Swimming New Zealand’s 2018

And so the 2018 year of Cotterill, Johns and Francis is coming to an end. The first two acts involved the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Games. Act three, the World Short Course Championship, is about to begin. I have no doubt Cotterill and Johns will write a glowing report in their 2018 Annual Report. Their reports always distort the truth; best filed in the Auckland City Library as works of fiction

How has their competitive year actually gone? Is this what they are going to write? Or will their report require our further willing suspension of disbelief?

The year began with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Steve Johns, the CEO of Swimming New Zealand, was confident. He said that, “the 2018 Commonwealth Games will be a successful campaign.” “Swimming NZ is delighted with the team that has been announced. We are confident in the swimmers who have been selected and know that they are up for the challenge.”

New Zealand’s performance in the six days of competition (excluding Paralympic swimmers) is summarized in the table below.

Day Swims Gold Silver Bronze Finals PBs PB %
Total 65 0 0 1 11 18 27%

The result does not make good reading; one bronze medal and a 27% PB ratio. The most lowly club team in the country would expect better than a 27% PB ratio. Any coach delivering that result regularly could expect to be out of a job. For an international team at a Commonwealth Games it is an appalling statistic. Not winning can depend on all sorts of outside factors. But a 73% failure to meet personal bests is an internal team problem. Johns and Cotterill have delivered a catastrophic result. And it is down to them. In my view they played ducks and drakes with the selection of the team, they picked a terrible support crew, they screwed up the pre-Games camp, they approved an appalling pre-Games competition schedule and they persisted in a flawed training program. Their deficient decision making has been cruelly exposed and punished. Now it is time for them to take responsibility. It is time for justice.

Set out below is a table that shows how bad the 2018 Commonwealth Games swim team was. The table ranks each Games in order of success.

Rank Games Gold Silver Bronze Total Medals
1 Edinburgh 1986 2 3 1 6
2 Auckland 1990 2 2 3 7
3 Edmonton 1978 2 2 2 6
4 Christchurch 1974 2 1 4 7
5 Victoria 1994 1 5 2 8
6= Auckland 1950 1 2 3 6
6= Kingston 1966 1 2 3 6
8 Vancouver 1954 1 2 1 4
9 Melbourne 2006 1 1 4 6
10 Glasgow 2014 1 1 0 2
11 Delhi 2010 0 3 2 5
12 Hamilton 1930 0 2 0 2
13 Perth 1962 0 1 2 3
14= Hamilton 1958 0 1 1 2
14= Manchester 2002 0 1 1 2
16 Kuala Lumper 1998 0 0 2 2
17= Sydney 1938 0 0 1 1
17= London 1934 0 0 1 1
17= Brisbane 1982 0 0 1 1
17= Edinburgh 1970 0 0 1 1
17= Gold Coast 2018 0 0 1 1

You can see that Edinburgh in 1986 was New Zealand’s most successful result. That team won 2 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze medal. From that high the results gradually get worse until at the bottom there are five Games where the teams won only one bronze medal. Included in that trailing group is the Gold Coast 2018 team. But there is a major difference between the disaster of 2018 and the other teams that only won one bronze medal. The difference is money. In 1934, 1938, 1970 and 1982 there was none of the millions of dollars, none of the SUVs, none of the flash offices and corporate plans that have gone into the 2018 fiasco. At a cost of $14millon Clareburt’s Bronze Medal is the most expensive medal in history.

When a disaster of this magnitude occurs it is necessary for those responsible to accept the blame and act with honour. It is time for Johns and Cotterill to accept that the buck stops with them – not with the regions, not the coaches, not the swimmers, not the clubs, but with them. The 2012 Constitution gave them great power. That power carries with it great responsibility. When the activity they manage does worse than ever before it is time for them to resign. They were told a thousand times that their policies would have this result. They were given an alternative plan. They ignored all that and their failure has been total.

According to Steve Johns the link between money and medals is simple; win more medals, get more money. It appears that winning medals is not so simple; not for Steve Johns anyway. This team returned empty handed. As I have often said that is not the fault of the three swimmers. This barren performance was a long time in the making. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) was told over and over again that this would be the result of the policies it followed; of money it wasted. SNZ ignored our counsel and in 2018 the result is in plain view.

But before looking at the results, SNZ must be ashamed at a team of just three pool swimmers. Four years ago New Zealand sent a team of eight pool swimmers. That’s a 300% drop in team size. SNZ has won the double; it has lost quality and quantity.

In the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships combined, New Zealand swimmers won one Bronze medal. Well done Cotterill. Well done the SNZ Board. Well done Steve Johns. I do hope you are proud of bringing a fine sport to its knees.

I thought it might be interesting to compare how the New Zealand 2014 Pan Pacific Games team performed in comparison to the 2018 team. The table below shows how far down SNZ has brought us in four years.

Pan Pacs B Final Final Gold Silver Bronze Av. Place
2014 7 10 0 2 2 8.6
2018 3 5 0 0 0 10.3

Four years ago New Zealand swimmers competed in 10 finals and 7 “B” finals. This year the team managed 5 finals and 3 “B” finals. Four years ago New Zealand swimmers won 2 Silver medals and 2 Bronze medals. This year there were no medals of any sort. Four years ago the average place of a New Zealand swimmer was 9th place. Four years later that has slipped to an average of 11th. Take a bow SNZ. That sure looks like a great result for four years work.

Probably the most positive quality of New Zealand’s performance was the percentage of PBs. From 16 swims the team recorded 5 personal best swims; a not spectacular, but better than normal 31%.

It is probably worth remembering that in four years from 2014 to 2018, the SNZ Board was given in excess of $4,000,000 by the New Zealand tax payer. That’s you and me. We gave the Board and the CEO, Johns, $4,000,000. We were entitled to expect them to spend it wisely. We were entitled to expect a return on our investment. Instead they delivered no Pan Pacific medals compared to four medals last time. There is not a commercial company in New Zealand that would tolerate that performance. The shareholders of a properly run company would demand accountability. Resignations would be expected from any Board that delivered SNZ’s 2018 results.

But this lot have no honour. They will trot next door asking High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) for their 2019 beneficiary handout as though this year’s performance was all part of a well-designed master plan. Cotterill will write an Annual Report that will tell us about another group of juniors about to stun the swimming world; and sadly he will get away with the lie. If HPSNZ was really doing what is best for swimming they would turn Cotterill and Johns away without a cent – nothing at all. HPSNZ must see that the $4,000,000 they have spent has been wasted. There is an old expression that says, why pour good money after bad? Why indeed?

For the final act three of 2018 SNZ have selected a team of eighteen swimmers. How does that work? From only three swimmers being good enough to qualify for the Pan Pacific Games, Johns and Francis have found eighteen that merit selection to a World Championship. Shouldn’t it be the other way around especially when two of the three swimmers who went to the Pan Pacific meet are not even on the World’s team?  I guess logic is not a SNZ strongpoint.

So how will the team perform at the World SC Championship? My guess is it will not compare with the Majorca championships where every NZ team member returned with a medal. After Cotterill, Johns and Francis have done their best, my guess is no medals, no finals and a 30% PB ratio. We will soon see.

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