World Championships 2019 Daily Report – Sunday

I imagine this first report could have been called, “Let the Games begin.” I heard Gary Francis being interviewed on Radio Sport yesterday morning. He is doing a great and certainly realistic job of lowering public expectations. Without allocating blame for a decade of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) abuse he persuasively argues that good things will take time – time measured in years rather than months. I agree with that thought. Repairing the damage caused by SNZ’s centralised policy will be no quick fix.

The problem Francis faces is not convincing the New Zealand public that the new club-based policy is a better option but will take time. His problem is dealing with the competing message being peddled by his boss. While Francis is properly telling New Zealand to be patient, Steve Johns has verbal incontinence telling anybody who will listen how stunningly good at swimming New Zealand has become. According to Johns the New Zealand team is about to show the world how good they are. Expectations set that high are suicidal.

The competing messages make us a laughing stock. Steve Johns should shut up and let someone, like Gary Francis, who has an understanding of the sport explain what’s going on. At least that would give the appearance of a sport that knows something about what its doing.

This is not the first time SNZ has published opposite stories just days apart. For example the SNZ lawyer told me the other day that the Marris Report had found me guilty of crimes that carry a 17 year maximum jail sentence. I doubt that the SNZ lawyer is telling the truth. I prefer to take the word of Bruce Cotterill, the SNZ Chairman, who said, “If there was anything in that report which justified Swimming NZ taking action against any party involved in the review, we most certainly would have done so.” SNZ’s lawyer and its Chairman and Steve Johns and Gary Francis should really make an effort to be more consistent in their opinions. Right now Antares Place resembles Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

So what happened on day one of the 2019 World Championship – Sunday 21 July? Who was right, Francis or Johns? Was the Francis’ message of caution accurate? Was Johns’ tall tale properly filed as sporting fiction?

Three New Zealand swimmers competed in the heats – Fairweather, Hunter and Reid. Gary Francis is right. Good things take time. The good news is that Reid and Fairweather improved their ranking. The bad news is that no one managed to swim a PB.

Fairweather was 5.2seconds (2.3%) from qualifying for the final.

Hunter was 0.58 seconds (2.4%) from qualifying for the semi-final.

Reid was 4.9 (2.1%) from qualifying for the final.

Between 2% and 2.5% behind the world is a pretty accurate description of where New Zealand swimming stands just now. But things might improve. Let’s see what happens tomorrow. The table below summarises New Zealand’s swims on Sunday 21 July 2019.

Name Event PB Swum Ranking Swum
FAIRWEATHER 400m Free 4:09.33 4:12.30 18 17
HUNTER 50m Fly 23.87 24.21 37 38
REID 400m Free 3:50.61 3:51.25 24 18


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