Ignites Opening Night

I am a fan of the career of Emma Robinson. I don’t know her but she seems to be tough, honest, independent, prepared to buck the system and do her own thing. The manner in which the most recent Commonwealth Games team was selected Emma Robinson certainly should have been included. She is a far better swimmer than many who did get picked. Her best time of 8:31.27 would have placed 6th in the Brisbane final – a better result than 8 of the 12 who did swim for New Zealand. Only Hunter, Clareburt, Ashby and Perry placed equal to or better than 6th. Robinson was also the only qualifier for the Pan Pacific Games on the first night of the 2018 National Championships. The Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) website took the opportunity to herald her swim as “igniting the opening night”. It was a good swim. I was delighted for Emma Robinson. But SNZ do not do themselves any favours when they misuse superlatives.

Just as it is possible to award too much praise it is also easy to be too negative. So what is the truth? How good were the 2018 National Championships? Let’s look at this without trying to put SNZ down or promote their cause. What actually happened? Remember Steve Johns’ email said SNZ would be delighted to give me “the facts about what they are doing.” One of the products of whatever Johns does is the performance of swimmers at the National Championships. And so, without knowing his secrets, what were the results? Has whatever he has been doing worked?

I thought we could test his success in three ways

  1. How many Open Records were broken?
  2. How many swimmers qualified for the 2018 Pan Pacific Games?
  3. How old is the average NZ Open Record?

I’m sure those three tests are pretty factual measures of elite performance. If several New Zealand Open Records were broken recently; if a healthy group of six or seven swimmers swam Pan Pacs’ Qualifying Times at the Championships; and if the average age of an open record is two years or less then the elite side of the sport is in good health.

But if no records were broken; if only one or two achieved a Pan Pacs’ Qualifying Time and the average Open Record is five or six years old – then Johns has a problem; a problem that we all must share.

That sounds “factual” enough even by Johns’ lofty standards. So, what are the answers? First, the records broken at the Nationals. The table below shows the NZ Open Record compared to the 2018 Open winning time for each event.

The result? No Open records were broken during the week. SNZ did not stall; it went into reverse.

Male NZ Record 2018 Time Event Female NZ Record 2018 Time
22.31 22.60 50 Free 25.01 26.22
49.11 50.01 100 Free 53.91 56.67
1:47.09 1:50.35 200 Free 1:56.82 2:00.27
3.47.67 3:51.10 400 Free 4.03.63 4:16.40
7.56.14 8:01.87 800 Free 8.17.65 8:35.00
15.15.50 15:25.64 1500 Free 15.40.14 16:26.88
25.24 25.92 50 Back 27.81 28.41
53.32 55.85 100 Back 1.00.22 1:02.25
1.57.15 2:01.17 200 Back 2.09.13 2:15.32
27.06 29.02 50 Breast 31.21 32.47
59.78 1:02.94 100 Breast 1.09.26 1:10.86
2.10.55 2:11.55 200 Breast 2.29.73 2:34.08
23.40 23.99 50 Fly 26.30 27.65
51.61 54.21 100 Fly 58.51 1:01.13
1.54.15 1:57.57 200 Fly 2.09.84 2:16.41
1.59.24 2:00.65 200 IM 2:12.12 2:18.53
4.14.42 4:17.52 400 IM 4.39.07 4:53.23

The second table shows the Pan Pacs’ Qualifying Time compared to the winning Open result. How many swimmers qualified at this meet? Of course SNZ have been known to cheat with the team they select and swimmers swimming down the Arateatea Rapids with the flood gates open could be added. We know SNZ bend the rules to get the team they want. But actually qualified the old fashioned way – at this meet how many were there?

Two is the answer; Emma Robinson and Lewis Clareburt. In the honest world that used to apply to SNZ selection rules, the Pan Pacific team would be two swimmers. I think its likely Hunter will be added for his swims at the Commonwealth Games and two Open Water swimmers will result in a team of five. But at this Championship only two swimmers met the announced standard.

Male PP Qual. 2018 Time Event Female PP Qual. 2018 Time
22.47 22.60 50 Free 25.18 26.22
48.93 50.01 100 Free 54.90 56.67
01:47.73 1:50.35 200 Free 01:58.68 2:00.27
03:48.15 3:51.10 400 Free 04:10.57 4:16.40
07:54.31 8:01.87 800 Free 08:38.56 8:35.00
15:12.79 15:25.64 1500 Free 16:32.04 16:26.88
25.92 50 Back 28.41
54.06 55.85 100 Back 01:00.61 1:02.25
01:58.55 2:01.17 200 Back 02:11.53 2:15.32
29.02 50 Breast 32.47
01:00.35 1:02.94 100 Breast 01:07.58 1:10.86
02:11.11 2:11.55 200 Breast 02:25.91 2:34.08
23.99 50 Fly 27.65
00:52.29 54.21 100 Fly 58.48 1:01.13
01:57.28 1:57.57 200 Fly 02:09.77 2:16.41
02:00.22 2:00.65 200 IM 02:13.41 2:18.53
04:17.90 4:17.52 400 IM 04:43.06 4:53.23

And the third table shows the age of each National Open Record. Records broken in 2018 are shown as 0 years old. As you can see the average male record is nearly five years old. The average female record is closer to seven years. The combined average is almost six years. It is positively creepy to note that the average age of a NZ Open Record is exactly the same age as the new SNZ Constitution. It seems that when the Moller Report was adopted progress in the sport of swimming stalled. Fifty-six percent (19) of the national open records predate Moller’s constitution. It is difficult to imagine that there is a link. But it sure seems that way.

Male Record Age Event Female Record Age
2 50 Free 8
0 100 Free 9
4 200 Free 4
6 400 Free 6
1 800 Free 3
3 1500 Free 3
9 50 Back 3
6 100 Back 9
6 200 Back 9
6 50 Breast 13
6 100 Breast 12
6 200 Breast 2
9 50 Fly 5
9 100 Fly 2
9 200 Fly 2
1 200 IM 8
0 400 IM 10
4.9 5.7 6.5

And so don’t let Steve Johns or David Wright tell you whether the elite portion of the sport is in good health or not. Consider the facts and make up your own mind.

  1. No New Zealand Open Records were broken at the National Open Championships.
  2. Two swimmers swam Pan Pacific Games’ Qualifying times.
  3. The average New Zealand Open record is almost six years old.

I guess you will have worked out what that says to me. Now go ask Steve Johns for his spin. I’m sorry we can’t open the Swimwatch comments facility but if Johns sends me his take on those numbers I’ll happily publish it as a story.

  1. I must take up Johns’ offer and, with my latte in hand, take a few extra steps into the SNZ office and ask him why attendance at the Championships was so pathetically low. I’m picking that the Greerton and Flaxmere Meets this weekend will have more spectators than Auckland. For the nation’s premiere meet, it was awful. Whatever the Johns’ secret – it doesn’t seem to be working.

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