2018 Auckland Open Championships


Eyad Warming Up

I am seventy years old, and now I’m going to sound like it. What the hell has happened to the Auckland Open Championships? They are nothing like the event they used to be. When Toni Jeffs, Nichola Chellingworth and Jane Copland were swimming and winning that meet; when Ross Anderson was taunting over-zealous officials and when TV1 News turned up with two cameras, it was as different as chalk and cheese with what I have had to sit through tonight. The sport can never grow and prosper when this is the best competition New Zealand’s largest region can offer. I’ve been to more exciting funerals than the Auckland Open Swimming Championships.

American soldiers in Auckland during World War 2 are reported to have said that Auckland City was half as big as New York grave-yard and twice as dead. Boy-oh-boy I’d hate to think what they would say after an evening watching swimming at the West Wave Pool. I think the real problem is the colourful personalities have disappeared. Grey officials wander around permanently worried that the slightest error will cause Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) to de-register their meet. Even an old rebel like Paul Kent has been won over to the well-behaved side. As we left on the first night I heard the commentator tell everyone to be back at 7.30am “ready to rock-n-roll.” Let me tell you. I was around when rock-n-roll was invented and this was not it. It was terrible. Let me give you some examples.

Auckland Swimming spent many thousands on a new score board. Last night it worked for the women’s 800 and half the men’s 1500 and then was no more. Through all the 50s when a score board is needed the brand new Auckland version broke down. Remember when Jo Draisy ran the AOD Room. To say it would never have happened then might sound old-fashioned – but it is bloody true. Goes to show that a SNZ registration is no proof that you can run a swim meet.

The “live” internet results were not posted on the Auckland website until after the meet had finished. I guess Auckland Swimming’s meaning of “live” is the same as the “live” of their meet.

The programs distributed before the meet began had no relationship to events in the pool. For some reason the whole meet was reseeded. Combine that with not enough accurate new programs and self-marshalling and making the right event in the right lane was entirely left to chance. It was as if one of the grey crew said how can we make life as difficult as possible for these guys? I know let’s play Lotto with the lane draw and not tell anyone the winning numbers.

Talking about deliberate difficulty – I have recently spent a bit of time in Waitakere Hospital. In fact, at the last Golden Homes Meet, I had to get a day release from hospital to get to the meet. I’m home again now but the doctors have warned me about walking too far for a while. So last night I am required by Auckland Swimming to enter the meet through the door at the back of the pool. I wait in my car until a park close to the door is available. All good so far. Then it comes time to leave and the back door is locked. The only way out is through the front door and a walk right around the West Wave Pool to get to the car. Once again Auckland Swimming is being difficult. If you are going to force people in through a specific door at least allow them the courtesy of leaving the same way. Certainly have another management meeting to see if there are any more decisions that can make life for the swimming supporter as difficult as possible.

I’m sure the number of entries is declining. There was one swimmer in the men’s 1500. That made for a fascinating twenty minutes of entertainment. The best part was watching the lone swimmer’s coach gallop along the pool screaming instructions. I couldn’t understand a word so I doubt the swimmer was getting much out of it either.

I’d love to know who the genius was that wrote the meet program. No one puts the 50 butterfly and 50 freestyle events next to each other. There is a reason for that. Normally the best butterfly swimmers are also very good at freestyle and vice-versa. But not in Auckland. Up here they say “How can we make life as difficult as possible for New Zealand’s fastest swimmers? I know let’s put their two best races next to each other.” Brilliant.

So there are one or two examples of what not to do. Auckland Swimming is in a very sorry state – not good at all. I was happy with Eyad who went into the meet ranked eighth in the 50 freestyle and came out fourth. Gradually he is working his way up.

I was also fascinated to see ex-Florida swimmer, Paige Schendelaar-Kemp, at the meet. I used to coach, Ozzie, her old Florida coach. It’s the first time I’ve seen Paige swim. She is not swimming as fast as she has done but I was impressed. She was only seventh in the 50 freestyle but was clearly the best swimmer in the pool. She is a class act and I hope that at 19 she doesn’t get put off by the stark comparison between the morgue she was forced to swim in last night and the NCAA events in Florida. Now there they really do rock-n-roll.

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