Here Is The Reason

The issue of shallow competition pools has caused me some strife. It began in Hamilton’s Te Rapa Pool. They used to start 50m races from the shallow end. It was dangerous and very unfair on sprinters wanting to qualify for major events at National Championships held in Hamilton. The pool depth meant swimmers had to change their starts to a very shallow, short and slow start. At the time I compared it to asking Carl Lewis to run a 100m world record up hill on a muddy path. I lodged a protest about the pool depth. It was declined. I was told to go away and stop making trouble. I was told it was up to swimmers to adapt their dive to the depth of the water, not SNZ’s responsibility to provide a legal and safe pool.

Several years later Wellington’s Kilbirnie Pool and I had the same problem. Two of my swimmers had scraped the floor of the pool diving in at the start of a race. I was told about another swimmer who had lost teeth diving into the same pool. The pool clearly failed to meet the FINA minimum depth standards. The pool was dangerous. At a National Championships I protested the depth but was again told to go away. I appealed the decision and was told to stop making trouble. The FINA requirement, they said, was only a recommendation, not a requirement. There was no understanding of the importance of an intact spinal cord.

Even more recently I protested the SNZ decision to sign Lauren Boyle’s World Record certificate confirming that the Kilbirnie Pool met all FINA’s standards. That was clearly not true. The pool was below the minimum depth. My intention was not to detract from Lauren’s record. If anything the depth of the pool made her record even more commendable. The intention was to highlight a SNZ lie and to draw attention to their stubborn insistence on starting races from the shallow end of the Kilbirnie Pool.

I have some guilt over this issue. I have an uncomfortable feeling that the louder I protested the more tenacious SNZ became about continuing to use the shallow end no matter what the risk. The one rule highlighted in SNZ’s Code of Conduct is never agree with David Wright about anything. If I said the Titanic had sprung a leak, SNZ would book a ticket on the next voyage.

SNZ was furious at my protest. The then Chairman of SNZ Layton even dedicated a portion of his Annual Report to slagging me off. Minor things like pool depth, injuries, rules and the truth did not appear to be a SNZ concern. This is what Chairman Layton said about me in his Annual Report.

“A lowlight was the attempt by bloggers and media commentators to discredit Lauren’s 1500m freestyle record by claiming the pool was too shallow. The FINA handbook is clear. For the conduct of the Olympics and World Championships the minimum depth is a rule that must be observed. For the conduct of other FINA meets, like the Oceania Championships, the minimum depth is a requirement, unless FINA provides a dispensation. In all other instances, the minimum depth is a guideline and not a rule. Guidelines are not obligations, they are recommendations. The credibility the opinions of these bloggers deserve is clear; absolutely none.”

For years SNZ’s response to swimming pool safety was led by a Woodstock of the mentally impaired. But eventually SNZ got religion. It took a while but the risk of spinal injury eventually dawned on Antares Place. Races now start from the deep end of the Kilbirnie Pool; a decision that should have been made years earlier. Consider the thousands of swimmers who have been put at risk by the refusal of SNZ administrators to do what was right.

Because SNZ, because ex-Chairman Layton, here is a report from the NZ Herald this week that offers you all the credibility this cause deserves. Here is why we never accepted your stubborn refusal to do the right thing.

New safety measures have been put in place at a popular swimming pool in Auckland after a teenager was left paralysed in a freak accident.

Several changes have been made at the Auckland Council-owned Pt Erin Pool complex, in Herne Bay, including improved staff training, new signs and age restrictions in certain areas.

The changes come after Lech-Welensa Lo Tam, 15, broke his neck after entering one of the pools on a slide head first this year.

Three of his friends had been swimming in the pool and he did not realise that the water under the slide was just 1m deep.

The slide also had an age restriction of 5-10 years, under supervision of a parent or guardian.

The teen, of Glen Eden, injured his C3, 4, 5 vertebrae – the worst kind of spinal cord injury – and is now paralysed.


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