Archive for May, 2014

It’s Time For A Review Of The Sport

Monday, May 19th, 2014

By David

Every month or so the Chairmen of all New Zealand’s swimming Regions have a conference call meeting with Brent Layton, the Chairman of Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand. Now, and I am deadly serious about this, the sport of swimming, as delivered by Miskimmin’s Swimming New Zealand, is in serious need of a comprehensive Review.

I know that the ex-cricket administrator Chris Moller did a Review recently but the changes he made are not working. Every day the sport drifts into a deeper, darker abyss. I never thought anything could make the sport Jan Cameron and Mike Byrne left behind look halcyon, but Miskimmin’s replacements have achieved that in bucket loads.

Surely there are Chairmen of Regions out there who can see the present destruction. I know Berge won’t agree. For some reason he seems to think swimming has achieved a celestial state of grace. But Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay, Nelson, Canterbury and Southland – someone must realize the facts do not support the spin.

There should be a call for a Review to examine what has occurred since Miskimmin assumed control of swimming. The Regions should fund the Review; Miskimmin will never fund an examination of himself. It should be conducted by a real swimming expert. I suggest, Brian Palmer, Clive Rushton or Mark Schubert – or possibly all three. Now there are three men you can trust to come up with a structure that will win an Olympic swimming race. Get their plan and I guarantee that swimming people, me included, would support it without reservation. I mean Berge and his mates will probably huff and puff and claim insurrection and treason. However the sport depends on doing the right thing.

And if Layton says the Review is not needed or tries to veto the idea, the Regions should do it anyway and pay for it themselves. But, I hear you say, does the condition of the sport really merit such a revolutionary proposal.

For months now the pages of Swimwatch have recorded events that should not occur in a well-run sport. However this last week has witnessed a sudden downward spiral in the fortunes of Miskimmin’s swimming empire. You may have read about it in a Sunday Star Times item written by Simon Plumb. I recommend the Chairman of every Region read the story. The picture it paints is pretty bloody bad. Here is a much abbreviated summary to give you the flavour of what Plumb has found.

Swimming New Zealand faces questions over the services being provided to 2016 Olympic medal prospect Lauren Boyle and the efficiency of its $1.4 million-a-year, taxpayer-funded national high-performance programme.

On the eve of the Commonwealth Games, triple world championships medallist Boyle has extracted herself from Swimming NZ’s elite Auckland base, and the tuition of national coach David Lyles, to head for Barcelona to train under esteemed French coach Fred Vergnoux.

The need for Boyle to relocate her own training raises questions over Swimming NZ’s capacity to cater for the Rio 2016 medal prospect – the brightest talent New Zealand swimming has seen in years, and an athlete who has blossomed in the face of multiple coaching changes and years of well-documented, dysfunctional governance from Swimming NZ.

While Swimming NZ’s coaching ranks have been expanding in personnel, Boyle has become the latest athlete to move away from the national programme those coaches operate.

Top male swimmer Glenn Snyders has been based in California for more than a year. Others from the high-performance programme to leave include Shaun Burnett and Michael Mincham (who are both based in Australia – where Kiwi Olympian Matt Stanley is also a regular visitor for training).

World short-course swimming champion Boyle has confirmed to the Sunday Star-Times that her decision to change her coaching and training base was made only “four to five days” before leaving the country last Saturday. She had spent the previous 10 days remotely mapping out a work programme with Vergnoux.

Lyles, the Briton who was appointed national coach a year ago, initially directed a call from the Star-Times to Swimming NZ’s media personnel “because that’s how we do things in this country”, but then downplayed the haste of Boyle’s relocation, claiming the possibility had been discussed between himself, high-performance director Luis Villanueva and Boyle herself “for weeks.”

Swimming NZ chief executive Christian Renford was unable to complete an interview with the Star-Times on Friday. Renford agreed to continue the interview yesterday, but failed to respond to calls and voicemails.

It seems to me that the Miskimmin swim school, that costs the tax payer $1.4 million each year, is now coaching one swimmer that has qualified for an individual event at the Commonwealth Games. Over a million dollars for one swimmer – that must be cause enough to initiate a Review. Jan Cameron did way better than that. Duncan Laing did way better than that with no government money. A dozen coaches have done better than the current Miskimmin swim school. Good God, even the author of Swimwatch has done better than that.

Add to that the huge contradiction between Boyle’s account of making her decision in the “last four to five days” and Lyle’s account that Boyle’s escape had been discussed “for weeks”, and it becomes very difficult to know what to believe. My money is on Boyle’s version. I’m not sure, but I think Lyle was the one who told us that no one was sick in Arizona when Boyle was already back in New Zealand doing short, easy swims at the West Wave swimming pool; trying her best to recover from something.

And finally Miskimmin’s new CEO, Christian Renford, appears to be hiding from the press. According to Plumb, Renford fails to finish interviews and does not “respond to calls and voice mail”. If all that is true the Chairmen of the Swimming New Zealand Regions must do something about it. The care of the sport demands that they do. If their employee, the figurehead of the sport is dodging senior members of the press the Regions have a bound duty to take action.

Plumb’s questions needed answering. Renford is paid to provide those answers and according to Plumb’s account Renford did not do that. The wheels are coming off Miskimmin’s swimming empire. The Millennium concept is coming apart at the seams. The centralised model is failing faster than any of us could have imagined. The Regions have a duty of care. During their next conference call they must exercise that care. They must earn our trust.

Next week Swimwatch want to discuss the importance of turning Miskimmin’s performance and policies into an election year issue. Waste of these proportions needs to be subject to the democratic process.

What Is The Truth Of All This?

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

By David

I see the Swimming New Zealand website is doing its usual impersonation of a Billy T James comedy script. It is an interesting fact that there are members of the Miskimmin Swimming New Zealand community who would like nothing more than to see Swimwatch silenced, and who knows one day their wish may well be realized. Many readers probably view the content of Swimwatch as negative and uncalled for criticism, not to be tolerated in the brave new world of Miskimmin’s swimming empire. It seems there is little tolerance of dissent in the new Swimming New Zealand. I suspect Miskimmin minions prefer grievances to be processed through their formal constitutional channels. That way rebellion can be controlled, channelled, filed and ignored. Swimwatch on the other hand is free and out of their control. And that, they just cannot stomach or allow.

But until Swimwatch is silenced let’s look at the latest tall tales and true, published by the party’s central committee. The item this week is about the Oceania Championships being swum at the West Wave Pool in Henderson. The press release begins by saying:

All of the New Zealand team for Glasgow are competing aside from US-based Glenn Snyders and Corey Main while triple world championship medallist Lauren Boyle is in Europe.

However the truth may be different. Only four swimmers qualified to swim in individual events at the Commonwealth Games. Four swimmers are on the team by right; qualified because their individual performances met the selector’s standard. The rest, that’s ten others, are going because of generous relay conditions. Of the four swimmers who swam an individual qualifying time three, that’s three-quarters, are not swimming in the Oceania meet. Only one, Matt Stanley, will be in swimming in Auckland this week.

Perhaps another way of wording the Swimming New Zealand press release may be to say – three of New Zealand’s four best swimmers have buggered off overseas to train in a better environment that they can find at home. Now that is a thought that might have merit.

The Swimming New Zealand press release then goes on to discuss the decision of Lauren Boyle to train in Spain. Here is what it says.

Boyle decided to up the ante in her training regime with a three-week stint alongside some of Spain’s leading swimmers including double Olympic medallist Mireia Bemonte.

She suffered a setback in March when she fell ill during altitude training in USA which affected her build-up to the New Zealand Open Championships.

Boyle now wants to push herself in training to make up lost ground. I have to get some really hard work in a competitive environment,” Boyle said.

“I’ve trained with the Spanish group before and that link has allowed me to hook up with Fred Vergnoux, a coach that I admire.

“It will be hard because of the language barrier and I am on my own but it’s what I need to do.”

While I am sure apologists for Peter Miskimmin would prefer Swimming New Zealand to get away with this stuff, the ironies included in the item should not pass unmentioned.

First of all this sentence – She suffered a setback in March when she fell ill during altitude training in USA which affected her build-up to the New Zealand Open Championships.” Can this possibly be the same organisation that said about their USA altitude training camp, “There’s been no major illness or disasters, so in terms of adaptation to the environment we’ve had no issues. It has been a good experience and hopefully very valuable for the preparation.”

How can anyone take an organization seriously when one article says Boyle’s preparation for the Commonwealth Games trials “suffered a setback” when “she fell ill during altitude training” then claims “no major illness” at the altitude camp had affected their “very valuable – preparation.” I may not be the brightest light bulb in the store, but I’m struggling to put those two claims together.

Then Boyle makes a very strange claim. She says, “I have to get some really hard work in a competitive environment,”

But hold on a second. I thought the whole reason for having a Millennium Institute; the justification given by Miskimmin for having centralized canoeing, rowing, cycling, triathlon and swimming was the have “the best competing against the best.” The SNZ website tells me clearly that Lauren Boyle’s home pool was built, “To provide a sustainable high performance environment that systematically produces world class performances.” I may have got it wrong, but I thought Boyle was at the multi-million dollar Millennium Institute so she could, “get some really hard work in a competitive environment,” But no, it seems New Zealand’s best and most experienced swimmer has had to go to Spain to find what Miskimmin’s dream cannot provide in Auckland.

My confusion over the content of this SNZ report intensified when I read this next comment. “I’ve trained with the Spanish group before and that link has allowed me to hook up with Fred Vergnoux, a coach that I admire.” Of course it is possible to admire several coaches. For example, I’m sure Boyle has many good memories of her Cal coach, Teri McKeever. However Boyle’s comment could be interpreted as meaning she has more in common with a coach in Spain than with David Lyles, the Head Coach of the Miskimmin swim school. If that is the case, if Lauren Boyle has decided she gets on better with Vergnoux and can train better in his team, that should come as a surprise to no one. Much of the Swimwatch case against centralization in swimming is based on the almost impossible odds of one coach being all things to all swimmers. Perhaps Boyle has detected that and is in the process of doing something about it. If that is the case, I suspect her decision is a good one.

But better than that, perhaps Miskimmin’s centralized dream for swimming is beginning to unravel again. Certainly the time Boyle has spent training around the world is beginning to mean that if she was good enough to break a world record tomorrow it would be very difficult for Miskimmin or anyone else to claim the coaching credit. I suspect the acclaim for that would rest on Boyle’s able shoulders alone.

Is Swimming New Zealand At It Again?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

By David

I don’t know is the honest answer. Not a day goes by that the guys running the Miskimmin swim school don’t appear to be cutting corners. Elite sport as it was taught to me by Arch Jelley, Arthur Lydiard and Duncan Laing appears to have little in common with behaviour we seem to witness in Miskimmin’s swim team.

I suspect many Swimwatch readers are certain that I am on some sort of avenging crusade. And of course that’s true. I believe deeply that the policy and structure promoted and paid for by Miskimmin is not good for swimming, damages New Zealand’s swimming talent and will fail to win an Olympic Game’s swimming event. I will do all in my power to lobby for a change; to promote an alternative strategy.

What I never imagined was the seemingly endless stream of suspect decisions coming out of the new Miskimmin Swimming New Zealand. Decisions that misinformed the national media; decisions that resulted in swimmers diving into an illegally shallow pool, decisions that resulted in misleading emails being sent to most Wairarapa swimming families, decisions that omitted open water swimmers from team presentations, decisions that resulted in unapproved swimsuits being sold contrary to FINA rules and a dozen other examples of questionable management. When he first arrived in New Zealand the CEO of Swimming New Zealand decided New Zealand coaches were a good target for his Australian caustic comment. As things have turned out Christian Renford should have concentrated of running his business and let us get on with running ours. The evidence suggests we may be quite a bit better at it that he is.

Anyway, back to today. I happened to be looking through a Swimming New Zealand document titled; “Nomination Criteria – 2014 Commonwealth Games (Pool).” I have to confess I have still not studied it carefully. However even a cursory scan of the qualifying rules comes up with two anomalies that I think need an explanation.

The first is clause 1 on page 4. This is what it says.

“2.4 seconds will be deducted from the total sum of times of the 4 fastest swimmers in the A Final of the 100m and 200m freestyle events at the NZ Champs, to calculate the estimated time of the relay (relay changeovers 0.8 sec x3).”

I suspect Swimming New Zealand knew they were in trouble getting swimmers fast enough to qualify for individual events and decided to pad the team with relay swimmers. Why do I think that might be what has happened? Well, for years in New Zealand and most other administrations a relay change-over has been given a value of 0.65 seconds. But the Miskimmin swim team obviously decided that was not going to be enough. The swimmers needed a softer target. What better way than to increase the take-over time allowance from 0.65 per swimmer to 0.8 per swimmer? Why else would Swimming New Zealand have made that change?

Certainly we all deserve an explanation. Perhaps Renford could use his Freestyle Newsletter to explain something important.

The second apparent anomaly I discovered is clause 5 on page 6. This is what it says;

Attendance at the NZ Champs is on a user pays basis.”

I really would like this checked out. The Miskimmin’s swim school has published a set of criteria that must govern the conduct of everyone attending the national championships. The rules apply to everyone – or at least they should.

And yet I have been told Millennium swimmers stayed in a Henderson motel at no cost to them or a hugely SNZ subsidised amount. Is this true? And if it is, why can members of Miskimmin’s swim school ignore the rules. Did every Millennium swimmer pay their personal meet entry fees? Was any food or massage provided by Swimming New Zealand? Was the cost of transport from motel to pool subsidized in any way by Swimming New Zealand? Because if any of those things happened Renford may well have breached his own rules.

This organization belongs to its members. Swimming is not the personal play thing of a small clique of Miskimmin minions. In both the cases mentioned above there is the suspicion of duplicity. That impression needs an explanation; requires clarity. And that duty is your responsibility, Christian Renford. 

New Zealand Swim Coaches & Teachers Association

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

By David

Somehow or another I have become a member of the New Zealand Swim Coaches and Teachers Association (NZSCTA). I remember filling out the forms but thought I had decided at the last minute not to pay the annual membership fee. However Neville Sutton arrived in Auckland for the Open Championships clasping my freshly printed membership card. I guess that means I’m a signed up party member. I do hope that fact is never used as evidence of my willingness to cozy-up with the establishment.

In the two months since my promotion the organization has held its Annual Conference. I didn’t go. I’m not a great conference fan – although many years ago I did talk at an NZSCTA conference about the distance Toni Jeffs swam in her aerobic build-up conditioning period. The highlight of that occasion was afterwards in the hotel bar. The CEO of Swimming New Zealand in those days was a little guy with a huge ego. He seemed intent on wanting to pick a fight with that bastard David Wright. Finally I made the mistake of arguing back. Next thing I knew the CEO of Swimming New Zealand grabbed my tie and demanded that we move outside to the car park where he would sort me out.

Now I’m not all that tall, about six foot, but this guy was a good six inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter. I’m also no great pugilist but would certainly rate my chances against this scrawny specimen. However in the circumstances, fighting seemed a poor option. I decided to laugh at him instead. This only made him more annoyed. Finally our fellow conference members convinced my assailant to let go of my tie and retreat to the other side of the room.

That conference was in Wellington. Risking injury in the same town again seemed like one peril too many so I stayed in Auckland tending to the needs of the West Auckland Aquatics swim team.

I guess most conferences have their good, bad and very ugly. The good in Wellington was easy to find. The Swimming New Zealand website reports that Judith Wright was made a life member of the association. Now that is an honor well deserved. For longer than I can remember Judith Wright has run a successful swimming business in West Auckland. She has succeeded in doing the most difficult commercial task of all – she has survived. But she has done far more than that. She has produced a string of very fine age group and senior swimming champions. She is tough. She is fair. She’s a bloody good business woman and an even better coach. Well done NZSCTA. That was a good decision.

And now for the bad. This is how it was reported on the Swimming New Zealand website.

A few Swimming New Zealand staff also presented at the conference. Performance Coach David Lyles, High Performance Director Luis Villanueva and High Performance Development Coach Donna Bouzaid all touching on topics of youth and age group development.

And in those two sentences you have witnessed all the deception and guile of the Swimming New Zealand enemy. Swimming New Zealand staff addressed a gathering of New Zealand’s best coaches and what did they talk about – just junior swimming.

Do you see clearly where they want us to be – what they want us to do and how they want us to coach? They want coaches from Invercargill to Kaitaia to concentrate on breeding swimmers for Swimming New Zealand to cherry pick for their precious Millennium Institute. None of them are going to discuss the preparation of elite swimmers with you or me. They are not going to debate the balance between aerobic and anaerobic conditioning in international swimmers. Why? Because, according to them, those topics are the exclusive domain of Swimming New Zealand. Swimming New Zealand used this conference to practice mushroom management – keep us in the dark and feed us shit. NZSCTA should never have let them get away with it.

And finally the very ugly. This is how the Swimming New Zealand website described their guest speakers.

Two international guest speakers highlighted the 2014 New Zealand Swim Coaches and Teachers Association (NZSCTA) conference held this week in Wellington. Dick Shoulberg (USA), who has coached a number of Olympians, spoke on topics from ‘yearly planning’ to ‘maximizing the space you have’. While Australian Julie Stevens discussed ‘what it takes to be an inspiring, engaging and unique teacher. Shoulberg also hosted a pool session that proved another highlight for attendees as he went through an individual medley short course session after speaking the day before on the value of individual medleys.”

The event that caught my attention was the Coach Shoulberg hosted pool session. There he was, one of America’s best swim coaches, telling a large group of young New Zealand coaches, enthusiastically absorbing every word, keen to hear what the best of the United States had to offer, determined to do well in their Bronze level examination.

As we all know, an individual medley begins with a dive into the butterfly length. Except, on this occasion, the NZSCTA guest speaker had to skip the dive portion of his demonstration, had to abandon the start. Why was that he was asked? Well, replied Coach Shoulberg, “Your pool is too shallow.”

Oh my God, if only he was aware of what he had just said. Here is a man, an expert; a coach of Olympic experience, imported by Swimming New Zealand to educate New Zealand’s latest batch of trainee coaches and what is his first definitive statement – the Kilbirnie Pool is too shallow for him to teach diving.

It’s about time Swimming New Zealand listened to Swimwatch. They should have paid attention to FINA rules long ago. And now their own guest speaker is telling them to behave. If championship events cannot be held without diving into the shallow end of the Kilbirnie Pool, those events must be held elsewhere.

Thank you Coach Shoulberg. Unwittingly, you may have made your most valuable contribution to swimming in this country. And NZSCTA, your conference may have achieved more than you ever dared imagine. We can only hope.

Otago Daily Times Clutching at Straws

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

By David

Recently there has been an exchange of correspondence between the Otago Daily Time’s (ODT) journalist Alistair McMurran and ex-New Zealand Director of Coaching, Clive Rushton. It began on Saturday, 3 May 2014 when McMurran published an opinion piece under the provocative headline; Swimming: Absurdly strict selection policy hurting the sport. Here is a summary of what McMurran had to say;

The selection system for international events must change if New Zealand swimming is to step forward in the international arena. The system must be deemed a failure because only four able-bodied swimmers qualified for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in individual events.

The cut-throat selection policy was introduced by national coaching director Clive Rushton for the 2004 Olympic Games at Athens and has been kept in place over the last decade. The swimmers have only one chance to do the qualifying times, and this is at the national championships.

Rushton came into the job from the United Kingdom and introduced the English system to New Zealand. But he forgot one important factor. The United Kingdom, the United States and other large countries have large numbers of competitors and big budgets and can afford to lose swimmers through this system. New Zealand has only a small group of elite swimmers who are prepared to train four hours a day and 24 to 28 hours a week. It can be disheartening if they get close to the qualifying standard and get knocked back. The swimmers can lose confidence and give up and the loss of morale can affect other swimmers in the training squad. Liz van Welie and Kurt Crosland are two Otago swimmers who have been affected by the selection system.

Van Welie narrowly missed selection for the Athens Olympics in 2004 when she was just 0.09sec short of the A standard qualifying time in the 400m individual medley. Helen Norfolk (Auckland) beat the A qualifying standard with her time of 4min 44.65sec and van Welie was second in 4min 46.41sec. and well inside the B standard of 4min 49.65sec. For New Zealand to send two swimmers in the event to Athens both had to break the A standard. Van Welie could have done it but the new selection policy denied her the chance of another attempt.

Crosland, a backstroke specialist, missed the cut in the 100m by just 0.25sec at last month’s national championships. He clocked 54.88sec. The qualifying mark was 54.63sec. Swimmers have a limited window in which to do the times. Other New Zealand sports have a more reasonable approach. The cut-off date for competitors in athletics, wrestling, table tennis, badminton, gymsports, netball, weightlifting, rugby sevens and hockey is June 10.

McMurran is a better journalist than to write and publish this rubbish. Blaming the selection process for the fact that only four able bodied swimmers qualified for the Commonwealth Games is ridiculous. Eating Christians was not the fault of the lions. The shambles of Miskimmin’s centralized policy is responsible for the decline in the standard of New Zealand swimming. McMurran would be better employed using his sporting knowledge and writing skill to identify the real villain in the sport of swimming. McMurran should focus on those responsible for neglecting Crosland’s career and needs long, long before the Otago swimmer caught a flight to the Auckland trials.

But when McMurran goes on to blame Clive Rushton for the current selection rules – well that’s just asinine. For God’s sake, Clive left New Zealand six years ago. Since then the sport has been controlled by North Korean look-alikes Jan Cameron and Peter Miskimmin. Besides, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the selection policy. But, even if there was, in 2014 it’s certainly not Clive Rushton’s fault. Truth is Clive was the best Director of Coaching that New Zealand has ever had; streets ahead of Naylor, Bone, Cameron or Villanueva.

Why don’t I mind the sudden death selection rules? Well first, because they are tough and that’s good. Second, because they are certain. And that’s what coaches and swimmers need most of all. We need a stable environment in which to practise our trade. The fact that the “perform at the Nationals or stay home” rule has been in place for twenty years is one of the few areas where SNZ has lived in the real world. It is sad that McMurran should undermine one of the few good things in New Zealand swimming. And third, if you can’t swim the qualifying time, there is little prospect of winning an international event. As Lydiard would say, “David, you are there to win the bloody thing. Don’t talk to me about qualifying times.”

However before this becomes another David Wright rant – perhaps I should let Clive Rushton speak for himself. Here is his reply to the McMurran article.           

By Clive:

Alistair, long time, no hear from you. How are you? I apologize for the delay in response to your article Swimming: Absurdly strict selection policy hurting the sport but it has taken this long for the article to cross the Indian Ocean.

I don’t know whether to be hurt or feel proud that you think my decisions in 2002 (not 2004, as you wrote) are still having an effect on the sport 12 years later. I left SNZ six years ago so I don’t really think you can blame me for the “only four” (your phrase) qualifiers.

I don’t recollect the ‘cut-throat’ selection policy being an ‘English system’, but systems from around the world were undoubtedly more severe and objective than the ones being used in New Zealand when I arrived in late 2001. I wanted to make the changes as soon as I arrived but the ones for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002 were already in place. You mention Helen Norfolk in your article and I’ll come onto her selection over Liz Van Welie for the Athens Olympics a little later. Helen missed out on the Manchester Games and, in my opinion, her non-qualification was solely the fault of the wishy-washy criteria in use at the time. Swimmers were given a ‘window of opportunity’ during which they could put up a qualifying performance anywhere and anytime. I think the window was five months but it may have been longer.

Helen attempted to qualify. She failed. She attempted again. She failed. And on and on it went. By the time we got to the last opportunity (New Zealand Nationals) the poor girl was a shadow of her former (and future) outstanding self. During the qualifying window she had repeatedly been traveling around the southern hemisphere, repeatedly resting for a superlative performance, and repeatedly having to deal with the disappointment and frustration of missing out. There was no gas left in the tank. I truly believe that she would have easily qualified if the opportunity had been limited to a one-shot deal; a seasoned competitor like her would have taken it in her stride and who knows what she may have been able to do in Manchester?

You rightly say, “It can be disheartening if they get close to the qualifying standard and get knocked back,” but that’s why it’s called a qualifying standard. Do it and you qualify; don’t do it and you haven’t qualified. Some people advocate for leeway but my coaching mind doesn’t work like that. How much should the leeway be? If the standard is 54.63 and a swimmer goes 54.64 is that OK? If it is, then make the standard 54.64 in the first place. How about 54.65? 54.75, 55.75 ….? If you don’t stick to published standards then you shouldn’t have standards.

There are famous examples of athletes performing well after selectors have given them the benefit of the doubt and there are many, many examples of athletes failing to perform after they have achieved agreed standards. Should selectors judge not to send someone who has qualified because ‘they’ don’t think they are up to it? Should they judge in favor of someone who has failed to achieve the agreed standard? That starts to sound like a Red Queen decision from Looking-Glass land.

Subjectivity has no place in the selection of swimmers. Rugby, netball, and other team games are a different matter. Swimming has standardized conditions and objective results mechanisms. Swim a particular time and you win. Don’t, and you lose. Simple, straightforward, honest.

Once you introduce subjectivity you open up a can of worms that can lead to all sorts of nasty, dishonest and distasteful issues with accusations of favoritism or vindictiveness being thrown around willy-nilly. Toni Jeffs was ‘non-selected’ (it was an active decision based purely on personal opinions) for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. The official reason was she was too old. Quite right too. However, six years later (and to my math that means she was way, way too old by that time), she won a medal at the Commonwealth Games. Too old? Yeah, right! Too damned outspoken, but that’s subjectivity for you.

Which brings me to the Athens Olympics when Liz was 0.09 seconds off the A standard. The inference in your article is that Swimming New Zealand should have selected Liz because she was under the B standard. What you fail to mention is that the criteria mandating that both swimmers must be under the A standard for them both to be selected was nothing to do with Swimming New Zealand. That was, and still is an International Olympic Committee rule and, as such, took precedence over anything SNZ did put in place, or could have put in place. You also suggest Liz “could have” done the A time but the [SNZ] selection policy denied her another attempt. “Could have” is a remarkable back to the future prediction, and “another attempt” would have put her outside the NZOC and IOC qualifying deadline.

Do it when you have to, not when you want to. That’s the approach all swimmers should adopt.

Best wishes to everyone at the ODT and to everyone in Otago. I miss the flume.


Clive will probably hate me for this – but with the exception of missing “the flume” I agree with every word.