition, the manufacturer of such swimwear must submit the swimwear to FINA and obtain approval of FINA.”

Did you note the phrase that says, “in competition” and “obtain approval of FINA.”

And yet on the Swimming New Zealand website they promote merchandise available at the Trials with this advertisement.

NZ Open Merchandise online now

Merchandise for the 2014 State New Zealand Open Championships is available online now through Teamline. Click here to check it out and get your orders in.

And so I clicked “here” and ended up looking at a Teamline website promoting products for sale at the Trials. Foremost among the suits was one called the “Teamline GOLD Kneeskin Racesuit – Blueseventy

Included in the small print describing the suit I found the following comment.

These suits have been passed by Swimming New Zealand for all domestic competitions. These suits are NOT FINA approved, but they comply with all FINA regulations

Would you bloody believe it Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand has approved a swim suit without FINA sanction. Not only that the new Miskimmin Swimming New Zealand is promoting its sale. And their authorized agent is planning to sell a suit that is way outside FINA Rule GR 5.4; that for international Trials competition is as illegal as sin. Is there anything Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand won’t do? If there is a dollar or a new Mazda at stake, is nothing off limits? If I designed a new brand of steroid, not yet banned, would they promote that as well?

Mind you I should not be surprised. After all this is the lot who told me the Kilbirnie Pool met all FINA’s Rules; told me that is until a young girl from Raumati lost her front teeth on the bottom of the Kilbirnie swimming pool. With that as the standard why should we be surprised when they promote suits banned by FINA Rule GR 5.4.

After all the first statement on the meet flier for the Trials says, “This meet will be swum under SNZ Regulations.” Well that’s not true. Because in their precious Regulations you will find Rule GR 5.4. You know, the one that says, “in competition” and “obtain approval of FINA.”

But I should not be surprised. After all this is the lot who increased our fees way outside the Regulations. What’s another rule violation here or there? Nothing at all it seems. Not when you are a Miskimmin chosen one.

I do hope no one wearing one of these suits wins a race or qualifies for the Commonwealth Games. I do hope no one wearing one of these suits breaks a New Zealand or World record. I do hope no one wearing one of these suits beats any West Auckland Aquatics swimmer. Because if any of those things happen, I’ll have $50 available to protest Swimming New Zealand’s illegal behaviour.

Mind you I expect to lose the deposit. Have you ever seen this lot accept responsibility for anything?

Central Swimming

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

By David

I have just come home from the Central Swimming Long Course Swimming Championships. As usual the meet was held in the Te Rapa Pool in Hamilton. It’s a good meet involving teams from the four Central Regions; Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay. The organizers allow swimmers from outside the four regions to enter but will only let two foreign qualifiers into the three tier A, B and C finals. That does seem a little tough. One of the goals of the meet should be to improve the standard of Central swimmers. Allowing a few more foreign qualifiers into the finals could benefit the standard of the meet. My vote would be to allow four foreign swimmers through, two eligible for the A final and two, depending on their heat time, consigned to the B or C final.

The suggestion is certainly not a complaint; far from it. It is a suggestion that may add to a well-run and good occasion. The standard of swimmers in the four domestic Regions merits exposure to as much worthy competition as possible. A few years ago Don Talbot, the Australian national Coach, ordered that no foreign swimmers could swim in the final of the Australian Championships if the event was also an Olympic, Commonwealth or World Championship Trial. A swimmer of mine, Toni Jeffs, was directly affected as she always qualified in the top eight of their 50 and 100 metres freestyle. I thought the decision was cowardly and told the Sydney morning paper that Talbot was chicken. Certainly the standard of Australian swimming declined after Talbot’s announcement. Whether the decline was causal we will never know. But – the idea of taking on all-comers, anytime, anywhere, has always seemed, to me, to be a good one.

The meet this weekend in Hamilton left me with the impression that the union of Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay was a good one and deserved support and encouragement. Mind you, I have a vested interest. Many readers will be aware that I unconditionally support the federal model of strong Regions. If this Championship meet improves the standard of swimming in these Regions then “all-power” to it. I did hear that the Waikato Region and its principal backer Simon Perry may be unhappy with some decisions supported by the other three Regions; overseas travel for example. It would be disappointing if the dissatisfaction of Waikato damaged the strength of the individual members.

I would be less than surprised if the Perry Foundation was using its financial power to push Waikato into a Wellington style sycophantic appendage of Swimming New Zealand. To a complete outsider, cuddling up to the big boys seems to be a Perry preference. I am certain all the Waikato Region’s dealings are honest and transparent. However I have never felt comfortable about the same individual being President of the Region, President of one of the Region’s biggest clubs and Chairman of one of the sport’s major source of funds. The separation of duties is a key concept of good management control these days. One would be excused for wondering if Waikato should consider whether its administration currently complies with best management practice.

We currently live in a time when Swimming New Zealand is hook-line-and-sinker into centralized power. The Millennium Institute is the best example of their totalitarianism at work. However the swallowing of Wairarapa and Wanganui into Wellington was also asset stripping centralism on a “Slater Walker” scale. Those two Regions would have been far better served by joining Manawatu in a union of southern central Regions. Their independence and strength would have been preserved to counter the power grab of the Renford and Layton mob. I had to laugh at the list of benefits SNZ said were going to accrue to Wairarapa swimmers from an amalgamation with Wellington. They included improved standards, support for coaches and pathways for Wairarapa swimmers. When the Regions no longer exist there is little prospect of realizing this Promised Land.

If anyone in Waikato expresses a wish to see their Region linked to Auckland, stomp on the idea and its promoters quickly and severely. Northland and Counties should be similarly cautious. Layton and Renford will use the new Regional Constitution to diminish the power of the Regions. They have achieved much already. The sport of swimming depends on each Region, and especially the smaller Regions strengthening their independent power and influence. That duty was stolen from Wairarapa and Wanganui. It should not happen again.

And so you can see why I enjoyed my weekend in Hamilton. Swimmers from four “rural” Regions provided three days of good swimming. The strength of Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay was on display for all to see. Our team of four women swimmers did pretty well. Between them they won the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle, the 100 and 200 breaststroke and made finals in the 50 and 100 free, the 50 breaststroke and the 100 backstroke. And so thank you Central Zone, thank you Stu Woods, for a well-run and enjoyable weekend.

One interesting topic was discussed at the meet. Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance Director, Luis Villanueva was at the meet. On the SNZ website he is reported as saying, “This year, on the feedback from coaches and clubs, we have reduced the championships from six days to four.”

Well my club and I were never asked. I decided to ask around and find out who had voted for the ridiculous decision to reduce the National Championships to four days. I asked three coaches in Hamilton. None of them was asked. Today I rang two of Auckland’s most senior coaches; coaches who both have national team members in their squads. Neither of them was asked. So who did provide SNZ with this feedback? Quite frankly Luis Villanueva I don’t believe you. I think your coach’s feedback came from Lyles, Loader and maybe Hurring. I’m fine with you proving me wrong by publishing your mailing list and the voting figures that resulted in the Championships becoming an object of ridicule. You see when SNZ lie to us about there being no sickness problems at their altitude camp and increase our fees in violation of the rules, we are understandably cautious about anything any of you say. Certainly until you prove it, I don’t believe you got the widespread endorsement your comment implies.

Swimming New Zealand Dumped

Friday, March 21st, 2014

By David

What else could go wrong? In a week when Lauren Boyle, Swimming New Zealand’s best swimmer, had to be send home, dehydrated and exhausted, from a much flaunted altitude camp in Arizona; in a week when Swimming New Zealand tried to hide Boyle’s training problems with a lie that said, “There’s been no major illness or disasters, so in terms of adaptation to the environment we’ve had no issues”; in a week when Christian Renford, Swimming New Zealand’s CEO described the cover up as an “administrative oversight”; surely nothing else could go wrong.

But this is the new Miskimmin Swimming New Zealand we are talking about. Cock-up superlatives are its specialty. But this one surprised even me. State Insurance took their money elsewhere. They dumped the Swimming New Zealand sponsorship; said thank you, goodbye and buggered off.

Of course everybody said the right things. Roger Wallace, General Manager for State Insurance, said: “State is moving in a different direction with its sponsorship strategy. However, this is no reflection on the quality and success of our sponsorship with Swimming New Zealand. We’re extremely proud of what’s been achieved during our partnership with Swimming New Zealand. At an elite level, State is also proud to have been a major sponsor of the AquaBlacks. Above our sponsorship of the elite athletes, State has jointly helped to create a highly successful learn to swim programme with Swimming New Zealand – the State Kiwi Swim Safe programme”.

After the other events of this week it is difficult to know what to believe when the source is Swimming New Zealand. However, and for what it’s worth, CEO Christian Renford looked back on a great partnership between the two organisations.  “Whilst it is sad to part ways, we respect and appreciate the commitment State Insurance has shown to our sport since 2010. They have been nothing but a pleasure to work with.

“During this time Swimming New Zealand has undergone significant organisational change and has achieved many successes both in and out of the water. Accordingly we believe that we are now in the position to offer a sound investment for new commercial partners and we are actively pursuing opportunities. A key focus of State’s partnership has been Swimming New Zealand’s Kiwi Swim Safe programme. State Insurance and its staff, have great values and a willingness to make a difference in the community, values shared by Swimming New Zealand,” Mr Renford said.

Of course it all sounds as fake as two lovers claiming to still be “the best of friends”. Swimming New Zealand must be pissed. They’ve just lost a bucket load of money. The prospects for replacing any of it rest again on poor old Lauren Boyle’s dehydrated and exhausted shoulders.

Just look at some of the stuff Renford says, “Swimming New Zealand has achieved many successes out of the water.” That must be a reference to stripping the Regions of their power and replacing Coulter, Cameron and Byrne with Layton, Lyles and Renford. Well, I guess Renford is entitled to believe that his appointment is a success. The rest of us are not so sure. Not so sure at all.

And then this gem. “State Insurance and its staff, have great values; values shared by Swimming New Zealand,” Mr Renford said. Tell me do these values include this week’s monumental cover up of Lauren Boyle’s problems? I don’t think State Insurance would want to share those values, one little bit.

Then Renford goes on to say. “A key focus of State’s partnership has been Swimming New Zealand’s Kiwi Swim Safe programme.” Renford might say that, but State Insurance must have been acutely aware that the Moller Report’s first and second recommendations involved abandoning the activity State Insurance were most interested in funding. Recommendation One says, “That the sport fully endorses the future role and purpose of SNZ. This is to Support the growth and performance of the sport of competitive swimming – from entry level Club competitive swimmers to elite High Performance athletes.” No mention of water safety or learn to swim.

Recommendation Two goes on to emphasis the lack of interest Swimming New Zealand has in the State Insurance funded learn to swim when it says, “Transfer ‘teach the teachers’ function from SNZ. SNZ will no longer deliver the “Teach the Teachers” Learn to Swim program.”

It may be fair to say that Swimming New Zealand is now paying the price for an obsessive involvement in their nationalised swim school in Auckland. Training elite swimmers is none of their business. They are now paying for that preoccupation, big time.

I noticed another quote in the Moller Report. “While the sport can be positively characterised by the strong volunteer base and the passionate and committed people within the sport, it is also undermined by potential loss of or reduced sponsorship.” Well if the old Swimming New Zealand was tarnished by a “loss of or reduced sponsorship” I wonder what Moller makes of the performance so far of his new Miskimmin Swimming New Zealand? This loss of sponsorship beats anything Coulter, Cameron or Byrne managed.

Of course financially none of this matters a toss. Swimming New Zealand will carry on with their high altitude junkets, their fleet of leather and chrome Mazdas and their new Auckland offices. Miskimmin is so committed to his new Swimming New Zealand project; committed up to his eye balls, that the government “state” will make up the funding short fall. That’s you and me brother, the ever generous tax payer. I have little doubt that Swimming New Zealand will abandon learn to swim. I can’t see Miskimmin wanting to pay for that. Water Safety New Zealand will take over the role of saving lives and Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand will try and convince someone with money that they are good at coaching fast swimmers.

Well done Christian Renford. Well done on a fine week; a week that has cost the sport of swimming its reputation for honesty and close to a million dollars of corporate sponsorship. I guess it’s not a week Christian Renford will want to highlight on his Resume for his next position in sport. He may need to take a look at that Resume though. Peter Miskimmin is not known for taking kindly to failures like this week in one of his pet sporting projects.

Do You See Now Why Swimwatch Is Here?

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

By David

Many readers of Swimwatch will have read the Simon Plumb article published today on the “Stuff” news website. I do admire this main stream journalist for reporting SNZ’s bad behaviour.  I have summarized Plumb’s report below.

Illness has forced champion swimmer Lauren Boyle to curtail altitude training in Arizona. Unable to shake a virus, Boyle, 26, was taken to hospital by Swimming New Zealand staff on Tuesday evening (NZT), suffering exhaustion and dehydration. The following day the 800m world short-course champion, and triple world long-course medallist, flew back to Auckland ahead of schedule.

Swimming NZ chose not to make any information about Boyle’s health or early departure public, and on the same day staff escorted her to hospital, the organisation issued a media release entitled “altitude stint heightens hopes for New Zealand swimmers”. The release included a statement from head coach David Lyles which declared: “There’s been no major illness or disasters, so in terms of adaptation to the environment we’ve had no issues.”

When contacted by the Sunday Star-Times, chief executive Christian Renford admitted the media release was inaccurate and that he and his high-performance team were aware of Boyle’s situation. Renford claimed “an administrative oversight” was behind his taxpayer-funded organisation’s failure to make the facts clear, adding “there was probably no thought given” to issuing a correction. “I’m probably being vague, I don’t have that information at hand.” Renford said he had been in contact with Boyle and she had “probably” returned to training.

Here is the release in question.

Just when you think SNZ is incapable of any greater dishonesty, just when you think SNZ can’t do worse than increase prices against their own rules or hold fake North Korean style elections, SNZ further practice further to deceive.  Dear God how long is this sport going to have to struggle through this Miskimmin inspired trash?

Can you believe it? At the same time as New Zealand’s best swimmer was being taken to an American hospital suffering from dehydration and exhaustion the SNZ website was saying this.

  1. “New Zealand’s elite swimmers have chalked up record mileage despite the challenge of training at altitude.”

  2. “Lyles is pleased with both the effort and the quality of the training, with the squad completing up to 12 sessions per week, which is more than they achieve at their training bases in Auckland and Wellington.”

  3. “Compared to Sierra Nevada (Spain) last year, those who were there have done comparable better this time in both quantity and quality. The coaching staff have monitored each athlete every morning and have made a few changes and switched some sessions to allow more recovery. There’s been no major illness or disasters, so in terms of adaptation to the environment we’ve had no issues.”

  4. “It has been a good experience and hopefully very valuable for the preparation. The more exposure to the altitude environment then the better they will be in the long run.”

And the whole thing was just a monumental “orchestrated litany of lies”. At the same time as we were all being fed this rubbish, Lauren Boyle, the poster girl of the sport, the figurehead on which Miskimmin, Layton, Renford, Villanueva and Lyles depend for their jobs was lying on a stretcher in an Arizona Hospital about to fly home, unable to complete the camp that had cost the New Zealand taxpayer a fortune.

Actually Lauren Boyle was at our home pool this afternoon swimming an easy 1000 meters recovery session. Makes me think that Boyle knows more about the training she needs than those who lie about her preparation. For three years now she has had five different coaches (McKeever, Regan, Villanueva, Sweetenham and Lyles); has been backwards and forwards to altitude training in the Northern Hemisphere at least four times and has swum in two World Championships and one Mare Nostrum series. No wonder she’s buggered.

For three years every time Lauren Boyle has turned around, her sport, her coach, her government and her country have demanded performance. My guess is that every coach has pushed harder and harder, faster and faster knowing that their job security depends on exploiting the Boyle well of talent.

Actually I should know. I once coached Toni Jeffs, New Zealand’s best sprint swimmer. Toni was good. She won a bronze medal at what was then the world short course championships and qualified to swim at the Barcelona Olympic Games. My response was to push her training harder and harder. Lyles talks about doing twelve sessions a week. That’s nothing. Including weights Toni was doing seventeen sessions. Lyles talks about swimming 80 kilometres in a week. Toni was doing ten weeks of 100 or more. And the quality wasn’t too bad. I remember a session of 20×66 metres, in the Freyberg Pool in Wellington, all swum in under 39 seconds.

I made the worst coaching mistake of all. With overwork I exploited the very talent that had brought Toni her swimming success. At the Barcelona Olympic Games the product of my folly was plain to see. Toni ended up 23rd in an event she should have made the top eight final. In my view SNZ are guilty of similar mismanagement; as guilty as sin.

In my own defence, I have never hidden from the mistakes I made in Toni’s preparation. I certainly never said, it was just an “administrative oversight” or that “There’s been no major illness or disasters, so in terms of adaptation to the environment we’ve had no issues.” And that’s what I despise in this SNZ story. What SNZ have done is not an “administrative oversight”, it is a bloody lie.

They are dealing with athletes at a level where honesty is paramount, where good and bad, right and wrong, triumph and disaster are “imposters just the same”.

And so let me conclude by saying to every swimmer in New Zealand, including Lauren Boyle, are you really sure that those who would lie about your preparation for their own ends should be made responsible for your swimming career? Can they be trusted? Is their standard of living more important than your swimming life? Are you a lamb they are prepared to sacrifice?

Their actions are not looking good. If it was me I’d stay well away from their Millennium Institute. Home seems like a safer and a better place.