Do You See Now Why Swimwatch Is Here?

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.


  • David

    SNZ have just published another story on their website about the altitude training camp. It’s full of feel good messages about visiting the local mall and birthday cakes. But there is no effort to correct the lies and misinformation contained in their first message. They are disgusting; made worse by SNZ’s integrity and accountability claims sent out in every email. For Renford accountability, in this case, would involve a three hour flight to the west – one way. His organization lied to the membership and Reford seems incapable of correcting the error.