This Morning’s Poolside Gossip

 Swimming pools are an amazing source of gossip. Everyday someone comes up with something. Of course I’ve been in hospital for a week and so when I arrived back at the pool this morning the place was positively buzzing. There were a hundred juicy rumors that were new since I left last week. Now I am prepared to accept the charge of encouraging the gossip. I like nothing more than absorbing embellished and colorful stories. If you listen carefully real life is way more dramatic than anything on TV – even Coronation Street.

Even in hospitals watching life go by is a fascinating adventure. I was waiting in the reception area for a scan on my lungs yesterday. Next to me an elderly lady said to her friend, “Did you see Muriel’s funeral notice. It must have been quite an occasion. It said to make sure to wear gumboots because the ground will be muddy. Do you have gumboots?” A long and complicated conversation then discussed the best footwear for a muddy funeral.

It reminded me of the occasion, when I was a teenager, my mother was asked to write a report, for the “Wairoa Star”, on an important local wedding. The mother of the bride spent most of the day preparing a hangi wearing a fairly shabby green dress and badly fitting black gumboots. My mother solved the problem by reporting that the bride’s mother wore “an apple green dress with black accessories.” The bride’s mother was delighted.

The main topic of gossip at the pool yesterday was the “retirement” of Bradlee Ashby. There it was, in all its wonderful technicolor glory.

“Had I heard Bradlee Ashby had retired? He has a broken heart because his girlfriend has left him. He’s not entered the Open Championships.”

What did I think, I was asked? I made it clear that I didn’t think much at all. I’d certainly wait for Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) to confirm the rumours. However, if the story turns out to be true, SNZ should say something very soon. Ashby has been a beneficiary of our organisation’s money. Deciding to move on is his right. But financially we do have a right to know. So front-up SNZ – has Bradlee Ashby left the building? What is going on?

If he has decided to move on it would not be a surprise. He’s had a tough summer. He made an unfortunate decision to indulge in too much publicity before the Commonwealth Games. SNZ exploited his good swim at the World Championships for their financial gain. He was upstaged by Lewis Clareburt at the Games. He didn’t win the expected medal and now his girlfriend is on the move. But that’s the nature of top-class sport. It’s a tough, tough world. If Bradlee Ashby isn’t capable of handling a terrible season and getting back up for another go he’s probably better off doing something else.

We remember Mohamed Ali because he was banned for years because of his stand on Vietnam and came back to win the world championship. After her crushing defeat at the Barcelona Olympic Games and a car crash that cracked a vertebrae in her spine Toni Jeffs came back to win two bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games. Few people knew of the leg problems suffered over two seasons by John Walker. Arch Jelley had to adapt John’s training in all sorts of novel ways to get him through until they discovered a medical cure. There are many examples of the character required to be a champion.

Calling it a day because of girlfriend problems, if that is a reason, probably means you should be doing something else. Besides how did Ashby retiring become associated with his girlfriend in the first place? He must have told someone. The link had to come from him. After all he sounds like he comes from a fairly emotional family. Here is a NZ Herald report on the reaction of Bradlee Ashby’s father after his son swam in the Rio Games.

Father of swimmer Bradley Ashby described how he “cried like a baby” watching his son swim at the Rio games. Gregor Ashby said it was a dream come true for his 20-year-old son who got through to the semifinals and competed against US swim star Michael Phelps.

“He’s been dreaming about it for the last 10 years,” said Mr. Ashby.

A disturbing story that came out of my first morning back was an allegation of bad manners. We all know the arrogance bred by the Francis SNZ Centralised Training Program. It has been there for years. It is as repulsive today as it ever was. Well today I was told a member of the SNZ squad threw a wrapper on the floor of the pool deck and was asked to pick it up. His reply was, “Don’t you know who I am?” And they wonder why we continue to lose. Francis and Woofe and Johns can huddle in the coffee shop for hours but while their program supports that culture they should follow Ashby out the door.

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