Disaster Response

By David

A “disaster” is defined as a calamitous event, especially one causing great damage or hardship “Response” is defined as an answer or reply, as in words or in some action.

Well, swimming in New Zealand has had the disaster. With the exception of Lauren Boyle it’s never been much worse than in 2014 in Glasgow and Brisbane. Twin disasters, half a world apart and within a month of each other; who would believe it was possible? But we stood and watched in awe as it happened before our very eyes.  And this week we got the response. Renford and Villanueva gave us their wisdom from Swimming New Zealand’s Mount Sinai, 17 Antares Place, Mairangi Bay, Auckland 0632. And according to dan Cooper of New Zealand Radio Sport this is what Christian and Luis had to say.

Swimming New Zealand’s staying composed over a generally below-par performance at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships. Swimming NZ CEO Christian Renford says they’re not going to start sounding alarm bells. He says they need to take in multiple considerations like a few injuries and illnesses they had while the programme was on. Christian Renford says as with every other year, they’ll be undertaking a full review as to where exactly they can improve on.

High performance director Luis Villanueva says what happened in the buildup to both events needs to be put under the microscope. “We need to review what we are doing in preparation with some of the swimmers, some of the swimmers that haven’t performed well this year, and see how can we help them to be better prepared next year.” Villanueva says the review is urgent, considering they’re into the second half of their four-year cycle leading up to the 2016 Olympics. He says a thorough review will focus on what went wrong in the lead-up to both events. “We need to think about how to do it better next time. It’s just that if you are not able to perform at your best in a competition like this it’s because your preparation wasn’t as good as it should be.

Far be it from me to question proclamations made from this most sacred of places by these most spiritual of men. But have you ever read such a pile of rubbish in all your life? I can only hope Villanueva is well advanced in his plans to return to Spain and Renford has put the sale of his Sydney home on hold. Let’s take a closer look at what they had to say; Renford first.

“Renford says they’re not going to start sounding alarm bells”

I’m afraid the parlous condition of Swimming New Zealand is well in need of sounding alarm bells. The patient is in need of life support and the medical staff have no idea how the machines work. The London Olympics were two years ago. The Rio Olympic are in two year’s time. And right now swimming in New Zealand has demonstrated it is worse than it has ever been. From what I’ve heard Boyle thinks the organization is a joke. Certainly she disappeared to Spain to complete her preparation for Glasgow and Brisbane. And Synders fled to Los Angeles, a year ago, to train with US coach, Dave Salo.

“multiple considerations like a few injuries and illnesses”

I do hope no one falls for that pathetic line. In my experience blaming injury and illness is usually the gutless way weak sporting people try and excuse poor results. Unable to face the reality of their shortcomings they blame a sore finger or a night time cough. Unfortunately the excuse is likely to be repeated and sold for all its worth. Miskimmin, at Sport New Zealand, is so committed to this swim team he is likely to encourage the full state PR machine into action; selling the injury and illness propaganda. Renford needs to face reality – his swim team lost; was beaten out of sight and his organization, the Mazda gang, was responsible. No excuse will alter Renford’s failure or excuse the fiasco of this month.          

“as with every other year, they’ll be undertaking a full review”

A full review? What a pathetic joke.

Is Renford really telling New Zealand that the disasters of Glasgow and Brisbane came after several “full reviews”? Wow, well they clearly don’t work. If all these previous reviews produced the Glasgow and Brisbane result, what on God’s good earth leads Renford to think another review now is going to produce a different result. The message clearly is that Swimming New Zealand reviews don’t work.

Besides I don’t think whatever Swimming New Zealand does will resemble anything like a “full review”. What this will be is a frantic effort to find excuses; to paper over the cracks; to hide from reality; to justify the next $2,000,000; to protect a crumbling empire. This will not be a searching inquiry into what went wrong. This will not examine the core issues. Is Miskimmin’s centralised policy of elite swimming delivery working? Is there a better and more effective way of delivering successful swimming results? Would a diverse and democratic federal structure deliver better competitive performances?

Of course no Swimming New Zealand review is going to look at these crucial issues. Miskimmin would never allow it. Like every other review conducted by that tragic organization, this one will fail. The real problem, the central issue, will never be addressed. If Swimming New Zealand was prepared to debate this most fundamental question then, no matter how much they might dislike the author of Swimwatch, they would seek out his opinion. After all, these pages have been most vocal in proposing an alternative solution. What say we are right? What say a federal structure of powerful regions is better? What say, resourcing the club coaches of New Zealand is a superior way? What say trusting us to do our job works? We will never know. Miskimmin, Layton, Renford, Villanueva and Lyles will never ask. Their life is justifying the status quo. Sadly New Zealand swimmers pay for their incompetence.

Villanueva says what happened in the buildup to both events needs to be put under the microscope

Villanueva is in no position to examine anything. New Zealand people financed his plan, paid for his high altitude camps in Arizona and Spain, funded his pre-meet tour of Mediterranean coastal resorts and it didn’t work. Villanueva’s plan failed. Extravagance on this scale does not come with second chances. Villanueva was given free rein and a bucket of money and returned empty handed. When that happens the only honourable thing is for Villanueva to quietly resign and catch the next flight to Barcelona. Failure on this scale, at this cost, demands no less.

“if you are not able to perform at your best in a competition like this it’s because your preparation wasn’t as good as it should be.”

Actually it does not mean that at all. It may mean the policy Villanueva and his bosses, Layton and Renford, are following is doomed from the start. Jan Cameron tried the same centralized delivery system and couldn’t make it work. And she was a far better manager than Luis Villanueva. The guy who sits on the right hand of God could try and win a swimming race using Miskimmin’s model and would fail. The policy will not work.

Swimming in New Zealand has to trust Duncan in Invercargill, Jones in Ashburton, Mahan in Christchurch, Labara in Dunedin, Francis in Wellington, Winter in Paraparaumu, Nicholls in Palmerston North, Benson in Hastings, Hardgrave-Booth in Napier, Meade in Gisborne, Fitch in Hamilton, Daniela in Tauranga, Miehe and Judith Wright in Auckland, Girbin in Whangarei and even Wright in west Auckland and a score of others I’ve missed, but I’m sure you get the idea. New Zealand coaches need to claim back responsibility for the performance of the nation’s national team from those who have not been able to deliver. We will do better than the Mazda gang. It would be difficult to do worse. We will not let down the country or its swimmers.