The Final Outrage

 This is the fourth and last post that will debate aspects of the Francis’ information meeting. However this one is a little different. In this post I am not sure of all the facts. For example I am guessing at the identity of the parties involved. In spite of the circumstantial nature of the conclusions, in my opinion, they are the most valid explanation of what actually occurred.

Early in the information meeting Francis was challenged by a woman who did not approve of the time Francis said he had spent getting to know the coaches of American University based New Zealand swimmers. Quite rightly Francis was making the point that some of New Zealand’s best swimmers were attracted to the education opportunities offered in the United States. The woman was attempting to paint US scholarships as some form of treason. Instead of standing up to her ridiculous notion Francis deflated like a pricked balloon; even going as far as to say, “No I think you are right.” That sounded absurd when a minute before he was challenged he had said, ““A major, major important part of our role was to start to develop relationships with coaches who work with our athletes overseas.”

It was pretty obvious that Francis didn’t think the woman was right but, in my opinion, there is not much of Winston Churchill in Gary Francis I’m afraid.

As part of that exchange Francis then told a story about a swimmer he had recommended should leave New Zealand and train in Australia. This is what he said;

Already two weeks ago I was in discussion with an athlete and their coach. They felt the coach had reached the limit the coach could take the athlete to in their program and they needed to move. And they explored several options and in the end the option I recommended to that athlete was to go to the Sunshine Coast. And that’s the only athlete I have recommended to go overseas AT THE MOMENT. But for that particular athlete in that event at that level and level of development and the background the athlete had come from. With the opportunity that was there; there was a family connection That was a really good option and probably better than the other options.

A couple of days later Mya Rasmussen announced she was leaving her Palmerston North home program, Kiwi West Aquatics coached by Andrew Nicholls, and heading to the Sunshine Coast. And that’s where the guess work comes in. You see I think the swimmer Francis was talking about was Mya Rasmussen. And if that is the case, it’s a bloody disgrace. You may be wondering why?

Well I’ve had quite a bit of contact with the founder of Kiwi West Aquatics, and Andrew’s father, Trevor Nicholls over the years. In fact the only two swim coaches in New Zealand Arthur Lydiard knew when I first met him were Jan Cameron and Trevor Nicholls. If the Francis’ story is about Rasmussen, there is no way in the world that Francis should have recommended Australia over Kiwi West Aquatics. If Francis was prepared to abandon a quality program like Kiwi West, then no club in New Zealand is safe from similar plunder. Let me explain why.

For forty years the Kiwi West program has produced a steady stream of New Zealand Champions, record holders and representatives. And their success has been in age group and open events; in sprints and in distance swimming; in the pool and in open water and has included men and women. Many coaches can luck out and come up with a single champion. To do it frequently over forty years is not luck. That’s good coaching. Both coaches have been employed by Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) as national Team Managers and Trevor created the SNZ Youth Development Programme and for years was the Youth and National Breaststroke Coach for SNZ.

As I say, if Francis was prepared to push Kiwi West under a bus, no one is safe. But there is more to the Nicholls than swimming success. When one of my swimmers, Jane Copland, was breaking New Zealand records she was selected for the Yokohama Pan Pacific Games team. Before the team left I was concerned that she needed some racing to sharpen her preparation. I heard that Kiwi West was having a club night and rang to see if Jane could join in. They agreed but more than that, when we arrived, fully qualified timekeepers, starters and referees had been brought in just in case Jane swam a record time. We were welcomed with warmth and care. And all of that needs to be understood in the context of the fact that the record Jane had most recently broken was the New Zealand Open 200 Short Course Breaststroke record, previously held by a Kiwi West swimmer. For years, when no one from SNZ would talk to that horrible David Wright, when Trevor was in Auckland, we would have a coffee and a chat in the Lincoln Road Mitre10. You respect a man like that.

I have not spoken to anyone at Kiwi West about this story. I would not want to put them in a compromising position with SNZ. However if Kiwi West did participate in the Rasmussen decision to go to Australia, I’m betting their approval was because that’s the sort of people they are, and not because they approved of the Francis’ recommendation.

Certainly, if I am right about the identities involved in the Francis story, the idea that “the coach had reached the limit the coach could take the athlete to in their program” is a sick joke. Francis should have backed the Kiwi West program and told the swimmer that the position of SNZ was to support Kiwi West. Rasmussen’s job was to get back into the Palmerston North pool and do her training.

If I am right, the moral is beware of Francis. The arrogance of the inhabitants of Antares Place knows no limit. They ruthlessly use the fear of sanction to spread their influence. Francis surprisingly admitted that. If Kiwi West isn’t safe neither is anyone else. While Francis holds on to that Centralised Program in Auckland be suspicious of his motives. He is a danger to us all.

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