Our Leaders

By David

Let Swimwatch introduce you to our leaders. As if the past two years were not enough, here is the team who reserve the right to lead us through the next 365 days. May God have mercy on our souls.



Miskimmin, The Dear Leader, may not be on any swimming Board or Committee but nothing happens without his approval. The current state of swimming is a direct consequence of the Miskimmin plan; a celestial plan (just look at the photograph) conceived on the day Brian Palmer and Bronwyn Radford, a select group known as The Sanctified, were invited to Wellington to meet The Dear Leader. I am told their visit involved a high security journey to a sanitised room where The Dear Leader appeared to cries from Sport New Zealand employees of “Long live our father”. Called to stand in front of Miskimmin’s table The Sanctified were ordered to swear a pact of secrecy. But if one steps back from the idea of concealment to see the Sport New Zealand kingdom for what it really is, it all comes down to the exercise of financial power in a most visceral form.



Alex Baumann is of little consequence. His role is essentially confined to putting Miskimmin’s plans into effect. There is a carpet-bagging aspect to his background – Canada, Australia, back to Canada and now New Zealand. Perhaps this transience suggests an unpredictability that may explain why he is the boss of High Performance Sport in New Zealand and yet sends his children back to swim for Canada or why he employs a National Swimming Coach in May 2013 and in December 2014 advertises for someone to replace his first choice or why when he was swimming he left an international training program in Indiana in order to return to his home town and train with long-time personal coach Jeno Tihanyi. Today he spends millions trying to convince NZ swimmers to do the opposite; to leave their home coach and train in a program not half as good as the one Baumann once left. I suspect he doesn’t believe in the product he’s employed to sell.



Those eyes! Would you buy a used Mazda from that man? The most ardent fan of the new Swimming New Zealand’s CEO would admit 2014 has not been kind to the Australian import. He penned a letter to a New Zealand Court extoling the virtues of a multiple drink driving employee. He had to apologize for forgetting that open water swimmers were part of the national team. He signed a world record application form swearing that the Wellington Pool met all FINA standards when every branch of the world’s swimming press knew that the pool did not comply. Decent swimmers have abandoned his state run Millennium swim school. The set of accounts he produced contained some really bad news for the sport. The sports primary sponsor left the sinking ship. And swimming at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Games was awful. I suspect The Dear Leader will be looking closely at the performance of this one of his subjects.



The fall guy – it seems.



Oh dear he’s gone too – but for old times’ sake – Salud, Cheers, Prost, Skaal, Gezondheid, Kampai



With the elusive skills of a Spanish matador Villanueva seems to be able to glide and step his way out of trouble. The organization’s swim school is in chaos and the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Games performance was a national embarrassment. The team’s pre-Games tour of Mediterranean tourist hotspots was every New Zealander’s holiday dream. You would think some of the fallout from all that would stick to the boss. But no, it appears David Lyles is going to carry the can for the failures of their “elite” swim program. Early last year a prominent Spanish swimming website suggested Villanueva’s past was a story of the good, the bad and the ugly. I remember an old New Zealand farmer telling me that if you ever wanted to decide whether to have someone as a friend imagine yourself lost in the bush on a cold wet night. Is this guy someone you’d want with you? For me Villanueva fails that test.



Layton, the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, is even more irrelevant than Alex Baumann. A puppet perhaps – hired to put into effect Miskimmin’s 21 point plan? He recently claimed the organization had “turned around” both on and off the water. That may be right; except it’s the wrong turn. The days when Cameron, Byrne and Coulter were in charge are looking positively halcyon compared to the current mess. How is it that someone who makes such great play of their communication skills can stay so bloody silent when his organization appears to be getting rid of its National Coach? My wish for Dr Layton in 2015 is that someone teaches him to tuck his shirt into his trousers. The sight of his ample puku at the National Swimming Championships is more than I can bear.