Archive for November, 2014


Friday, November 28th, 2014

By David

If you’ve got a minute, have a read of this definition. It’s copied from Wikipedia.

“Hypocrisy is the claim of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not in actual fact hold. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. It is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.

Robert Wright wrote that “Human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse.” Humans are very good at challenging the beliefs of other people, but when it comes to their own beliefs, they tend to protect them, not challenge them. Humans tend to judge others by their behavior, but think they have special information about themselves – that they know what they are “really like” inside – and thus effortlessly find ways to explain away selfish acts, and maintain the illusion that they are better than others.

Psychologists like Jonathan Haidt and Steven Pinker maintain that most if not all the major atrocities in human history were carried out by ordinary people who believed that they were good – that they had God on their side – and that their enemies were pure evil. Hypocrisy is one of the most difficult human conditions to correct – mainly because those with the problem are not aware of it. “We are so skilled at putting on a show of virtue that we fool even ourselves.”

Far be it from me to call Swimming New Zealand a bunch of hypocrites. Far be it from me to accuse Christian Renford of gross hypocrisy. Instead it would be better for you to decide. Consider the following two Christian Renford messages. You can then choose the type of behavior they represent. First, consider a communication posted on the SwimVortex website this week.

“Swimming New Zealand has joined Australia’s criticism of an NBC proposal to have swimming finals at the 2016 Rio Olympics held after 9pm and even between 10 pm and midnight to suit US prime time broadcast times.

The New Zealand federation issued the following statement in response: “While the schedule for the Rio Olympics has not been finalized, it has been mooted that the evening sessions for swimming will start at 10pm, a suggestion that has been criticized by the Australian Olympic Committee and leading swimmers”

“Swimming New Zealand has joined the Australian criticism suggesting the idea, whether real or considered, would not be in the best interests of swimmers and would place an unreasonable demand on them. While we appreciate the importance of commercial considerations in the successful staging of an Olympics, that should not impinge on the welfare of the athletes which must remain paramount. If the report is factual, a 10pm start time would mean some swimmers may not get back to the village until 1am or 2am which is completely unreasonable. We will certainly make our feelings known to FINA and hope good sense would prevail if this report is to be believed.”

That seems pretty clear doesn’t it? Christian Renford is pissed off that the IOC may be considering asking swimmers to compete late at night. A decision like that, he says “should not impinge on the welfare of the athletes which must remain paramount.” Clearly Renford believes that swimming through the night is not good for Lauren Boyle or anyone else. Certainly, in this case, he has sprung, fitfully, to defend the welfare of the athletes. Remember – “which must remain paramount.”

Sceptics may accuse Renford of simply trying to buddy-up to the Australians. Perhaps, though, the welfare of New Zealand swimmers is his real concern. Who knows?

But consider the second Christian Renford message from a few months ago. Remember when he was perfectly relaxed about approving a swim meet swum from the shallow end of the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre. So relaxed, that he signed a World Record Application form swearing on a stack of bibles that the pool complied with all FINA rules. Apparently Christian Renford and Swimming New Zealand were so relaxed that they didn’t give a damn that the pool was dangerously shallow and was certainly below the minimum depth specified in FINA rules.

Where was Renford or Swimming New Zealand’s “the welfare of the athletes which must remain paramount” on that occasion? Not if there is a world record at stake it seems. It appears that in the SNZ world the “welfare of the athletes” does not extend to their own back yard or their own behavior.

Are we really to believe the message that SNZ appears to be sending? Is Renford saying that swimmers losing teeth on the bottom of the Kilbirnie pool or potentially breaking a skull or spine is fine but, for the SNZ Millennium pampered few, losing a few hours’ sleep in Rio is an “unreasonable demand”.

I happen to agree that swimming through the night is a crazy idea. There is no way midnight swim meets should ever happen. But asking Lauren Boyle, or anyone else, to start races at the shallow, and non-complying, end of the Kilbirnie Pool and then signing a form saying the pool satisfies all FINA’s athlete’s welfare standards – is a million times worse.

So there it is. What do you think? Wikipedia says hypocrisy is “the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. It is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.” SNZ tells us late night swim meets must be banned because “the welfare of the athletes which must remain paramount”. And on the other hand SNZ approves the use of a dangerous pool in Wellington and tells the world that the pool meets all of FINA’s safety standards. Does that seem to you like criticizing the behavior of others but failing to follow the same principles oneself? If it does? Well I guess, if the cap fits, SNZ will just have to wear it.

But sadly, remember the final Wikipedia note of caution.

“Hypocrisy is one of the most difficult human conditions to correct – mainly because those with the problem are not aware of it. “We are so skilled at putting on a show of virtue that we fool even ourselves,”

And that sums up 17 Antares Place just about perfectly.

PS Two sources have told me this week that Villanueva and Lyles are not seeing eye to eye on several issues; for example, I am told, the selection of swimmers for the December Queensland Championships. Perhaps cracks are beginning to appear in the Millennium façade.


So Sue Me

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

By David

In my opinion, the current management and Board of Swimming New Zealand are made up of the most disgusting bunch of low life creeps I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. If the great hand of God was to go down as far as he could and lift them up as high as he could, none of them would reach the bottom. But this week even they found new a depth of depravity, a new level of greed, a new way to disgust.

Here is what the “guardians” of the sport of swimming in New Zealand have just ordered.

A few months ago Swimming New Zealand published a new schedule of membership fees. The fees all increased, of course, and way more than the rate of inflation. Those Mazdas have to be paid for somehow. The arrogance of the manner in which 17 Antares Place spends money and charges the membership is stunning. Their behaviour reminds me of the phrase attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette upon learning that the peasants had no bread, “Let them eat cake.”

That impression was reinforced when I noticed Swimming New Zealand had added a new fee to their payment schedule. Volunteer officials were going to be charged a $15 per annum membership fee. Providing their time and knowledge for free was no longer sufficient for the gang of imports running the new Swimming New Zealand. From now on officials were going to have to pay for the honour of standing at a swimming competition.

The pages of Swimwatch advocated a policy of civil disobedience. Get qualified, work at the swim meets but don’t register with Swimming New Zealand. Don’t pay the $15 fee. The swim meet would be managed by qualified officials; the rules would be properly enforced but Swimming New Zealand would miss out on their usurious fee.

It is important to understand that no one is suggesting officials should not be well trained and properly qualified. In fact the opposite is true. In my experience the better qualified, the more knowledgeable an official becomes the better it is for everyone. I have often mentioned my admiration for an official in Florida who was also an American Airline’s pilot. In things swimming he was well trained, experienced, decisive and caring. Even though he often disagreed with me he was, and I am sure still is, all that any swimmer or coach could want in an official.

What I disagreed with was Swimming New Zealand’s decision to charge these officials for their service. And, as I have said, my recommended solution was to work as normal but decline Swimming New Zealand’s demand for money.

The $15 amount is also irrelevant. There is not a soul in New Zealand who does not believe that the fee has been set at a low $15 as a means of getting the charge introduced. It would be outrageously naïve to believe the amount of $15 was going to last for long. Not when you are dealing with these guys. In five years that will double. The life style of a Swimming New Zealand executive demands no less.

I think the policy of civil disobedience must have been working. I suspect 17 Antares Place was getting very few $15 cheques. So what did they do? They reverted to type. They decided to use force. They decided to exercise cold blooded power. On the 12 November Swimming New Zealand distributed an email titled “Event Approval Process”.

The document was ruthless. It said that if the results of an event were going to be approved by Swimming New Zealand the officials at the meet had to be properly qualified “and are financial.” I repeat, no one here is objecting to the call for proper qualifications. But the demand for money is disgusting.

It is repulsive because it holds the efforts of young swimmers to ransom. It says, “pay us $15 or we will not approve your child’s swim times.” Remember that caste-iron rule, “Never take it out on the swimmers.” Try telling that to the management or Board of Swimming New Zealand. I doubt that they care. They appear to have no problem rejecting swimmer’s times that have been swum in a proper meet, run by properly qualified officials, just because one or more of the officials have not paid Swimming New Zealand a registration fee. I’m not saying this is blackmail but, you have to admit, threatening to punish swimmers by not approving their times unless their “parent officials” pay $15 is bloody close to the Webster definition of a “payment that is extorted”.

I imagine many “parent officials” will pay the $15 rather than run the risk of having Swimming New Zealand discard the efforts of their children. And of course that is what Swimming New Zealand is banking on. Good people will do what good people do. And bad buggers will get away with behaviour that, in my view, has no principle.

And the argument that has been made to me, that officials used to pay a registration fee in the old days, so why not pay a similar fee today, has no merit. In 1840 the Victorians saw children as young as five working in coal mines as a normal part of life. But we’ve moved on. We know better now. Except, it seems, if you work for Swimming New Zealand. In that case, reverting back to the ancient custom of charging officials is just fine.

I would still advocate the principle of civil disobedience. Just refuse to pay the fee. I don’t believe the guys who run Swimming New Zealand these days have the courage to follow through on their threat. Remember this is the same crew that signed a FINA form that said the Wellington Pool met all FINA rules when it clearly did not. Just imagine if this $15 fee rule had been in place when Boyle swam her 1500 metre time and Swimming New Zealand discovered one of the IOTs had not paid the $15 fee, do you think for a second Layton or Renford would have let that get in the way of having the time approved. Of course not.

The behaviour of Swimming New Zealand is pretty typical of bullies the world over. Their emails will threaten and coerce the parents of swimmers competing in Auckland Level Two meets or in the Hawkes Bay Waipukurau Meet but threaten the performance of one of the chosen Millennium few and watch their principles crumble.

“Follow the money”. This is simply about paying for the Mazdas. Just read their accounts. It’s all about paying for the Mazdas.


Knock Knock, Who’s There

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

By David

Every day, at 5.15am, I arrive at the West Wave Aquatic Centre in Henderson, Auckland. I stand inside the back door waiting for swimmers to knock; waiting to let our eager crew into the pool; waiting to witness their breathless excitement at the words of wisdom written on the team’s training whiteboard. For me, their coach, it’s a pretty boring daily ritual; waiting in the cold for the next knock. I began to wonder whether there was anything I could do to make my task more interesting. Trawling through the internet didn’t work. Every time I got involved in an exciting subject the arrival of a new swimmer would disturb my study.

I’m not sure where the idea came from. I think it probably grew over time; possibly it began by wondering who was at the door and grew into the idea that I might be able pick the swimmer’s identity by their knock. Did swimmers have unique knock – a sort of knocking fingerprint. I decided to study the knocking patterns of the West Auckland Aquatic’s team. Perhaps there were differences that would allow me to accurately pick the swimmer’s name before opening the door.

And, do you know what? It is remarkably easy. Four week’s study and I’m batting almost 100%. I’m beginning to show off. Before I open the door I ask swimmers, by name, how they are this morning. I hoped the reaction to my new skill would be one of wonder and admiration. Instead the response seems to be, “Oh my God, here’s David being an idiot again. When will he begin to act his age?”

Well it may interest you to know the knocking clues that identify some of West Auckland Aquatic’s best swimmers.

Bridget Maher is a good swimmer. She was recently picked to represent New Zealand in the Oceania Open Water Championships. Bridget however refuses to play my silly game; refuses to allow me to study the privacy of her personal knock. She protects her knock with all the enthusiasm of shielding her personal pin number. For Bridget there are limits to what a swim coach should know. Clearly knowing the details of her personal knock is a step too far. So how does Bridget protect this deeply private bit of information? Every day from a meter away, through the West Wave locked door, Bridget sends me text that simply says, “David.” I’m happy of course. Why? Because I still know who is on the other side of the door. I’m still batting 100%.

Jane Ip is another good swimmer. She has won New Zealand short course breaststroke championships and also represented New Zealand in the 2014 Oceania Championships. She has every right to have the demanding knock of a confident elite athlete. But how wrong can you be? Jane’s knock is exactly the opposite; very quiet, almost timid, with each knock spaced surprisingly wide apart. Jane’s knock certainly does not demand entry. It is more of a request; a sort of, “If you have time and aren’t too busy doing something more important, would you mind letting me into the pool.” Thank goodness her swimming is infinitely more assertive than her knock. But Jane is nice. She is the only one who regularly complements me on the obvious skill demonstrated by my early identification trick.

Jessica Marston doesn’t swim at West Auckland Aquatics any more. A few months ago she accepted a Washington State University swimming scholarship. But she did not escape before her knocking fingerprint was recorded and carefully filed. Jess has an impatient, busy knock. Her knock is loud and rapid. It says, “Hurry up, it’s cold out here and I’ve got work to do.” Certainly Jess’s knock always made me open the door a bit quicker than some of the less demanding knocks. I often smiled when I heard Jess’s knock. A coach can’t help be pleased with someone so keen to get on with their work. Or perhaps the knock meant she just wanted to get the whole dreadful training business out of the way for the day.

Lara van Egten came to West Auckland Aquatics two years ago after her Hawkes Bay club relegated her to their recreation lane. That was a monumental mistake. Since then she has gone from strength to strength and has made the finals of the New Zealand Winter Championships. Lara’s knock is an interesting blend of identifying qualities. It is not loud but is firm enough to be easily heard. It is not a rapid knock but is not slow either. It is authoritative without being demanding. It carries a message that says, “I want you to know I’m here and I want you to get in now, but I don’t want you to think that I’m demanding attention.” Lara has a polite knock.

And finally there is Abigail’s knock. Abigail too has swum in the finals of the New Zealand Winter Championship. She specializes in the three breaststroke events. She also teaches the West Auckland Aquatics junior Bronze Squad. She is a good piano player and has done very well summer busking outside the Henderson Mall. In twelve months Abigail will be beginning a university education in the United States. She is a busy person. And, as you would expect, Abigail has a busy knock. It is by far West Auckland’s fastest knock; a real Kalashnikov of sound. It could easily become a very demanding knock. Abigail avoids that peril by controlling the sound level. Rapid but not loud, says, “Open the door, I’m very busy but I expect you will recognize I’m being polite as well.”

There are others. Bayleigh’s knock is easy to pick. Alex has a knock that perfectly reflects his laid back personality. Judith Wright, coach of the Waterhole Club, occasionally uses the West Wave pool early in the morning. She has the most refined knock. The game is fun. It has certainly improved the tedium that used to characterize my early morning wait behind the West Wave pool’s back door.


Miskimmin Style Democracy

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

By David

I imagine every revolution begins as an individual thought that grows into a popular movement and matures into an irresistible force for change. Except, in this case, I do not believe I am the only individual who believes we have to change Miskimmin’s Swimming New Zealand. It’s a mess. Professional coaches, senior administrators and international swimmers have told me the path we are on is appalling. What can we do to change this madness?

Well, change is not going to be easy. Miskimmin’s Institute of Director pals drew up a new Swimming New Zealand constitution that consolidated power in the best tradition of a Soviet politburo. I know there will be readers who have already dismissed my opinion. “Of course,” I hear them say, “Peter Miskimmin would never allow the democratic heart of a New Zealand sport to be removed and eaten while the blood was still warm.” But that is what was done. And if you have doubts consider this.

Power in the new constitution ultimately lies in the hands of the Appointment Panel (AP). The AP is made up of five members, two of whom are appointed “by Sport NZ”. Two others are elected by the Regions. The fifth member is the SNZ Chairman who effectively is also a Sport NZ appointee. So, three of the five members of the AP owe their loyalty and their votes to Peter Miskimmin’s Sport NZ.

And why is the make-up of the AP so important. Well, the AP, (controlled by Miskimmin remember) controls the membership of the Swimming New Zealand Board. Get the idea. Miskimmin controls the AP. The AP controls the Board. The Board controls Swimming New Zealand – ipso facto, the resultant effect – Miskimmin controls Swimming New Zealand.

To remove any final doubts I had better clarify how the AP controls membership of the Swimming New Zealand Board. The Board has six members. Three members are appointed by the AP. The other three are elected by the regions BUT the candidates have to be pre-approved by the AP and only three candidates can stand for the three vacancies. Now that’s Miskimmin control on a communist Chinese scale. Just ask the citizens of Hong Kong.

And so just to reiterate the chain of command – Miskimmin, in the form of Sport NZ, controls the AP. The AP controls the Board. The Board controls Swimming New Zealand – ipso facto, the resultant effect – Miskimmin controls Swimming New Zealand.

And so having determined that the Miskimmin constitution transformed Swimming New Zealand into a wholly owned subsidiary of Sport NZ, how did Miskimmin protect his new found power. He did it by setting the bar for popular change impossibly high. Constitutional change requires a Special General Meeting (SGM). A SGM involves two things – a request by at least one third of the members of Swimming New Zealand and Board consent that the subject of the SGM is of “major importance”. If Miskimmin’s Board doesn’t like the subject matter, the SGM doesn’t happen.

Even if the topic of a SGM is approved every decision has to be passed by a two thirds majority of the membership of Swimming New Zealand; 11,552 votes from the 17,329 members. What this means is that as long as Miskimmin can control two big regions like Wellington and Waikato nothing gets approved. And there is little doubt that Miskimmin has an iron grip on the Wellington region. I suspect, if Miskimmin asked, Wellington would line up to vote against the abolition of slavery.

And so we know the Constitution has provided Miskimmin with the power to run the organization as he sees fit and has protected his power from change by the members. Democracy is discarded and will not be allowed back. Miskimmin’s constitution fits neatly into the dictionary definition of a dictatorship – “a form of government where political authority is monopolized by a single entity, and exercised through various oppressive mechanisms.”

But are there grounds for mounting a revolution? Has Miskimmin’s rule failed swimming so badly that there is cause for a popular uprising?

Well let’s do an audit of how well our rulers have performed. The table below sets out a list of the constitutional duties and responsibilities expected from Miskimmin’s subjects.

Constitutional Expectation

Performance Reality

Growth of the Sport including growth at Club level

The number participating has declined in the past four years by 18% from 21,141 to 17,329.

A coach development strategy

This coach has never been spoken to by the Miskimmin crew – not once.

A HP strategy supportive of  performance

NZ has just witnessed its fifth worst Commonwealth Games performance ever.

A key stakeholder relationship strategy

SNZ has just lost its principal sponsor – State Insurance.

A multiyear funding strategy;

SNZ is now totally dependent on government handouts.

A commitment to transparency on all matters

Board minutes are no longer published. Accounts no longer reveal salaries or employment perks.

A commitment to ‘playing the ball, not the person’

Miskimmin’s appointed representative uses a SNZ Special General Meeting to call for the CEO of the Auckland Region to be sacked.

Monitoring performance against budget

Spending on swimming has declined. Spending on administration has dramatically risen.

Addressing the viability and sustainability of SNZ.

Membership fees are down to 6% of sales

Monitoring regulatory compliance for SNZ

SNZ have just been deregistered by the Charities Board for non-compliance.

Fostering interaction with Regional Associations and Member Clubs.

I guess that’s why the CEO of SNZ accepted an invitation to attend the Auckland Junior League but never turned up.

Adopting a best practice performance culture

Open water swimmers get left off national team lists and open water medalists are omitted from team results.

Preparing annual KPIs and being accountable to Members for achievement of them;

I’ve never seen an annual KPI for the performance of these guys. Have you?

These are constitutional requirements. They have not been done. I would say that list is easily sufficient to begin a revolution. It is sad that the regions are not more proactive in holding those in power to account. The Auckland region looks hard and long at the number of officials at a swim meet, whether the club’s annual meeting was held on time and whether a parent has breached the sanctity of the pool deck. Being strict on these issues is right and proper. However, in terms of priorities, in terms of the health of the sport what is going on a 17 Antares Place is way more important. But is the Auckland Board; is the Board of any region doing anything about the disaster unfolding during their watch. I have never quite understood how I hear story after story about the constitutional misbehaviour of Swimming New Zealand and yet nothing is done. Right now Swimming New Zealand are demanding, right or wrong, good or bad, that all clubs have the same constitution and like sheep we all say, “Baaaa” and run to do as we are told.

Without question it is time to address the shortcoming of the management of Swimming New Zealand. It is time to call a Special General Meeting (SGM). Calling a SGM will require a request from 33% of the members. That’s a group like Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Southland, Counties and Nelson or Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Nelson and Waikato. Forget Wellington. Their 2893 votes are going nowhere.

Four items of business should be addressed in the SGM.

  1. An explanation for the financial and management lack of constitutionally required performance and a specific plan to put both right.

  2. The disappearance of member’s democratic rights and a plan to alter the constitution to enable more regional oversight.

  3. The abolition of the plan to standardize all club constitutions.

  4. Closing the SNZ swim school in Auckland and converting it into a resource unit for all New Zealand swim coaches.

There’s the challenge Auckland. I’ll sort out nomadic parents at the pool if you address something that is really important to the sport of swimming.


Emma Twigg – The Future of Swimming?

Friday, November 7th, 2014

By David

TV3 has just broadcast a news item on the plight of the New Zealand rower, Emma Twigg. In case you missed seeing the item here is a summary of what the news clip said:

Kiwi rower Emma Twigg is settling in to university life in Leicester.

She’ll continue to train with her sights still set on gold in Rio, but while she’ll be finished her studies in time to try to qualify at next year’s World Championship, Rowing New Zealand is holding firm on its decision she won’t be eligible for selection for the event.

“I’ve come over here knowing that it’s going to be a challenge, and I think that mentally the freshness it’s going to provide and being away from Karapiro where I’ve been for the last 10 years doing the same old thing day in, day out is hopefully going to be the difference between me winning a gold medal and not winning a gold medal.”

Twigg will train twice a day while completing a FIFA master’s course in sports management, which will see her study in England, Italy and Switzerland.

But that has put her chances of Olympic selection in jeopardy. Despite being the single sculls world champion and a finalist for World Rowing Female Crew of the Year, Rowing New Zealand won’t let her compete at next year’s World Championships if she doesn’t take part in the national programme this summer.

Chief executive Simon Peterson says there will be no exceptions to the rules.

“We’ve talked about it in depth, but no, once you start I think you’ve got to ask yourself what makes up your high-performance culture, and your centralisation [and] the commitment to Karapiro for all the athletes at all levels is key to our culture,” says Mr Peterson.

The 27-year-old says she performs better when rowing is not the be-all and end-all of life.

Twigg’s just hoping she gets the opportunity to be on that start line so she can realise her dream of being Olympic champion.

And so, if you were in any doubt, take a look at the future. New Zealand has a world champion rower who wants to complete, what sounds like, an exceptional degree in Europe. Her comments sound well balanced and intelligent. No wonder she’s a world champion sportswoman. But no matter how good her past performances, no matter how well she trains and races, no matter how just her cause, simply because she is not part of Miskimmin’s rowing school at Karapiro she will not be able to row for her country. The right to represent your country is bought with performance; not Miskimmin’s money.

Except in this case, Miskimmin’s money trumps Twigg’s performance. Miskimmin’s ideology trumps the national interest. I don’t know anything about, Simon Peterson, the Chief Executive of Rowing New Zealand, except that he came to rowing from a warm and cosy corner of the Miskimmin empire. His previous job was CEO of Sport Auckland, a wholly owned subsidiary of Miskimmin’s Sport New Zealand. It would be unusual to see a career administrator like Peterson stand up to Miskimmin who, after all, made his cushy number possible. And sure enough he didn’t. He has learned Miskimmin’s lines perfectly. Without hesitation the party line was recited without a glitch:

“Your centralisation [and] the commitment to Karapiro for all the athletes at all levels is key to our culture”.

For years Swimwatch have argued the point that Miskimmin’s plan is not about fine athletes coming from diverse backgrounds and beating the world. In Miskimmin’s world Colin Meads could never have continued farming in Te Kuiti and played for our country. Brian Lahore could never have stayed at home in the Wairarapa and captained the All Blacks. It must gall the life out of Miskimmin that Nick Willis does his thing in the United States, Valerie Adams trains happily in Switzerland and Corry Main is right at home in Florida.

Emma Twigg sends New Zealand sport and swimming especially a clear message. When Miskimmin has the power over a sport that he currently has over rowing there will be no deviation from the party line. It will be his way or the highway. Remember – “centralisation is key to our culture”. This is not about individual athletes winning gold medals for New Zealand. This is not about performance, or effort, or dedication. This is about Miskimmin’s dogma. This is about Miskimmin’s power. For as long as Emma Twigg lives in the UK the Miskimmin party line seems to be that it would be better for New Zealand to lose an Olympic Gold medal than have Emma Twigg win and encourage the thought that Miskimmin’s Karapiro was not the only pathway to success. You must admit, the Emma Twigg story does seem to support the idea that New Zealand is not all that far removed from the old East German policy. Communist gold medals were not individual triumphs. They were recognition of the dominance of the state; proof of their superior system. Emma Twigg bucked the system and, World Champion or not, that was never going to be allowed.

Miskimmin could not pull off the same trick with Valerie Adams. She was too good and managed to get the Minister of Sport to take her side. The story of her struggle for athletic independence is a fascinating portion of her autobiography. Much as I suspect Miskimmin would like to, he can’t pull the same tricks in swimming – not just yet anyway. Swimming is not good enough. If Miskimmin tried to do an “Emma Twigg” on swimming it would be a joke – no Corry Main, no Glen Snyders, no Kane Radford. Even Lauren Boyle finished her preparation for the Commonwealth Games being coached by a Frenchman in Spain. An “Emma Twigg” in swimming would mean no swim team.

But given a chance I am certain Miskimmin would like nothing more than to see 17 Antares Place transformed into a swimming “Karapiro”. I’m even more confident that Layton, Renford, Villanueva, Lyles and Bouzaid would love it even more. But imagine the cost of their ambition. If the “Emma Twigg” education principle applied to swimming, the sport would have refused to select Antony Moss (he went to Stanford to study), Paul Kingsman (Cal), John Steel (USC), Lauren Boyle (Cal), Cory Main (Florida), Simon Percy (Arizona), Gary Hurring (Hawaii), Lincoln Hurring and on and on it goes.

The big advantage of the Emma Twigg story is that it gives us a clear signal of Miskimmin’s intentions. They are sick and sad, but it’s what he wants. Saving swimming from the “Emma Twigg” syndrome is up to the Regions of Swimming New Zealand. I just hope those responsible have the balls to do something about it.