The Two Million Dollar Man

By David

I wonder if Miskimmin’s SNZ imports, Renford, Villanueva and Lyles, are feeling the pressure. Two million taxpayer dollars will be invested this year in their Millennium Institute to prepare one swimmer for the individual events at the Commonwealth Games. More specifically I wonder if Matthew Stanley is feeling the pressure of representing the sport of swimming’s two million dollar investment – the Millennium’s two million dollar man.

You see, the other three individual event swimmers are training 6500, 8000 and 12,000 miles from the Millennium Institute. Cory Main had the good fortune to bypass the folly of Millennium membership and decided to further his swimming career with Greg Troy at the University of Florida. I hear Cory’s brother is about to join the same swim team. Glen Snyders and Lauren Boyle sampled the Millennium waters and decided that Dave Salo in Los Angeles and Fred Vergnoux in the Spanish Sierra Nevada mountains were more to their liking. The choice made by three of the four best swimmers in the country must be relevant. The location of New Zealand’s high performance swimming is certainly not at the Miskimmin swim school.

I was amused to read the following report on the Stuff website. It was based on an interview with Luis Villanueva, the SNZ High Performance Director. And this is what Villanueva had to say:

It’s Villanueva’s “preference that the country’s best now train in New Zealand. We have two high performance programmes with excellent programmes and excellent facilities and with good coaches,” he said. “They can be compared with those in the US or Australia.  But not in general to send our best swimmers to anywhere else, because we have programmes at the moment in Auckland and Wellington that can be very good for the development to international standards.”

What a load of rubbish. Who on God’s good earth does this guy think he’s talking to? Please don’t come to New Zealand and patronise us with a pile of Spanish mierda de toro. These words were barely out of his mouth when Lauren Boyle voted with her feet and fled from Villanueva’s “excellent programmes”. Looks like Boyle was not convinced. Events have conspired to make Villanueva look out of touch and silly.

And so, as far as individual qualifiers in the sport of swimming are concerned, New Zealand has a two million dollars per year organization preparing one individual event swimmer, Matthew Stanley. Just consider that, a CEO and his staff of a dozen or so, a High Performance Director, a Head Coach, an Assistant Coach and access to, what the SNZ website tells me are services in strength and conditioning, life planning, physiology, biomechanics and psychology, focused and paid to prepare one swimmer, Matthew Stanley.

Assuming Stanley makes the final of both his events at the Commonwealth Games; his twelve month’s preparation will have cost us about $4,500 per stroke. I would think that level of investment makes Matthew Stanley the most expensive swimmer in the world. When an investment costs that much, it’s pretty important for it to provide a golden return. If Renford, Villanueva and Lyles are not feeling the pressure, they certainly should.

Swimwatch has long viewed Miskimmin’s policies as a joke. His view that international results can be bought is about to be tested big time. On this occasion there are no distractions. Matthew Stanley is alone. He currently has the government’s multi-million dollar domestic investment in individual events at the Commonwealth Games all to himself. The validity of Miskimmin’s socialist policy will be determined by the performance of one man in Glasgow.

I am guessing there will be some readers who feel this view is unfair on Matthew Stanley. Some may be asking why should the full weight of Miskimmin’s policies be loaded onto Matthew Stanley’s shoulders. Why should he be called the two million dollar man?  After all he was not responsible for the three other individual event qualifiers choosing to train overseas. Remember though, it was not Swimwatch who put Matthew Stanley in this invidious position. He has become the figurehead of the government’s swim school because that organization costs us a fortune and he is the only individual event swimmers they’ve got. Responsibility for that lies with Miskimmin, Renford, Villanueva and Lyles – not Swimwatch.

We think Snyders, Boyle and Main have made good choices. If Swimming New Zealand had cared for the sport properly the three swimmers should have been able to prepare properly in a New Zealand club program. But given the neglect of a decade the decision to train overseas is understandable and sensible – no matter what Villanueva might spin.

Of course just as the performance of Matthew Stanley will be a test of the worth of Miskimmin’s centralized, socialist delivery of sport so will the results of Snyders, Boyle and Main be a test of the private enterprise, freedom of individual choice delivery of elite preparation. To be fair it would probably be more accurate to say that the performance of Snyders and Main will measure the worth of a diversified method of providing elite training.

Lauren Boyle is a special case. Her training in New Zealand since she left Cal Berkley has been a disgrace. Swimming New Zealand should be ashamed. Here they have one of the world’s best swimmers and the only good thing they’ve done is pay the girl. Apart from that she has had five different coaches, Regan, Villanueva, Sweetenham, Lyles and Vergnoux. Five coaches in four years, five coaches with five different water philosophies, five different dry land philosophies, five different personalities, five different everything. As I say, with abuse like that, no wonder she has gone off to Spain. It is a wonder she is still swimming at all. Whatever she swims in Glasgow will be a testament to her courage and the consistent and reliable grounding she received during four years in the Cal Berkley swim team. Boyle can’t publically say what she really thinks, but she must be pissed. And who among us would blame her.

The well-known swimming blog swimvortex.com has been to see Boyle in Spain. Here are some extracts from their interesting article.

The two, Spain’s Mireia Belmonte and New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle, are embroiled in a 10-week pact of pain in Spain, at the CAR center of excellence in Barcelona and up on high in the Sierra Nevada with Coach Fred Vergnoux.  

Belmonte and Boyle trained together last year for the first time, their experience on the way to and their results at the World Championships in Barcelona suggesting that it might well be a good idea to repeat the exercise.

Vergnoux tells SwimVortex: “Lauren came last year to train with us in altitude and this year she wanted to repeat the experience and extend her stay. The idea is to train together here at the national training center, compete together, and then go to altitude together. It’s a longer phase of preparation that she wanted to do with us leading into the summer meets, and both parties agreed to arrange this long training camp.”

Ten weeks in all, the heat of session-by-session reflected in the session they went the evening before leaving for Monte Carlo:

  • 6x 150 free + 50 fly best: all swim
  • 8x 100 free + 50 free best all pull+pad
  • 10x 50 easy + 50 dive max
  • 8x 100 free + 50 free best all pull+pad
  • 6x 150 free + 50 fly best

For Boyle, the challenge involves a small step up in meters covered and “probably a lot more weights lifting”, Vergnoux noted.

Both will race Mare Nostrum in Monaco, Canet and Barcelona in the week ahead. Both will race in the full flight of training. Says Vergnoux “Racing the Mare Nostrum under fatigue is the best situation that we can find in this point in time. Commonwealth and Europeans are still far away and racing will be a huge test of character.

“What I see on the daily basis tells me that both girls could race really well, but they will have to find a way of doing so being very tired and having no rest going into the meet.”

Boyle, a class apart back home in training, adds:

“For me, it’s good to train with a group of high-class distance swimmers because they push me to do better in training – and in return I also help them.”

And how do they communicate: English/Spanish/hands, etc.,? Says Vergnoux:

“A combo of everything! But we make sure Lauren is working on her Spanish!”

The first Mare Nostrum meet in Monaco was held last weekend. The table below shows Lauren Boyle’s results.

Event

Heat

Final

Place

200 Free

2.01.02

2.01.11

6th

100 Free

58.15

-

28th

400 Free

-

4.11.18

5th

From a purely competitive point of view the results are well short of Boyle’s best. However Vergnoux did warn us that was likely to be the case. Personally I’d be very pleased with 4.11 from a swimmer buried in the severe training schedule I imagine Boyle has right now.

Anyway New Zealand swimming at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games will be interesting on two counts. First, how does New Zealand compare with the other Commonwealth swimming nations? And second how do the results of the three swimmers who have chosen to prepare in a free market economy compare to the results of the one state sponsored, social welfare beneficiary. That will be a fascinating duel of ideologies – private enterprise V state control.

  • Swimmer

    At the moment Mathew Stanley is also training overseas… He’s training on the Gold Coast under Denis Cotterell at the Miami swimming club.