The Pain Goes On

You will be aware by now that the first Commonwealth Games trial in Auckland resulted in no swimmers qualifying for the Games’ team. This week the second installment of the New Zealand trials took place at the Queensland State Championships. I know that sounds odd but in the world called Swimming New Zealand the bizarre often passes as normal.

New Zealand had about a dozen swimmers competing in the open events. The table below shows the times swum by the New Zealand swimmers who qualified to swim in open event finals. And as you can see their qualifying success was no better than it had been in Auckland. No one qualified for the Commonwealth Games team. So there we have it, two Swimming New Zealand trials have come and gone and not one swimmer has been added to the Commonwealth Games team.

Swimmer Event Swimmer’s Time Women’s QT Men’s QT
Transom 50 Fr Women 26.31 25.02
Transom 100 Fr Women 56.35 53.91
Transom 200 Fr Women 2:03.70 1.57.88
Hyde 200 Fr Men 1:52.63 1.46.84
Mincham 200 Fr Men 1:52.97 1.46.84
Robinson 400 Fr Women 4:17.23 4.08.07
Mincham 400 Fr Men 3:55.20 3.46.96
Hyde 400 Fr Men 4:00.90 3.46.96
Robinson 800 Fr Women 8:36.04 8.31.68
Mincham 1500 Fr Men 15:35.83 15.08.35
Gichard 100 Bk Women 1:02.30 59.82
Ashby 100 Bk Men 57.12 54.20
Gichard 200 Bk Women 2:14.97 2.08.92
Dorrington 200 Bk Men 2:08.39 1.58.83
Borlase 100 Br Women 1:15.72 1.07.06
Layton 100 Br Men 1:02.67 1.00.16
Layton 200 Br Men 2:13.15 2.10.56
Wang 200 Br Men 2:25.27 2.10.56
Borlase 200 Br Women 2:39.08 2.24.93
Ashby 200 IM Men 2:06.24 1.59.29

For a variety of reasons I was especially interested in the performance of four swimmers – Mincham, Gichard, Ashby and Robinson.

I don’t know Robinson but have watched her swim often enough and have always been impressed by her honest determination. I also liked the commitment she showed by going off to Australia to train. She might not have the talent of Lauren Boyle but her application and resolve seem to me to be very special. In her case I was hoping she would get to the 8.31 required to qualify. And she almost did. She swam 8.36.

Ashby qualified for the Games at the World Championships in July. Like many good swimmers before him he stayed doggedly loyal to the failed Millennium High Performance program. I was interested to see how well his career survived being left in the hands of an intern after Jerry Olszewski decided Swimming New Zealand was not what the American wanted. Dozens failed before Ashby but perhaps he was going to defy the odds. Sadly that does not look to be the case. In fact Ashby appears to have had a terrible meet. Perhaps he was swimming 100kms a week through the meet. It would take something like that to explain such a dramatic drop in performance. To swim two seconds away from his personal best and three seconds off the qualifying time in the 100 backstroke is not good. But of far more concern is being seven seconds (5.6%) away from his personal best and the qualifying standard in his favourite event, the 200 medley. Even swimming 100kms barely explains that gap. But we should not be surprised. If Ashby does have a problem he joins a long line of fine swimmers who have suffered the same fate at the hands of Swimming New Zealand’s disastrous experiment in training competitive swimmers. The table below shows Ashby’s numbers.

Ashby 100 Bk Men 57.12 55.07 54.20
Ashby 200 IM Men 2:06.24 1.59.24 1.59.29

My interest in Mincham and Gichard was because of their coaching history. Both swimmers had made a decision to leave coaches I respect and admire and join a coach that I do not like. Mincham left Judith Wright, coach of the Waterhole Club in Auckland and Gichard left Noel Hargrave-Booth, coach of the Greendale Club in Hawkes Bay. Both coaches have successfully coached many fine swimmers and have displayed the traditional values characteristic of New Zealand’s best sport’s coaches. Certainly the careers of Mincham and Gichard prospered under their direction.

But both swimmers decided to join David Lyles. You may remember he was made redundant by Swimming New Zealand; a decision he contested in Court and lost. Shortly after he left Swimming New Zealand I paid him $3000 of my money to coach my team while I was overseas. In my opinion that was a waste of money. His performance was not what I expected. Is it too late to ask for a refund?

Anyway Mincham and Gichard have now been with Lyles long enough for us to see whether the change of coach is working. Clearly, in the early part of a transition, swimmers are still receiving a benefit from their previous coaching. But after time the swimmer’s performance is all down to the new regime. So how is the new program working out in this case? Not too well it seems. The table below shows the numbers.

Gichard 100 Bk Women 1:02.30 1.00.51 59.82
Gichard 200 Bk Women 2:14.97 2.10.87 2.08.92
Mincham 200 Fr Men 1:52.97 1.51.80 1.46.84
Mincham 400 Fr Men 3:55.20 3.58.13 3.46.96
Mincham 1500 Fr Men 15:35.83 15.32.00 15.08.35

Five swims and only one personal best; five swims that average a huge 4% slower than the qualifying standard; a 1500 national champion who is close to the length of the pool behind the qualifying time and a 100 backstroke specialist who is four meters away from qualifying. Even for a master of spin it’s going to be hard to turn that into a feel-good story.

There will be some who find this post too harsh. But that is deliberate. For too long Swimming New Zealand has conned the sport with its spin. Their deception has got us nowhere. Too many swimmers like Gichard, Mincham and Ashby have been hurt deeply in the process. It’s about time the sport faced up to the reality of its position and did something about it. Our two previous posts have suggested one option for a way ahead. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Swimming New Zealand to tell us their plan – if they ever have one.

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