2018 Golden Homes Swimfest

Normally I don’t write about swim meets; certainly not big city swim meets. They are too slick and too smart. Devoid of heart, lacking personality and hidebound by ridiculous rules your average big city meet is killing the sport. I prefer the country occasions; meets like the Gisborne Hawkes Bay Poverty Bay Championships or the Counties Championships – meets run by real swimming people with chlorine in their blood; meets where the scones are piled high with strawberry jam and whipped cream; meets where swimming tradition is respected.

But it looks like I am going to have to make an exception. This weekend I went, with Eyad, to the North Shore Club’s Golden Homes SwimFest Meet. Certainly that qualifies as a big city meet. Good God, it takes place on the frightfully ostentatious North Shore of Auckland, in a self-important pool known as the National Aquatic Centre and under offices occupied by the pretentious clique that claims to run Swimming New Zealand. It would be difficult to find anything, anywhere as big city as that.

But it just goes to show – never judge a book by its cover. There were many features that gave this meet life; that provided it with tradition; that made it a fun weekend.

First, the competition was good. Many of New Zealand’s best swimmers came to swim. Hunter, Coetzee, Ashby, Lee, Alexander, Garrod, Schroder, Falconer and Doyle were all entered. Meet promoters around the world know that if good athletes are on the card people will come to watch. But if the swimming is rubbish, all the presentation tricks in the book are not going to save the occasion. That’s what is wrong with the Swimming New Zealand Zone Carnival – the best swimmers don’t go and it shows. But on this occasion that was not a problem. The swimming was good. It was enjoyable. It was fun to watch.

Second it was two days of non-stop activity. I bet the North Shore Club organizers wanted their meet to be a slick and polished event. Well, they missed that goal and ended up with something far better. This was a good meet from the old days – two days of constant racing, two days with thousands of swims, two days of good old-fashioned tradition. For a swimming purist, like me, the fact Auckland can still put on an event that preserves this quality does the heart good. Oh, sure the program slipped a half hour, possibly even an hour behind schedule – but who cared; certainly not me or any of the competitors playing down my end of the pool. This meet was not an uncomfortable rayon suit. This was a comfortable, warm jersey made from 12 micron Merino wool.

Third, small things make a difference. For example the North Shore Head Coach, Andy McMillan, was a great host. I guess he must have had a million things to do, but somehow he found the time to ask if I had any problems and invite me to the official’s room for lunch. Because of an appointment at Waitakere Hospital I could not go, but his invitation was appreciated. Those South Islanders sure know how to behave. Thank you Andy.

Fourth the pool is great. It is deep. It is fast. It is well looked after and the staff are delightful. The whole centralised training thing made me a bit suspicious of this pool. However the staff have won me over. It is now the best run pool in the country. I love going there.

And so Eyad and I will be back next year. We like the venue and we like the meet. I do not mean this to be in anyway condescending but as Mohammed Ali once said, North Shore Club “you done splendid”. Please don’t listen to the trendies who will tell you no session should last longer than 20 minutes, or 200 breaststroke races are boring, or you need more spot prizes. By good fortune or good management you have struck upon something that is good and works; something that the trendies would never manage. Stay with your formula and thank-you for a great weekend of swimming.

I’d better end this story by telling you how Eyad swam. The meet was his first race of the 2018 winter season. He has just completed ten weeks of long, reasonably slow aerobic fitness swimming and four weeks of faster, but still long anaerobic training. He has done no speed training so we were not expecting a lot. The table below shows his ranking going into the meet and his final place together with the time he swam. Certainly we are both happy – a good start at a good place to start.

Event Ranking Place in Meet PB Time Swum
50 Fly 12 10 26.25 27.41
50 Free 12 7 24.47 24.54
100 Fly 11 7 1.01.94 1:01.37 PB
200 Free 24 na 2:09.33 2:06.23 PB
100 Free 10 4 54.10 55.28


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