The Lady Di Effect

Almost certainly Swimwatch has spent too many words discussing the legacy of Jan Cameron. The last thing she seems to be able to do is rest in peace. This therefore will be the last Swimwatch post on the subject. And this post is only exists because of the following Facebook news item.

Jan touched the hearts and lives of many people and so we are planning to celebrate Jan’s life both in Australia and New Zealand –

Thursday 10 May at 11am
Matthew Flinders Anglican College Performance Centre
1-47 Stringybark Road, Buderim, Queensland, 4556


New Zealand:
Monday 14 May (time TBC)
AUT Millennium
17 Antares Place, Rosedale, Auckland, 0632

Please join us in celebrating Jan’s life. In true Jan fashion, please wear something bright.

A massive thanks for all the support from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Matthew Flinders Anglican College and AUT Millennium

Jan will live on in our hearts always

A funeral in Australia followed by a memorial service in New Zealand; that is incredible. Two celebrations 1200 miles and four days apart I’ve seen many more low-key state funerals than that. Prime Ministers, Presidents, even Kings and Queens usually have their passing recognised in one service. How Jan’s resume justifies two state occasions, because that is the impression, is beyond my understanding.

It seems like the Lady Di effect all over again. The deification of Saint Jan. Her death has provided an army of sports fans, most of whom never met Jan, the opportunity to elevate her reputation and polish her resume way beyond anything justified by her performance. She was a good coach, but that is all. Her record does not compare with the likes of George Haines, Mark Schubert, Duncan Laing, Doc Councilman, Gregg Troy, Don Talbot, Forbes Carlile and Fabrice Pellerin. Between them those coaches guided swimmers to more than 50 Olympic Gold Medals. Arthur Lydiard coached five Olympic medals out of the same Auckland suburb. In her time in New Zealand, and with an investment of millions of state dollars, Jan had none. But she now has something none of them will or could achieve – two international funerals.

Which brings me to the main point of this post. Ignore the rest of the world; even in New Zealand there is a list of good swimming coaches whose contribution matched that of Jan Cameron. Three in particular stand out Clive Rushton, Duncan Laing and Lincoln Hurring. These men were farewell without pomp and ceremony, without bugles and drums in simple ceremonies in Indonesia, Dunedin and Auckland. In comparison Jan’s elevation to sainthood is unfair hypocrisy.

Clive Rushton was New Zealand’s Director of Coaching. Quiet, thoughtful and inclusive, he brought sincerity to the sport in New Zealand. Jan and Clive clashed because their personalities clashed. One was aggressively demanding. The other was the opposite of that. But that in no way diminished the contribution of Rushton. I was coaching good swimmers all through the era of Rushton and Cameron. The quiet Englishman certainly taught me more about the sport. Jan taught me nothing. But that is hardly a surprise. Her goals were never global. They never included me or people like me. They were personal. How did it benefit Jan was what mattered.

Duncan Laing taught New Zealand that winners can be made in New Zealand swimming pools; and not just with Danyon Loader. You didn’t need a university degree or Sport New Zealand’s money. With intelligent honesty and hard work you could take on the world and you could win. He taught us all to stick to the basics, to do the simple things well. Duncan Laing provided us with the greatest gift of all; the belief that success from a New Zealand swimming pool was possible. To New Zealand swimming Duncan Laing was what Roger Bannister was to world running and Edmund Hillary was to climbing mountains. He made the impossible, possible. And that was something Jan never achieved.

And finally Lincoln Hurring built a hugely successful swim program in Auckland long before the arrival of Jan Cameron. In 1975 Lincoln Hurring began coaching at the Takapuna Municipal Pool and built a successful swim school. Jan liked to create the impression that she alone achieved the miracle of popular swimming on Auckland’s North Shore. But the seeds of her success were sown; the area was introduced to good swimming, years before by Lincoln Hurring. I’ve spent a few very late nights sitting debating swimming matters with Lincoln Hurring. There was no sharper mind or colourful, larger than life personality. Every minute was fun and hugely educational. Several times I have finally fallen asleep at 4.00am happy that my swimmers would benefit in two hour’s time from what I had just learned from Lincoln Hurring.

And so I am not convinced that Jan Cameron’s elevation to swim coaching sainthood with two memorials on both sides of the Tasman Sea is appropriate or deserved. Her record and participation were unnecessarily aggressive and self-centred. And second the unearned admiration, bordering on adulation, reflects poorly on some New Zealand swim coaching giants who deserve to see the sun of recognition well before Jan Cameron’s state eulogy.

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