Archive for August, 2019

Cry, The Beloved Sport

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

The title of this article is an adaptation of the title of a novel written by Alan Paton called “Cry, the Beloved Country”. The book is a social protest against the structures of the society that would later give rise to apartheid in South Africa.  Paton depicts whites as affected by “native crime” while blacks suffer from social instability and moral issues due to the breakdown of the tribal system.

It shows many of the problems with South Africa such as the detrimental effects of fear as indicated in the following quotation from the narrator in Chapter 12:

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.”

I too am beginning to understand fear; as the waters run through my fingers; as the sun sets on my sport. For fear, it seems, is robbing me of it all. You see, I am not a political animal. For me a set of 20×100 or a 600 time trial has life and interest. I would far rather spend time with Eyad in a swimming pool than in any Swimming New Zealand Board Room. But occasionally events occur that must be protested. Whether I do any good is unlikely; but at least I fought for what was right.

Here is what I believe has happened. The current Chairman of Auckland Swimming is an immigrant from Namibia called Williem Coetzee. Let me bore you a little with some African history. I do so only because, I believe, it is relevant to the malaise that is eating the soul from my sport. Namibia is an interesting country. In 1920, the League of Nations mandated the administration of Namibia to South Africa. It imposed its laws, including racial classification. From 1948 South Africa applied apartheid throughout Namibia. In 1990 Namibia was granted independence from South Africa.

All that is relevant because sometime in the last two or three decades Williem Coetzee decided to leave the problems of Namibia and immigrate to New Zealand. Since then he has become active in the administration of swimming, rising through the ranks to become the Chairman of Auckland Swimming. I have always thought of him as an efficient if somewhat boring administrator; someone who would maintain the status quo but was unlikely to inspire. Through the saga of the destruction of West Auckland Aquatics he behaved well but, in my opinion lacked courage or conviction when those qualities were needed most.

However if what I am told did happen this week my opinion has changed. You see Coetzee’s time as Chairman of Auckland Swimming is up. He has served the constitutionally required number of terms. Coetzee has done his bit. It is his time to go. Now I don’t necessarily agree with term limits but if that’s the rules – that’s the rules. Coetzee should pack his cardboard box and leave the premises.

But evidently not. As I understand it, an Auckland Swimming Special General Meeting, set aside for one year, the rotation rule. Coetzee can extend his rule for a further twelve months.

I am hugely supportive of immigration. Asians, Arabs, Europeans, Polynesians, Africans and others bring diversity and interest. New Zealand is a better place for the variety immigration brings. The New Zealand I left 46 years ago to go and live in the UK was a far more boring and dull place than the county I have come back to today. Without question the multi-cultural influence has been a good one.

That is not to say New Zealand should take up all the behaviours of those who make their home here. Saudi Arabia restricts women’s rights. We do not want that no matter how many Saudis immigrate here. Americans love their capital punishment. We can do without that no matter how many Americans buy expensive South Island farms. China struggles with western democracy. Asians cannot expect New Zealand to welcome one party rule.

And South Africa and Namibia may have lived for years ignoring the rights of those they rule – but Williem Coetzee cannot come here and turn us into some African dictatorship. The rules are the rules. It is his time to go. He must leave. Because of the same rule many good people are leaving swimming Boards around New Zealand – Bone in Hawkes Bay, Sibun in Counties Manukau. If they can be honest and leave, so should Coetzee. That brand of African politics, we can do without.

I am however just as disgusted with Cotterill and Johns, from Swimming New Zealand, for letting it happen. What on earth do those two do for their positions of power, status and fortune? Aren’t they supposed to protect the sport from people who defy constitutional rules? But instead they agreed to the Coetzee proposal. Whether we are talking about my privacy or constitutional term limits – rules it appears mean nothing to Cotterill, Johns or Coetzee.

As I have said, I doubt that my protest will make any difference. But swimming bled again today. Soon they will rob us of it all.

Be Careful With Words

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Bruce Cotterill, the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, has been voicing his opinions again; this time on the popular news website, Stuff. I haven’t spoken to Cotterill since the collapse of West Auckland Aquatics, four years ago. Although that whole thing turned out badly for me and the club, Cotterill’s handling of a difficult situation seemed to be honest enough.

Sadly I cannot say the same for his handling of events that have occurred since then. The manner in which he has played cat and mouse with the complaints made about my coaching and the Marris Report into the complaints has been shameful. He has ignored a strong recommendation of the Privacy Commissioner. In my opinion he has lied to a Stuff journalist. He has encouraged Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) to fight a case before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. And through it all he has never spoken to me or communicated in any other way. Four years of silence is all Cotterill has delivered. And from his subordinate, Steve Johns, I have received two lawyer’s letters and one email – in four years, unbelievable, especially when there is a claim for quarter of a million dollars at stake. Good management? I don’t think so.

It is possibly off the point but I did think Cotterill got an easy ride from an investigating Stuff journalist. Now I discover Cotterill is an opinion writer for the same website. Fake news to benefit one of their own? Sure looks that way.

Let’s compare what Cotterill wrote on Stuff with my experience of his actual behaviour. There seems to be a serious disconnect between what Cotterill says and what he does. Here are three quotes taken from his Stuff report.

For all the right reasons, it’s now OK okay to speak up. If you’re a victim of someone else’s bad behaviour you can speak out. In fact, you now have permission to. And in a world driven by social media, you will get an audience too, and that’s OK.

Cotterill says, “For all the right reasons, it’s now OK okay to speak up. If you’re a victim of someone else’s bad behavior you can speak out. In fact, you now have permission to.” Why doesn’t he add the qualification, “But if you do I will fight you through the Privacy Commissioner. I’ll defy the Privacy Commissioner decision when he finds me in the wrong. Then I’ll fight you through the Human Rights Review Tribunal.” There is something Cotterill and SNZ are trying to hide in that Report and I’m going to find out what it is. You see, Cotterill has told me, “It’s now OK to speak up.” So, with his permission, that is exactly what I intend to do.

Iconic corporate titans from around the world are experiencing equally iconic downfalls. And all because they did something wrong that would once have gone unnoticed,

I have included this quote, not because it has any specific relevance to my privacy case, but because of its stunning lack of morality. What on earth does it say about Cotterill when he complains that the downfall of his corporate mates is not because they did something wrong, but because they got caught. How dare Cotterill complain that improved detection methods are to blame for making executive crime more difficult. If that is his attitude I pray to God he is never responsible for any organisation that has my money. I’m guessing the corporate crimes of the current Trump organisation get a Cotterill pass, because they haven’t been caught yet. Wells Fargo Bank, on the other hand, is bad because they got caught with 500,000 fake credit card accounts and had to pay a huge fine. Getting caught is no one’s measure of morality.

Cotterill may have worded this badly. I hope that’s the reason. Because if it is not there is no way he should be President of New Zealand’s national swimming organization.

As leaders, we don’t have much choice. When you think about it, irrespective of the issue, it is usually best dealt with promptly, firmly and fairly.

Over the years I have seen plenty of these instances. And my advice is always the same.

When your organisation is confronted with such a complaint or accusation, move forward proactively and respond.

Make sure the issue is treated with an appropriate level of priority. Get all the facts, and agree a response with your affected people. Don’t risk leaving it to others.

If you don’t have time to attend to every step yourself, check in with those charged with doing so every day; or twice a day if necessary. Ensure that you do what you say you will do. And most importantly of all, ensure that people on all sides are treated fairly.

This bout of Cotterill blather does affect my privacy case. Consider some of the claims Cotterill makes.

First, “best dealt with promptly, firmly and fairly.”

That is what he says. The reality of his actions is a four year legal fight, open defiance of the Privacy Commissioner, violation of SNZ Rules and decisions condemned by the law of the land. Cotterill’s words are well divorced from the reality of his organization’s actions.

Second, “move forward proactively and respond.”

Can you believe it? Cotterill says, “Move forward proactively and respond,” and the reality is that this saga has dragged on for three years and in that time I have had no response from Cotterill ever – not a phone call, email or letter. If that’s Cotterill’s idea of “move forward proactively and respond.” I’d hate to see what would happen if he decided to drag his feet, to take his time.

Third, “Don’t risk leaving it to others. If you don’t have time to attend to every step yourself, check in with those charged with doing so every day; or twice a day if necessary.”

If I’m reading this right Cotterill is telling me he has checked with Steve Johns about the progress of my complaint “every day; or twice a day if necessary.” Over four years that means my complaint has been discussed between 1460 and 2920 times. At least that is what Cotterill is telling 68,000 Stuff readers has happened. Let me apologise in advance but seriously Cotterill, I don’t believe you. And if a complaint that has found your organisation guilty of breaching my privacy has been discussed 2920 times nothing much has happened. It looks to me like you should be doing something about a 2920 times problem CEO.

Fourth, “ensure that people on all sides are treated fairly.”

This final hot air claim makes me angry. The Privacy Commissioner told Cotterill I was not being treated fairly. The law says I am not being treated fairly. The Report’s author says I am not being treated fairly. SNZ rules say I am not being treated fairly. And still Cotterill makes a public claim that fair treatment is high on his list of priorities – not if this case is anything to go by, it is not.

If my case is any measure of Cotterill’s behaviour, everything he says needs to be taken with considerable caution. There is not much here that links Cotterill’s words with the reality of his behavior.

So Bad It Hurts

Monday, August 19th, 2019

The CEO of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ), Steve Johns, has been at it again. This time he tackled the relatively simple task of passing on to NZ swimmers, about to take part in the World Junior Championships, his best wishes. The Championships begin on Tuesday 20th August 2019. Surely nothing could go wrong in wishing the team well. All it takes is, “Best wishes, you guys. Have fun. Swim well.”

But, oh no, here is what SNZ’s fearless leader said.

The opportunity to represent your country is the highest honour in the sport, to be able to do it at the World Championships, competing against the very best in the world, is the icing on the cake.

The individual kiwi athletes and coaches have spent many months building up to next weeks races where they will have the opportunity to show us and the world how good they are. To the entire team, all the very best for the days ahead.  You will have huge support back home and we will all look forward to watching you in action. Good luck and race hard, Kia Kaha,

There are some people who know what to say to athletes about to compete. There are others who are walking disasters; men and women who should never be let loose anywhere near athletes about to race. Whether it is a local Chocolate Fish Carnival or a World Championships these unfortunate supporters, probably with the very best of intentions, have a gift for saying the wrong thing to the wrong people, at the wrong time. Steve Johns is one of those.

You can tell those who know what is right; what to say and what to leave alone. Arch Jelley knows what to say.  So does Steve Hansen. Arthur Lydiard knew what was needed. So did Ross Anderson. Their words are simple. They provide comfort and confidence. They reduce anxiety. But most of all they are brief. Lydiard once told me to keep race day instructions to a minimum. Avoid filling the athlete’s mind with complicated advice.

So what does Steve Johns do? He increases anxiety and pressure. I suspect without knowing what he is doing he suffocates swimmers under a pillow of pressure. Let’s look at some examples taken from his email.

The opportunity to represent your country is the highest honour in the sport,   

Immediately Steve Johns, lays on expectation number one. What he is saying to each junior NZ swimmer is to swim their events conscious of the fact that they are representing four million New Zealanders. They had better not screw up. There is nothing they will ever do in swimming that will have higher expectations than this. What’s the point of that? Every one of those swimmers knows they are representing the country for the first time. Steve Johns laying it on with a shovel is the last thing they need. Well done Steve. How do you imagine that is going to help?

to be able to do it at the World Championships, competing against the very best in the world

Second line and second expectation – isn’t Steve doing well. This time it’s a reminder that this meet is a World Championships and the competition is the best the world has to offer. Instead of normal human beings with two arms and two legs like the New Zealanders, according to Steve Johns, the competition is made up of super-heroes; the very best of the best. That should inspire every NZ junior with confidence. I’m beginning to see why Steve gave up competitive swimming after his high school swimming sports.

The individual kiwi athletes and coaches have spent many months building up to next weeks races

Apart from missing the apostrophe needed in the word “week’s”, here we have Steve’s expectation number three. In this case it is not what Steve has said, it’s more the way he says it. The implication is that the swimmers have done all this work; Steve Johns has provided them with all this support – they had better not waste it. The same thought could just have easily conveyed the message that the team can confidently take on anyone because of the quality of their preparation. Expectation or confidence – and Steve chooses expectation; of course he does.

where they will have the opportunity to show us and the world how good they are 

I wish Steve would stop using this line. He used it before the recent senior World Championships. It is an expression with such a double meaning. “How good we are”, can mean bloody awful or pretty good, depending on the results. Sadly New Zealand swimming has returned from international events recently showing the world how good they are. And it has not been good at all.

Besides I don’t think I have ever gone to a swimming competition for the purpose of showing anyone, except me and the swimmer, how good we are. The arrogance in Steve Johns’ remark says all we need to know about Steve Johns. Certainly when a swimmer, coached by me, goes out to compete the last thing on my mind is showing the world, or Steve Johns, how good we are. Swimming is a personal journey that belongs to the athlete. Although the coach shares the highs and lows, the journey belongs to the swimmer. It is a path they travel to a personal destination. The highs and the lows are theirs alone. Steve Johns has no idea. For Steve Johns the efforts of Hunter and Clareburt belong to SNZ; reflect on SNZ and its CEO. SNZ will never succeed in international sport while it has a CEO obsessed with showing-off to the world. Clearly his own status is front and centre; more important than the welfare of those he is there to serve. Steve Johns sees it as his journey and it most certainly is not.

Kia Kaha  

When the content of the Steve Johns’ email has, in my opinion, been self-important arrogant claptrap, he should not end it with Kia Kaha. This term was first known as the motto of the Maori Battalion. Kia Kaha has a long and hard won reputation. Its use should be carefully considered. According to my father, who fought alongside the Maori Battalion at Monte Cassino, the losses and the bravery of the men of the Kia Kaha Battalion makes its use by Steve Johns, in this context, an insult.

If this email is the best Steve Johns has to offer New Zealand’s finest junior swimmers, my advice would be for him to keep his support to himself. Certainly Steve Johns has provided us with a classic example of what not to say.

Rather a Rebel Than a Slave

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

The “Swimming World” magazine has just published a story, written by Craig Lord. It discusses the transition that has taken place since the pioneers of women’s swimming first participated in Olympic swimming. It is well worth a read. Here is the link. day/?fbclid=IwAR3RWWhACpcC_voXxxmerp2twD_07q_y0g13eXnZwD7knpCSBSd9qd9GsqE

The occasion that prompted Craig Lord’s attention was the 100th anniversary of the first women’s world record over 440 yards freestyle set by, American, Ethelda Bleibtrey. It is not until you read this stuff that you realise the amazing, catastrophic and disastrous prejudices women have had to overcome to take part in sport. It is unbelievable.

For example in the same year Bleibtrey broke the 440 yard record, she was arrested in New York for removing her stockings before wading in for a swim. The charges accused her of “nude bathing” and indecency.

In 1912 the Australian Federation decided it was pointless sending women to the Olympic Games. Evidently the Australian public forced a change of heart. Two women were picked to represent Australia as long as they paid for themselves. One hundred and seven years later and Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is doing the same thing. The only difference is, in this enlightened era, SNZ is making men pay for themselves as well. Only SNZ would achieve equality by moving everyone backwards.

Craig Lord’s story is well worth reading. But it is not just in the USA and Europe that bigotry ran riot. New Zealand has had its fair share. It is not so very long ago that the President of Athletics New Zealand was quoted as saying, “No woman should be selected for the Olympic Games if a good man was available.”

It seems like only yesterday that the IAAF was telling the world women were unable to compete over distances longer than 800m. The woman’s world record, held by Paula Radcliffe, for a marathon is 2.15, so I’m not too sure what happened to their 800m theory. In swimming the Neanderthals who run the Olympic Games still do not allow women to swim 1500m. Evidently anything longer than 800m is too tough for their delicate femininity. Their sexist rules seems oblivious to the reality that Katie Ledecky’s world record time of 15:20.48 would have won the men’s event at every Olympic Games up to and including 1972.

Every world or national record is a major achievement. But it seems that some records more dramatically lift the sport forward. The most obvious example is Roger Bannister breaking four minutes for a mile. Here is a table of records I think have had a profound effect on woman’s freestyle swimming.

Event Achievement Name Time Date
100 Free First under a minute Dawn Fraser 59.9 1962
200 Free First under two minutes Kornelia Ender 1:59.78 1976
400 Free First under five minutes Lorraine Crapp 4:50.8 1956
400 Free First under four minutes Frederica Pellegrini 3:59.15 2009
800 Free First under ten minutes Jane Cederqvist 9:55.6 1960
800 Free First under eight minutes Not done yet. World record Katie Ledecky 8:04.79 2016

Those are swimmers who have improved the world freestyle standards. But what about New Zealand? Here is the same table for when these records occurred in New Zealand.

Event Achievement Name Time Date
100 Free First under a minute Rebecca Perrott 59.3 1976
200 Free First under two minutes Lauren Boyle NA NA
400 Free First under five minutes Judith Wright 4:53.0 1970
400 Free First under four minutes

Not done yet. NZ record

Lauren Boyle 4:03.63 2012
800 Free First under ten minutes Judith Wright 9:55.1 1970
800 Free First under eight minutes Not done yet. NZ record Lauren Boyle 8:17.65 2015

Just look, for a moment, at the three names on the New Zealand record table – Rebecca Perrott, Lauren Boyle and Judith Wright. Rebecca Perrott we all know won a gold medal in the women’s 200 metres freestyle at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and was fourth in the women’s 400m freestyle at the 1976 Summer Olympics. Lauren Boyle competed at three Commonwealth Games and three Olympic Games and held the world short course 1500m record.

But in an unusual way, Judith Wright, the first NZ woman to swim under five minutes for 400m and ten minutes for 800m, is most remarkable. You see besides moving swimming forward in the pool she went on to own and manage a highly successful swimming business – the Waterhole Swimming Club. Here is how the Stuff website recently reported the Waterhole’s 30th birthday.

The Waterhole Swimming Club is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Coaching director Judith Wright started the club in 1980 and has spent years tutoring young west Auckland swimmers like former New Zealand champion Daniel Ryan.

The Commonwealth Games representative says the club has come a long way since its fledgling beginning.

Wright says she started out with a swim school in Henderson Valley with a small pool inside a warehouse.

She started the Waterhole club at the Freyberg Community Primary School’s indoor pool when she realised many of her students wanted to take up competitive swimming.

But the pool was only 20 metres long and very shallow.

“And it might as well have been out in the open air since it didn’t have any heating and would get very cold in winter,” she says.

The club moved into the Parrs Park-based swimming centre after it opened in 1985 and has been there ever since.

A proposed $15 million upgrade is still in the pipeline and a 50-metre pool is among the many planned improvements.

Wright says an upgraded swimming centre will be beneficial because the 25-metre pool is too small for current demands.

What’s unusual about all that is that Judith Wright not only moved her sport forward in the pool – she began and managed a successful business back in the days when women were “not allowed” to do that sort of thing. She broke records inside the pool and, probably even more importantly, changed the accepted role of women outside the pool. They probably don’t think of themselves this way but NZ’s sporting suffragettes have and still are making a huge difference to the better place our country is today.

My Turn To Take A Knee

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Craig Lord has done it again. This time with the help of Washington Post journalist Sally Jenkins. Together Lord and Jenkins have shone a light on the deception and double dealing that is a blight on the administration of world swimming. Here is a link to their article.

Their report exposes serial problems that must be addressed. What they say is relevant to the administration of the sport internationally and within New Zealand. Because Lord and Jenkins address the malaise that affects FINA and other “big fish”, such as the USA and China, does not mean “small fish”, like New Zealand, are not affected by the same disastrous algae bloom.

I don’t want to quote their entire report but here is a paragraph that deserves special attention.

“Kneel until the USOPC is completely obliterated and rebuilt. Kneel in protest of the fact that our greatest athletes are still being used, even today, as mere servicers of power brokers seeking to cash in on their skin. Kneel until the entire audience understands there is a word for the current USOPC reward structure — pimping. Kneel until every USOPC official is shamed into understanding that raking in disproportionate sums skimmed off young people’s bodies, while failing to enact reform that would protect those bodies from crimes, does not make you a mere bystander. It makes you just another abuser.”

What a brilliant description of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Not everybody of course. But “just another abuser” is perfect for the organisation as a whole. Craig Lord mentions the fiasco that surrounded the Lauren Boyle 1500m world record. He makes the point that no one ever claimed that Lauren should not be awarded the record. Our problem was SNZ’s inability to tell the truth on the application form. That was abuse – abuse of Lauren’s efforts and abuse of every swimmer in New Zealand who respects words like integrity, justice and the rule of law.

But, closer to home is the case about to be heard by the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT). This will consider whether SNZ has violated my privacy by refusing to provide me with a copy of the Marris Report into complaints about my coaching. The case will also consider my claim for $260,000 compensation for specific harm caused by SNZ.

That’s the good news for SNZ. If I was SNZ the bad news I would worry about is ending up being housed by the Prime Minister in a government facility a few kilometers south of Lake Taupo.


  1. If the finding of the Privacy Commissioner are confirmed by the HRRT, and
  2. SNZ is guilty of breaching Principle 6 of the Privacy Act 1993, and
  3. If the Report finds the accusations made against me were false, then
  4. In withholding the Report, SNZ are guilty of a cover-up in breach of S116 of the Crimes Act.

Here is how the Crimes Act describes what, in my view, SNZ has done.

116 Conspiring to defeat justice

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who conspires to obstruct, prevent, pervert, or defeat the course of justice in New Zealand

Spending three years denying me access to the Marris Report, in my opinion was a classic effort at obstructing, preventing, perverting and defeating the course of justice. Certainly the Privacy Commissioner thought so and I would be surprised if the HRRT found any other way.

Seven years for those who run SNZ seems appropriate. It is little more than twice the length of time I’ve had to tolerate the fallout from accusations that should have been sorted out long ago – were it not for the SNZ conspiracy.

But while we wait for all that to be resolved by the Tribunal and the Court, Craig Lord encourages us to “take a knee”. That expression refers to American football quarterback, Colin Kaepernick’s, decision to kneel during the national anthem. In Kaepernick’s case he was protesting the racial abuse of Trump’s America.

I have decided to accept the advice of Craig Lord. I can’t take a knee during the National Anthem. In NZ we seldom play the National Anthem before a swim meet. Besides, it is not the policies of my country that I object to. Jacinda seems to be doing just fine. This is specific to SNZ. What token gesture would signal my disapproval of that lot? A couple of weeks ago the penny dropped. I would refuse to renew my coaching membership. What use was it anyway?

I was refused permission to watch Eyad swim in the National Championships. I was denied access to my private information. SNZ used my money to pay for bloated executives to fly around the world while swimmers were forced to pay for themselves. Why on earth would I want to continue my membership?

But in the spirit of all that’s good and decent I won’t blame SNZ. Instead let me take the opportunity to make Johns and Cotterill feel more comfortable – thank you Groucho Marx.