The Start of Something Extraordinary?

By David

I have just read Simon Plumb’s review of Swimming New Zealand (“NZ Team Swims Against Tide of Change”) posted on the Stuff website. He’s correct of course; every last word is right on the button. But I think there is more.

It was always ridiculously naïve to think that the wholesale replacement of the old Swimming New Zealand staff; that’s High Performance Director Jan Cameron, Head Coach Mark Regan and CEO Mike Byrne was going to revolutionize Swimming New Zealand. It is a common Miskimmin tactic; preferring to blame the personnel for poor performance rather than the deficiencies of his policy. But, the lowly performance of Swimming New Zealand was never about personalities. Many Swimwatch readers assumed I disliked Jan Cameron, Mark Regan and Mike Byrne. That was never true.

What I disliked and totally opposed was their centralized system of elite sport delivery; the folly of the Millennium Institute. The idea that one coach can fit all, the self-seeking allocation of millions to one privileged group, the socialist involvement of the government in an Auckland swim school and the devaluing, lack of trust directed at every club coach in the country has always been repulsive.

And under the new regime that hasn’t changed. If anything I think Regan was a far better coach than Lyles. Regan was clearly better for Boyle. Certainly Jan Cameron was light years better than Luis Villanueva. She expressed herself better and was clearly a more decisive and superior manager. Renford and Byrne are as different as chalk and cheese but the end result is about the same: so much of what they do is flat out wrong. For example their website trumpets that Swimming New Zealand is, “The start of something extraordinary” and yet when I go to their “Find a Club” page I notice that my club, West Auckland Aquatics, isn’t there. I wonder why? Swimwatch perhaps? Renford’s Swimming New Zealand can’t even get our name on their website list of New Zealand clubs; the club that was the home of National Coaches Ross Anderson and Donna Bouzaid that was the nursery of Lauren Boyle and gave New Zealand national representatives, John Steel, Johnny Munro. Ross Anderson Junior, Paul Kent, Jane Ip, Daniel Bell, Nick Sanders, Mark Herring, Brad Herring and a few that I’ve missed. Renford is right; this clearly is, “The start of something extraordinary.”

Overall the new management gang of Renford, Lyles and Villanueva is weaker than the team they replaced. Which means, of course, that if Jan Cameron couldn’t make her centralized policy of elite sport delivery work, the current gang have no chance. And that’s the way it’s turning out.

I know Miskimmin, at Sport New Zealand, is obsessed with what he calls “podium finishes”. However progress in a sport like swimming is more accurately measured by personal best times. The government’s Millennium swim school in Glasgow performed poorly, not only because Lauren Boyle was the sole medallist. The real disaster was the 11% personal best ratio. Only two swimmers, Boyle and Main, swam personal best times. Any normal team looks for a personal best ratio well over 50%. That was the tragedy of Glasgow. And the fact it was a whole team that failed tells me the fault lies fair and square with those who prepared the swimmers. Individual swimmers can let themselves and the team down occasionally, but when a whole team disintegrates, that’s a coaching and administration problem. Renford, Lyles and Villanueva take a bow.

So what happened in Brisbane? Villanueva threatened career decapitation if the swimmers did not improve; a threat I always thought was disingenuous and should have been directed at him and his fellow Mazda gang members. The table below lists the New Zealand performances at the 2014 Pan Pacific Games.

NAME

EVENT

TIME

PB

PODIUM PLACE

S. Lucie-Smith

200 Free

2.00.52

No

-

S. Lucie-Smith

200 Free

2.00.75

No

-

E Robson

200 Free

2.04.51

No

-

M Stanley

200 Free

1.48.74

No

-

M Stanley

200 Free

1.47.33

No

-

S Kent

200 Free

1.49.00

Yes

-

S Kent

200 Free

1.49.71

No

-

D Dunlop Barrett

200 Free

1.50.01

No

-

D Dunlop Barrett

200 Free

1.49.30

No

-

M Donaldson

200 Free

1.50.37

No

-

E Jackson

200 Free

1.51.39

No

-

C Main

100 Back

55.16

No

-

C Main

100 Back

54.70

No

-

E Robson

800 Free

8.49.80

No

-

S Lee

200 Fly

2.13.85

No

-

S Lee

200 Fly

2.13.08

No

-

L Boyle

800 Free

8.18.87

No

2nd

G Snyders

100 Breast

1.00.41

No

-

G Snyders

100 Breast

1.00.18

No

3rd

L Quilter

100 Free

55.87

No

-

L Quilter

100 Free

56.00

No

-

S Lucie Smith

100 Free

56.25

No

-

S Lucie Smith

100 Free

55.97

No

-

S Lee

100 Free

57.52

No

-

S Kent

100 Free

50.92

No

-

E Jackson

100 Free

51.24

No

-

Relay

4×200 Free W

8.04.58

No

-

Relay

4×200 Free M

7.13.83

Yes

-

S Lee

100 Fly

1.00.81

No

-

S Lee

100 Fly

1.00.44

No

-

L Quilter

100 Fly

1.01.00

No

-

L Boyle

400 Free

4.08.64

No

-

L Boyle

400 Free

4.05.33

No

3rd

E Robson

400 Free

4.16.63

No

-

E Robson

400 Free

4.15.92

No

-

S Lucie Smith

400 Free

4.18.49

No

-

S Lucie Smith

400 Free

4.15.19

No

-

M Stanley

400 Free

3.53.33

No

-

M Stanley

400 Free

3.50.75

No

-

D Dunlop Barrett

400 Free

3.54.05

No

-

D Dunlop Barrett

400 Free

3.53.96

No

-

E Jackson

400 Free

3.55.34

Yes

-

E Jackson

400 Free

3.52.32

Yes

-

C Main

200 Back

1.59.85

No

-

C Main

200 Back

1.59.63

No

-

Relay

4×100 Free W

3.47.51

No

-

M Donaldson

200 IM

2.01.45

No

-

M Donaldson

200 IM

2.01.34

No

-

L Quilter

50 Free

26.01

Yes

-

G Snyders

200 Breast

2.13.77

No

-

L Boyle

1500 Free

15.55.69

No

2nd

E Robinson

1500 Free

16.44.88

No

-

L Quilter

50 Free

26.10

No

-

Relay

4×100 M M

3.38.46

No

-

Summary

54 Swims

-

5 PBs

9%

Summary

0 Gold

2 Silver

2 Bronze

 

As far as I know there is not a swimming observer on the planet that would call an 9% personal best ratio, “the start of something extraordinary”. It is terrible. Every club coach in New Zealand would hide in shame at that result. When the Millennium swim school spends $2,000,000 preparing a women’s relay team that finishes 15 seconds, that’s the length of a 25m pool, behind the Australians, that’s the start of something pretty bloody abysmal.

Out of the 12 Pan Pacific Games held since 1985 the 2014 performance ranks 5th. New Zealand swimmers performed better in 1993, 1995, 1991 and 1985; before the days of $2,000,000 per year government grants, Mazda cars, Whole of Sport Plans and Millennium Institutes; before Miskimmin, Layton, Renford, Lyles and Villanueva. But give Villanueva credit, he is right about one thing; those responsible should pack their bags and leave New Zealand sport immediately. Miskimmin, Renford, Lyles, Villanueva and Layton, hasta la vista baby – Villanueva has told us, it’s time for you to go. The damage has been too great.

PS I see Swimming New Zealand have taken to publishing rubbish on their new website. Besides leaving our club off altogether, this week they announced the following stunning bit of news; “New Zealand has only won multiple individual medals four times previously at the Pan Pacific Championships.” That’s simply not true. I hope it is not a deliberate effort to misinform. SNZ has done that before. Multiple medals were won by New Zealand teams at the 1993 (5), 1995 (4), 1991 (3), 1989 (3) and 1997 (3). That’s five times. Really SNZ couldn’t – lie straight in bed that is.

Year

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Rank

1993

1

1

3

1

1995

1

1

2

2

1991

1

1

1

3

1985

1

-

-

4

2014

2

2

5

1989

-

1

2

6

1997

-

-

3

7

1987, 2010

-

-

1

8=

1999, 2002,2006

-

-

-

10=

 

PPS Swimwatch sources tell me rumours are rife in Spain that Villanueva is on his way back to Spain after the Presidential election in 2015. If that’s true Villanueva needs to come clean immediately and let the sport in New Zealand know. A person in his position is able to make many important decisions. It is not a position that should be occupied by a lame duck member of Miskimmin’s Mazda gang for another twelve months.

If it is true, Swimwatch will not be sad to see him go. However the critical decision is who will replace Villanueva? And will that replacement move the sport away from the failed policy of centralization and breathe life back into New Zealand’s domestic coaching talent. For that is where the future lies.

 

  • Swim Fan

    I really wish people would get their facts rights. Open water won 2 bronze medals in 1999. Carl Gordon in the men’s 5km and the team. Check your facts.

  • David

    I apologise for that error. I was taking the numbers from the wikapedia page. They have only shown the pool results. Open water should clearly be included. Thank you for the clarification. Open water is of course still to come this year. So these results are pool only. And that clarification should have been included.

  • Nothing personal

    What’s wrong with New Zealand’s best training together David and also nice to see Nielson wearing a Parnell cap while swimming under WAQ shows that your clubs really looking good at the moment

  • David

    I was delighted to publish the comment posted by Nothing Personal. It demonstrates with beautiful clarity the level of moronic thought shown by some involved in swimming. Let’s deal with the best training with the best first. What’s wrong with it? Nothing except it doesn’t work. For ten years and twenty million dollars NZ has swallowed the training together line. That’s a good trial. And again in Glasgow and Brisbane it failed. Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are stupid. Nothing Personal.
    And as for Neilson Varoy. It’s funny how the same event can be viewed so differently. Our club was delighted to offer Neilson a registration vehicle when he needed one. We recognised and did not expect Neilson to have any training or competing loyalty to WAQ. We were there only to help. And now that Neilson is working for the Parnell club I was delighted and fully understood his wish to wear their cap in Wellington. To think anything else would be small minded and a bit creepy. Nothing Personal.