Fake News

Swimming news is seldom all that important. The exaggerated winning margin of the junior boy’s 200 butterfly lags in prominence behind the fictitious size of Donald Trump’s electoral victory. Mind you the Board of Swimming New Zealand is as prone to exaggeration as the current President of the United States. For example in the most recent Annual Report I am told that, “With strong leadership and governance from our Board and Management Team” “we deliver our vision” of “excellence in swimming”. I’m not sure how that “strong leadership and governance” is going to explain the most recent trial’s fiasco. Or perhaps, in the opinion of these strong leaders, having no one swim a qualifying time is sufficient to pass as excellence in swimming. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how the Board came up with the description of itself as “strong leadership and governance”. That seems to me to be a bit of a stretch. Perhaps Bruce and Donald have something in common. But for those who indulge in fake news anything is possible.

It should be obvious that performance and progress are best served when there is a ruthlessly uncompromising attitude to the truth. If something has gone wrong, then own it. Don’t spend time telling lies or spinning the truth. If something has gone right accept it for what it is. Don’t try and turn the level three junior girl’s 25 breaststroke into an Olympic final. Kipling said it best, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same …Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And which is more you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Sadly it is not only Swimming New Zealand who fail the accuracy test. When it comes to swimming the mainstream press and commentators also indulge in fake news. For example New Zealanders have recently been competing in Australian state championships in Victoria and Queensland. Here is a comment I read about the Australian state competitions.

“It’s tough to get a medal at the Victoria Champs, one of the two toughest state champs in Australia.”

Of course the comment is a really dumb thing to say. The difficulty of getting a medal anywhere is going to depend on the event and who is swimming. When Lauren Boyle was around, winning a distance freestyle event was as difficult in New Zealand as anywhere. Right now winning the women’s 50 freestyle in Queensland or the men’s 100 breaststroke in Scotland or the men’s 200 butterfly in South Africa or the men’s 100 butterfly in Singapore is extremely tough.

Ignoring the stupidity of the comment, I was puzzled by its accuracy. It seemed like fake news. I have swum in, or have had swimmers compete in, the Queensland, Victoria, NSW, South Australia and West Australia state championships. I would never have thought of Victoria as being “one of the two toughest state champs”. Swimmers I have coached have won medals in Victoria, South Australia, West Australia and NSW. I don’t think any of them would have thought the Victoria event was one of the two most difficult. Without doing any research I would have thought Queensland and NSW were Australia’s two toughest states followed by Victoria a distant third and West and South Australia after that.

And so for the sake of accuracy I looked up the results of the most recent state championships in five Australian state competitions. The results for the big three states are shown in the table below. I did the same table for West and South Australia but have not included them in this post.

Event Queensland NSW Victoria
M W M W M W
50 Fr 22.55 24.13 21.88 24.47 22.99 25.66
100 49.23 52.69 48.46 53.15 50.23 54.88
200 1.47.96 1.56.34 1.48.36 1.55.98 1.48.61 1.58.76
400 3.49.73 4.02.86 3.49.54 4.08.06 3.50.74 4.18.80
800 W - 8.31.00 - 8.29.23 8.48.57
1500 M 15.08.98 - 15.13.98 - 15.21.35
100Bk 54.03 59.22 54.64 59.28 54.63 59.97
200 1.57.41 2.10.35 1.59.13 2.08.77 1.59.89 2.09.96
100BR 1.01.66 1.07.24 1.00.23 1.06.55 1.00.54 1.08.03
200 2.12.29 2.23.50 2.10.67 2.23.17 2.09.65 2.26.05
100Fl 53.47 58.79 53.28 58.02 53.93 58.41
200 1.58.58 2.09.33 1.57.34 2.10.57 2.00.70 2.09.33
200 IM 1.58.89 2.13.13 2.00.47 2.13.78 2.03.38 2.14.82
400 4.20.45 4.42.98 4.18.52 4.44.51 4.24.48 4.50.51

So what does this information tell us? It tells us that the description of Victoria as “one of the two toughest state champs” is fake news rubbish.

On the basis of the state with the fastest swimmer in each event the analysis shows that NSW and Queensland have by far and away the fastest swimmers. The comparison is not even close. The Victoria championships have the fastest swimmers on only two of 26 events.

State Position State Number of Fastest Events
First NSW 12
Second Queensland 11
Third Victoria 2
Fourth West Australia 1
Fifth South Australia 0

Allocating points to the fastest, second fastest and so on tells a similar story. The table below shows the numbers. For ease of calculation I allocated the lowest points to the fastest swimmers. Here again the gap after the big two states down to Victoria is huge. The Victoria meet is close to 2% (or 2 meters per 100 meters) weaker than Queensland and NSW.

State Position State Points for First place
First Queensland 69.46.79
Second NSW 69.52.04
Third Victoria 71.04.96
Fourth West Australia 72.52.28
Fifth South Australia 73.16.06

And so whatever way the figures are presented, whether it is by the fastest in each event or by points over all the events, the two strongest states are Queensland and NSW. Victoria is a distant third and West and South Australia behind that. The moral is, don’t believe everything Swimming New Zealand tells you and if you get your facts from internet social media check their accuracy. Or in the words of an internet social scientist, “Don’t buy into the myth”.

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