Archive for May, 2019

A Report – But

Monday, May 27th, 2019

There has been a report today on the Stuff website. It discusses my effort to obtain a report into accusations about my coaching. I’m going to resist the temptation to discuss its content. I’ve said all I need to say already. But more importantly, the Tribunal case is close and I want to avoid saying anything that might prejudice the outcome. When the case is decided it will be fully reported on Swimwatch.

I’m Keen On Swimming – But

Friday, May 24th, 2019


My worst detractors, the inhabitants of the Antares Place asylum, would be hard pushed to make the claim that I’m not keen on swimming. I’ve been in a river, or a lake or a swimming pool since 1950. I first swam 800 meters when I was four years old. My daughter Jane beat me. She did the same swim when she was three.

When the Wahine ferry sank in the entrance to Wellington Harbour on the morning of the 10 April 1968, where was I? At the Freyberg Pool is the answer – doing my training.

In fact let me tell you about that morning. The weather was bad – obviously. Sufficiently bad that instead of catching a bus my grandfather said he would drive me to the pool. Even at 5.30am the roads were more deserted than normal. We drove through the Mt. Victoria tunnel without another car entering or leaving the tunnel the whole time we were in the tunnel.

I said to my grandfather, “Wow the weather is bad this morning.”

He smiled. “You will get plenty of days like this in Wellington,” he said. I took him at his word. After all my grandfather had sailed in and out of harbours all over the world as a wireless operator in the Royal Navy and then chief engineer on cargo ships. If anyone knew bad weather, he should.

Freyberg Pool was even more deserted than the roads. In fact I was the pool’s only swimmer. I decided to do a main set of 1×5000 straight swim. After 1000 warm-up, I was about 2000 meters into the 5000 swim when the Pool Manager started throwing kick-boards at me. I stopped. “Get out, get out now,” he screamed.

I finished the length and climbed out. “What’s all the fuss about,” I thought. And then I saw. Two of the huge sheets of glass that make up the wall of the Freyberg Pool lay shattered on the bottom of the pool. That was the end of my 5000 swim. I was lucky it hadn’t been the end of me as well. When I got home from University I teased my grandfather about his “many mornings like this” comment. Clearly the Wahine and the Freyberg Pool did not agree.

And 51 years later on tonight’s TV1 six o’clock news there was a short item in the sport’s news of me helping Eyad swim in the Auckland Championships. Here is the link to the internet report. What do you think of Eyad’s batman cap? My Grandson loves Batman gear. But he’s only four!


For Christmas on the 25 December this year or my birthday on the 3 March next year – if you have any thoughts of buying me a swimming pool rug – please don’t. Mind you some kind soul should buy one for the Swimming New Zealand reception. That way, when Cotterill, Johns and Francis come to work, they can be reminded what a swimming pool looks like.

Terenzo Bozzone

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Before I start this post I need to be very clear. In no way do I have anything to do with Terenzo’s training for the triathlon swim. This post is not an effort to gain reflected glory from a superb triathlete. However I did want to write something. Because since Terenzo had an awful crash on his bike – he was hit by a truck – I have sat beside the Millennium Institute pool and watched him work his way back to fitness. And I have been deeply impressed. Patiently, without fuss or excuses, he has lifted himself back from a broken man on the side of an Auckland road to something like pre-crash fitness. Peter Snell wrote a book about his running career. He called it “No Bugles No Drums”. The same title describes Terenzo’s climb back to fitness.

Several times he has joined in with Eyad’s training. Usually he picks the training sessions that suit his ironman event. Main sets like 100×100 or 4×1500 or 6×1000 might be a real grind for sprinter Eyad but are bread and butter to one of the world’s best ironmen. When Eyad has 50×15 or 10×25 Terenzo goes off to tackle a more suitable session. There are two things I enjoy watching Terenzo swim with Eyad.

First, Terenzo has been a fantastic influence on his sprinting mate. They are both competitive human beings, competitive in the very best meaning of that word. Eyad enjoys the challenge of taking on the ironman in a long session of 400s and Terenzo refuses to surrender when the session is 100s or 50s. They laugh and joke about Eyad’s better turns and Terenzo’s dominant aerobic fitness. It is competitive in the best possible way. Competition without turning training sessions into a grudge match. Competition that builds rather than tears apart. The association is good. Terenzo is great for Eyad’s fitness and Eyad is great for Terenzo’s speed. It works.

And second, watching those who are genuinely good at something is always fun. I don’t care what it is, good performers are a wonder. I know nothing about typing but just watch a really fast typist. That is incredible. My knowledge of music is nil but I am no less impressed by the skill of a fine pianist. When Alison was running at her best watching her power through 5×400 in under 60 took my breath away. A few years ago Jane did a 600m breaststroke time-trial in a couple of seconds under 8 minutes. I was supposed to be her coach and stood there asking myself, “How does she do that?” The final 25 meters of a good Rhi Jeffrey 200 was like watching a jet boat rip through the Shotover rapids. Just watch Dick Quax run around Windsor Great Park or John Walker run a mile and you will see what I mean.

Well, let me tell you for nothing, Terenzo Bozzone has the same quality. The first day I watched him swim with Eyad I said, “I can see why you are one of the world’s best triathletes.” That didn’t take a genius to work out. Can John Walker run? Can Oscar Peterson play a piano? Can Nureyev dance? Well Terenzo Bozzone doing triathlon swimming is just as obvious.

What they do is incredible. The other day I timed Terenzo doing a session of long course 10x400s. He said he wanted to descend the set without pushing too hard, with about 30 seconds rest between each 400. Sure enough he started the set at 5.12 and ended it at 4.40 and everyone descended a few seconds. How do they do that? What stopwatch inhabits their brain? I don’t know. The good ones have a knack for making the impossible look ridiculously easy.

Terenzo’s early races on the road to recovery have been pretty good as well. Two triathlon wins in Australia followed by a 7th place in the World Ironman Championships in Spain and a 4th triathlon in Vietnam. He heads-off in a week or so to Cairns for another event before building-up for the Hawaii Ironman later in the year. Terenzo is a class act. He should do well.

So thank you Terenzo for swimming with Eyad occasionally. Thank you on behalf of Eyad for making the distance sessions tougher and easier. And thank you from me for adding to the enjoyment of being at the pool. It’s great to watch good people do good things. And Terenzo certainly fits that description.

PS Don’t tell Eyad I said this but I’m convinced Eyad also has that, impossible to describe, quality. His talent has had a difficult start to life, overcoming the difficulties of being a Syrian training in Saudi Arabia. But he is on the straight and narrow now and I suspect will soon have the critics asking, “Where did he come from?”


2019 Auckland Swimming Championships

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Another Auckland Championship is about to begin. It runs from Wednesday through to Sunday this week. Someone has had the courage to change the location from West Wave to the Millennium Institute. That’s a good move. West Wave is showing serious signs of age. It was built in 1989. The past 30 years have not been kind. If my experience is anything to go by the cooperation Auckland Swimming will get from the Millennium staff will be miles ahead of the unbelievable cartel that calls itself management at West Wave.

Attending a swim meet at West Wave has become a real chore. Rules that make no sense combined with a facility that has all the appeal of a pensioner’s mobility frame does nothing to inspire elite performance. Changing location is a step in the right direction.

Inspiration to excel will not come from a better facility run by better staff on its own. Swimming needs a shot in the arm; something to excite attention; something, dare I say it, controversial. How I fondly remember the days when TV1 used to call me and ask if Toni Jeffs was swimming in this event. If the answer was yes TV1 News would send a camera out to West Wave to film the races. They did that because she was a bloody good swimmer; a bronze medallist in the World Short Course Championships, but also because there was an interesting story to tell. Toni was sponsored by a strip club; she crossed out the “no alcohol rule” before signing her SNZ athlete contracts; she questioned officials tucking into free wine and cheese while swimmers struggled with burnt two dollar sausages and flat orange cordial. Of course TV found that interesting. Add to that the antics of Paul Kent who once vented his frustration at an official by famously throwing a chair into the pool; and John Steel who was swimming captain of the UCLA team; and the brooding, tattooed Nick Sanders, clearly New Zealand’s fastest freestyle sprinter. There was a sport television loved.

Coaching too was a different world. Lincoln Hurring, Ross Anderson and Judith Wright. Even Jan Cameron and Tony Keenan were personalities that didn’t get pushed around by anyone – certainly not anyone from Swimming New Zealand. To be fair there are signs that some independence is on the way back. Jon Winter, William Benson and others in places like Whangarei, Matamata, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Invercargill show signs of singing “The Internationale”. It is long overdue. Winning a decent swimming race is going to take more than hanging on to the coat tails of the tired as West Wave crew that run Swimming New Zealand.

And it is not as if there are not great stories to tell. Take Eyad for example. How many New Zealand swimmers come from families who were bombed out of their home in Aleppo? How many swimmers escaped on their own to live in another country as a refugee? How many refugees have been treated as well by their host country and as badly by their swimming federation? It is a good story, a story that needs to be told. But is Swimming New Zealand going to do that? Not as long as he’s coached by me they are not. Never mind – their loss.

But Eyad is not the only swimmer with a story to tell; a story that gives the sport a personality; a story far more important and interesting than the size of Bruce Cotterill’s ego or Steve Johns corporate SUV.

I don’t know a fraction of the stories some of our best swimmers have to tell. But I’d love to know more about the initiative shown by Emma Godwin to start her “Give-a-little” page to raise the $5,300 Swimming New Zealand asked her to pay to get to the World Short Course Championships. That’s an important story.

I’d like to know how the swimmer from Raumati is getting on who lost her teeth diving into a race that Wellington Swimming insisted should start in the shallow end of the Kilbirnie Pool. Her misfortune changed Wellington swimming. It is a story that should be told.

How have Christchurch swimmers survived the Canterbury earthquakes and Mosque shootings? There are stories with huge human interest.

Am I the only member preparing to face Swimming New Zealand in Court? How many fires is Steve Johns fighting? What is the real story behind Liz van Wellie, Toni Jeffs and Jon Winter’s Manchester Commonwealth Games’ experience? How did Paul Kent get on coaching in Saudi Arabia? There are a hundred and one good stories to tell, stories that give the sport life.

They are not the sanitised froth favoured by Cotterill, Johns and Francis. They do not revolve exclusively around the inflated egos that populate the offices of Swimming New Zealand. They are real, important and interesting. Let’s see what we can do about making that change for the good later this week.

Waitemata Health Fun & Games

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

I’ve written before of my admiration for the New Zealand public health service. In the last four of five years New Zealand hospitals have sewn a skin graft onto my leg, repaired an infected toe, cut out three skin cancer lesions and done a patch up job on my kidneys. I still get regular attention for my kidneys from the Apollo Drive clinic.

That might sound like a burden to carry through life. But far from it. In fact I quite look forward to my visits. They are a relaxing few hours that I can prepare Eyad’s training or write this Swimwatch story. And if I get bored, the emergency bell will bring any number of nurses running to save my life and relieve my boredom. .

Actually the nurses are incredible. They are an amazing international mix. There are several from the Philippines. Where would the New Zealand Health Service be without nurses from the Philippines? Let me tell you – no one steps out of line when an Apollo Drive nurse from the Philippines is on your case. There are two in particular. I’m not going to name them. I’m too scared to do that.

But let me tell you, there is no doubt about who is in charge. “David, if you don’t do what you’re told I could well increase the flow on this machine to 350.” When I’m struggling to handle a reading of 300 that threat works every time.

“David,” they say, “Alison is a lovely person. Do you treat her properly?” Clearly they think medical care extends to family counselling.

I see the population of the Philippines is 104.9 million. That means there are roughly 52 million females and 52 million males. Now there is a group of chaps I feel sorry for. If these nurses are anything to go by there must be 52 million Philippine blokes in desperate need of a male liberation movement.

Actually I’m being a little unkind. They are actually wonderful healthcare providers who go well beyond the call of duty. The other night I left the lights of my car on all day. When it was time to head for home the battery had died. As I sat waiting for the AA to arrive, two Philippine nurses stood in the freezing cold to keep their patient company.

Two weeks ago was the Apollo Drive clinic’s five year anniversary. A few minutes into my treatment Subway sandwiches were offered to each patient. Donald Trump can prattle on about the wonders of American health care – but I bet you’d struggle to get free Subways in an American hospital.

But there is more than Philippine nurses. There are several Indian nurses. They tend to be quieter than the Philippine version. It would be difficult for them to out-talk their Philippine mates. But the care they provide is just as professional and considerate. One lovely lady was looking for a swim school for her three children. I recommended the Millennium Institute Swim School. The children were enrolled and I’m told are making great progress.

Reception is staffed by a couple of born and bred NZ natives – at least I think they are. They do a huge job of getting patients by taxi to the clinic and home again. They also patiently listen to my stories of coaching Eyad and my despair at the antics of Swimming New Zealand. Patience is at a premium to do their job. They both have it in heaps.

The doctor in charge is from Ireland. She has the most wonderful Irish accent. I have a bad habit of listening to the accent rather than the words. I’m beginning to think she suspects I have a hearing problem. I am forever asking, “Sorry, could you say that again.” Once you get to seventy you can get away with that sort of thing.

We are a fortunate nation. The health care that looks after us is first class.  The staff members are a credit to their profession. Of course good health is important. No one wants to have a health problem. But if you do need care – the Waitemata Apollo Drive clinic is a bloody good place to be, and it’s a bundle of fun as well.