Archive for January, 2022


Sunday, January 30th, 2022

I have always been a bit suspicious of the Waikato Region. It began in the 1990s when the Open Nationals were held in Hamilton. Swimming New Zealand had ruled that the next Pan Pacific Games’ team would be selected solely on the time swum in the finals of each event. I was coaching Toni Jeffs and Nichola Chellingworth who had swum the qualifying time on several occasions. But never in a pool as shallow as Hamilton.

I wrote to the Chairman of the Organising Committee, Merle Jonson, explaining that the conditions were unfair, especially for sprinters. Sprinters were going to have to use a different and slower dive. It was, I said like asking Carl Lewis to “run uphill on a muddy path”. As often happened in those days I got a letter back that said, the rules are the rules. Bad luck.

I made a visit to our Club’s lawyers. We arranged to file an injunction to have the meet stopped unless things were changed. The papers were submitted to the High Court in Wellington, and Swimming New Zealand was instructed to turn up to a Court hearing. A day before the hearing I got a phone call, telling me there had been a misunderstanding, other swims would be considered when selecting the Pan Pacific Games’ team. No more injunction. Toni and Nichola were selected for the team

Another change to Swimming New Zealand rules happened because of a protest at a Waikato swim meet. You probably know the clause, in meet flyers, that says, “We will attempt to have the required number of officials but reserve the right to have fewer.” That clause was never used until Jane Copland got disqualified for a turn in a Waikato breaststroke race. I protested. The rules require sixteen turns’ judges and Waikato only had four. The rules also said that if a mistake by a swimmer follows a mistake by an official, the swimmer must be reinstated. Waikato did not have the correct number of turn officials. Jane must be reinstated. A hearing was held. Waikato was furious but Jane was back in – the winner of the women’s 200 breaststroke. And that is how the clause came into being.

Those two occasions were pretty serious. A shallow pool and disqualifying a swimmer when the nearest official is fifteen metres away are worth arguing about. I have also occasionally thought the Waikato Region’s flyers are a bit officious. Like their rule that says, “Swimmers may enter up to a Maximum of 8x Individual Events Only.” Is the “only” necessary. Or the meet description that says, “to strategically maximise FINA Points”. Wow, that’s a strategic mouthful. These are small points, best ignored.

However, I have done Waikato swimming a disservice. Despite the last minute COVID red light change, this weekend Waikato put on a 300 swimmer meet. I have just received the reseeded psych sheets, divided, by age, into three groups of 100 swimmers each. The groups then alternate through Saturday and Sunday.

Brilliant work, Waikato. The administration effort required to prepare this plan is impressive. The hours that must have gone into putting the plan together is swimming administration at its best.

I apologise for banging on about Cotterill’s $25million, 20-year, centralisation disaster. That whole failed catastrophe was based on the premise that a centralised sport could do things better. New Zealand, they said, did not have the skills to see swimming compete at the highest level. We needed to consolidate power in Auckland. We needed coaches and administrators from the USA, the UK and especially we needed to lean on Australia – two Camerons, Regan, Renford, Sweetenham and Talbot were all imported across the Tasman.

At the same time Cotterill was costing us New Zealanders like Gary Hurring. No sport, especially in a country as small as ours can afford to lose a huge talent like Garry Hurring. That is the Cotterill legacy.

Cotterill certainly didn’t look in Hamilton. This weekend dozens of volunteers have proven the skills available in the regions. Skills that for twenty years Cotterill wasted. Waikato has put a lie to the centralisation nonsense. Given the opportunity, given hard working and talented administrators and coaches the regions can and are lifting this sport back up by its local bootlaces. The decision taken by Tongue, Johns and Francis to decentralise was justified tenfold in Waikato this weekend.  Well done Waikato and thank-you.

I see Gwen Ryan from the Waterhole Club has given the meet a Facebook thumbs up. Gwen is a tough judge. One of the world’s best swimming administrators – if Gwen thinks the meet was well run – it was well run indeed.     

There were many good swimmers in Hamilton. Eyad had a ball. He swam eight events which is double what I would ever dream of getting him to swim. But we were using the weekend as an anaerobic training session. Here is how he got on.

100 Fr 53.71 55.52 no Good first race
50 Bk 32.63 Convert 31.56 yes Big PB 3.3%
50 Fl 26.16 26.61 no Good first fly race
100 Br NT 1.22.69 yes Good time only 20s rest after the 50 fly
100 Fl 59.01 Convert 1.01.16 no A LC PB the 59.01 is SC converted
50 Br 32.63 32.25 yes Another PB this time 1.2%
50 Fr 24.23 24.05 yes Wow, wow PB in best event in first meet
200 IM NT 2.32.50 yes Good warm down lol

And finally thank-you to the official who saw Eyad only had 20 seconds rest between his 50 fly and 100 breast and thought that deserved a spot prize. I told you there are good officials in New Zealand’s regions. That gesture makes it all worthwhile. So, thank-you Waikato. As Mohammed Ali said, “You done splendid.”


Friday, January 28th, 2022

I recently read a conversation on Facebook that tore into New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. I have heard better debate in the bar of Wairoa’s Clyde Hotel. For example some guy called Rick Bowker thought the pinnacle of clever was to say, “Jacinda Hardon what an insane mental case, lock her up for the safety of NZ !”

That’s right Rick, follow your leader, Donald Trump. Threaten to “lock her up” and offend her with sexual insults. Works every time. I should have known better, but decided to defend the Prime Minister and said, “Yes she has done a great job. STFU.” My tone was designed to match the company I was keeping.

Well, the reaction was stunning. Here is a selection of the gems that came pouring into my living room. I have posted my comments following each outburst from the Clyde Hotel gang.   

John Hambleton

so you want to shut down any debate.. you’re right and everyone who disagrees STFU…makes sense 

Comment – John is right. I should have avoided STFU. However, far from closing the debate down I thought I was joining the fray. Just on the Prime Minister’s side.

Kerry Powell

this article you posted is a load of crap mate

Comment – The article Kerry thinks is crap is called, THAT WOMAN and was posted on It’s about my neighbour who said in a stunningly angry tone that she wanted to put a bullet in the Prime Minister’s head.

Kerry Powell

I watch Fox News and I’ve never heard them encourage people to shoot someone…..that’s just B.S.

Comment – Strange as it may sound, the Guardian newspaper disagrees. Here is their view on Fox news. “Fox News is driving political violence in the US, a media watchdog warned, after the primetime host Tucker Carlson predicted “revolt” against the Biden administration.

In a Monday night monologue Carlson said: “When leaders refuse to hold themselves accountable over time, people revolt.

Kerry Powell

and for the record Trump never encouraged anyone to storm the Capitol on Jan 6.

Comment – Do we really have people in New Zealand stupid enough to believe this stuff? Here is what Trump said to the mob before they ransacked the government. His actual words:

‘We won this election, and we won it by a landslide’

‘We will stop the steal’

‘We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen’

‘If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore’

‘We are going to the Capitol’

Brain dead Kerry has really, really, really been watching too much Fox News.

Kerry Powell

but I can fully understand how upset a large number of people are, who have lost their businesses It’s against our laws and against the Nuremberg Code, which maybe you should read.

Comment – Now we are beginning to look into the dark places Kerry wants us all to travel. He is an anti-vax nut job and is prepared to use a Code published in 1947 after WW2 that banned the sort of pseudo-medical butchery that went on in German concentration camps. To equate that to the careful preparation of COVID vaccinations is ludicrous. Besides 9.98 billion people have now been safely vaccinated which hardly puts the treatment into Hitler’s mass sterilisation and drug programmes conducted on Jews in Dachau and Buchenwald.

Kerry Powell

you need to watch news other than the mainstream as you’re being slowly brainwashed. Or watch this video to see really what’s going on in the world and who owns the world….including the media..

Comment – And of course this right-wing moron is convinced Jewish bankers, TV news moguls and Wall Street tycoons control the world. Good God, this idiot lives in New Zealand where our government just now is run by a nice lady who lives in a perfectly normal house somewhere in Auckland. What on earth has she got to do with world or even New Zealand domination? Answer – not a damn thing. I suspect Kerry may see Auckland’s Anniversary Day Sailing Regatta tomorrow as a Jacinda plot to rule the world’s oceans   

Mike Van der Colk

the person in the article didn’t actually issue a threat to Jacinda -she just used an idiomatic expression in a private conversation. To report her to the police for that is crazy.

Comment – Here we have a South African import telling New Zealand that “I’d like to put a bullet in her head” is just a trifle, a simple “idiomatic expression”. Well, the use of bullets may be natural where he came from, but not here. The level of anger displayed by my neighbour was very concerning and the New Zealand police did not treat the threat as idiomatic. In half-an-hour they were visiting the author of the threat. The police also thanked me for the report. Mike probably believes Bin Laden saying “We call on every Muslim to comply with God’s order to kill Americans” was idiomatic as well.  

Ivan Mark Shatford

what do you expect from an American “educated” clown with a “degree” in political science

Comment – I’m not sure why Ivan felt it necessary to put “educated” and “degree” in speech marks. Yes, I was partly educated in America. But right now, so are 50.7 million other people. My school was in Wisconsin where 89% of the population graduated from High School and 20% have a university degree. I am hardly unique. Why something about those facts makes me a clown, I’m not at all sure.

And as for having a degree in Political Science. The logic of that escapes me. Surely the location of my qualification can’t be a problem. I earned the degree from Victoria University in Wellington. That school’s Department of Politics and International Studies is ranked in the top 2 percent of the world’s 18,000 universities and in the top 100 universities in the world.

Perhaps it is the subject that is causing Mike’s problem. Political Science is not for everyone. But when the subject is the Prime Minister of New Zealand it does seem more relevant than nuclear physics or marine biology.

The moral, I guess, is never get into a pissing match with a skunk. In this case I chose five. With an American education and a Political Science degree I should have known better.


Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

I see New Zealand has been voted the 2021 Least Corrupt Country. That status is something for which we can all feel proud. Whatever our political persuasion it is in our best interests to live in a country where trust is not misplaced. We do not want to follow rogue nations, such as the United States where “trash” seems to drive their news. One Representative recently thought it was a great idea refer to another politician as a terrorist, prompting a reply, in all-caps describing her accuser as “TRASH.” 

Certainly, that is not the behaviour I want to see imported into New Zealand. However, we do need to be on our guard. New Zealand is not the place it was when the Prime Minister’s personal telephone number was listed in the phone book or when the Prime Minister could stroll down The Terrace in Wellington to work. There are those who take advantage of our good nature and use it to distort and corrupt. This past weekend I was party to a conversation where the current Prime Minister was being torn to shreds. The conversation ended with me being aggressively told, “I’d like to put a bullet through her head.”

An hour later I filed a complaint with the police. In another thirty minutes a police car pulled up outside the author of the threat’s house and a policeman and woman went inside.

I seriously doubt the person involved would be capable of carrying out an attack on the Prime Minister. However, whether Luxton or Ardern occupy that office, New Zealand cannot be a place where threats to the office holder are tolerated.

The incident did cause me to wonder, how on earth did she get the idea that threats like that are acceptable behaviour? Who led her to a place where she thought shooting the Prime Minister was a good idea? Had she been watching too much Fox News or was there a home-grown New Zealand version of Fox News that was subtly stoking hatred. Hatred that in the hands of the crazies becomes “a bullet in her head”.

Sadly, in News Talk ZB I think we do have a Fox News. Just like Trump encouraged the storming of the United States Capitol, News Talk ZB would never admit to encouraging “a bullet through her head” behaviour. But the hatred that spews from their station is potentially deadly, nevertheless.

On my way home tonight, I heard Heather du Plessis Allen interview the Deputy Prime Minister Robertson and conclude by calling him a liar and hoping the rest of 2022 would not be a repeat of that behaviour. Insult heaped upon insult can eventually become a bullet. The Broadcasting Standards Authority have already found du Plessis Allan guilty of racism. Was tonight’s attack on Robertson just the latest iteration of an opinionated and dangerous journalist?

Mike Hosking is no better. Everything Labour is bad and needs to go. Of course, he has, or I hope he has, the next election in mind. But Hosking should know there are crazies he is talking to who can’t wait that long. Perhaps he does not care. The lust for power is all that matters. Problem is one of those listening could well be my neighbour – unable to wait for the next election.

Even Hosking’s holiday stand-in, Tim Dower, could be accused of exciting violence. Last week, in an opinion piece on Jacinda Ardern, he said, “If I hear that woman say the word team one more time, I’m turning off the radio.” The contempt in his voice as he uttered the words, “that woman” was stunning, disgusting, and dangerous. What school of manners did Dower go to that taught him it was just fine to refer to any female as “that woman”? His opinion displayed utter contempt for women, for the Prime Minister’s office and for Ardern. I wonder if my bullet-in-the-head neighbour heard Dower’s opinion and arrived at her own solution.

Beware of News Talk ZB. New Zealand will no longer be the Least Corrupt Country if that lot have their way.  


Monday, January 24th, 2022

A few posts ago I told the story of swimming in Wellington the day the SS Wahine sank. That was swimming’s worst weather day. Today’s post will describe my worst weather day training for running. I have been for runs in several countries – New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. In my last year at high school, I ran everyday through a Wisconsin winter.

That can be dangerous enough. Temperatures well below zero, snow and wind and frozen footpaths were normal fare. But even Wisconsin could not match my most dangerous weather run.

Scotland provided that memorable event. Alison and I lived in the Scottish village of Auchterarder. The town is probably better known as the location of Gleneagles Golf Club. I worked in the nearby city of Perth. My job was to supervise the building of Europe’s newest freezing works – known in Scotland as a slaughterhouse. It was a challenging job. Designed to kill 600 cattle and 3000 sheep a day it also included very modern features in those days, such as rapid chilling, aging, and preparation rooms that broke meat down to the small packs of chops, steak and mince sold in supermarkets. I am delighted to report that forty years later the plant is still there, churning out thousands of meat packs for the supermarket world.

Alison was a runner. She was the UK 1500m National Indoor Champion and had been selected to run indoors and outdoors for Scotland and the UK. Although she claimed to dislike cross country running, she was also a double Scottish National Champion at that event. Before transferring to run for the UK she had broken the New Zealand 1000m record at the home of Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Her time of 2.38 stood as the New Zealand national record for 36 years from 1979 until 2015. She competed for New Zealand in the 800m and 1500m in the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and for Oceania in the 1979 Montreal World Cup.

Alison’s coaching was a combined effort. Arch Jelley, in New Zealand set her schedules and how they should be run, and I went to the track to time Alison’s track work. I also went for runs with her across the rolling hills of Gleneagles Golf Course. There was no way I could keep up, but the exercise was good for me and our two Labradors, Tweed and Kelso. Arch followed a distance-based training programme. Alison’s build-up preparation always involved 10 weeks of 160 kilometers a week. Her best ten-week average was 172 kilometers a week.

Clearly training in the north of Scotland involved periods of bad weather. Events that you do not find elsewhere were commonplace. Occasionally we had to stop training because Alison’s spikes could no longer break the rock-hard ice on the track. I used to have to clear the inside lane of snow before training could begin. On many days Alison would arrive home after her morning 14 kilometer run with frozen eyelashes. That was all normal. The bad one came on Sunday’s 16 kilometer run over Borland Glen.

The Borland Glen run was a circuit I had searched out when we first arrived in Scotland. I was looking for something that resembled the Waitakere Circuit used by New Zealand runners. And oh, what a gem I found – not as long as the Waitakeres but perfect in every other way.

I can do no better than copy a local tourist guide that describes Alison’s Sunday run.

“Takes a bitta finding this one. Best ventured to by going along the gorgeous, little-known Dunning Glen in the eastern Ochils, till you reach Littlerig house. Cross the road from there and follow the line of the burn and forest till it veers sharp left. Keep along the fencing until the marshland levels out and streams fall away both east and west. From here, walk uphill until you reach level ground, then, looking down the Borland Glen, zigzag downhill.”

Notice how the description says, “walk uphill until you reach level ground”. That is an understatement beyond belief. The uphill portion of Borland Glen was steep beyond belief. I am certain that stretch of road was in part responsible for providing Alison with the strength to run away with national championships and records. I don’t know how many times I have watched New Zealand runners today and thought they could benefit from a few Sundays “uphill until you reach level ground”.

This particular Sunday started fine and sunny. We climbed uphill until we reached the top of Borland Glen. Then in five minutes, the world changed. Black clouds covered the sky. Day turned into night. The temperature dropped twenty degrees and wind and snow lashed horizontally across our path. Sometimes you just know when something is dangerous. This was one of those times. We had to get off this Scottish mountain before confusion set in and in the darkness, we were unable to find our way.

We set off down the farm track, running as fast as we dared, unable to see more than a few meters ahead and cold, really freezing cold. And then I wasn’t feeling cold at all. I was aware this was even more dangerous. We had to push on to the safety of home.

Half an hour of stumbling and we made it. Safe in our well-warmed Auchterarder home. Even with the experience of Wisconsin winters, this run was a clearly the most dangerous. It changed my view of how quickly hypothermia could kill. The internet tells me death can come in less than an hour. A few minutes at the top of Borland convinced me that was true.


Friday, January 21st, 2022

I began a previous Swimwatch post by saying, “There does not seem to be anything of interest rocking New Zealand swimming at present.” I did not expect an email telling me, “Oh come on.  There has to be a story in AK Swimming not being a competitive region.”

I decided to investigate. Sure enough my email correspondent was right. He said there were effectively no competitive swim meets in 2022 until the 19 March. He also said the reason was that the “coaches group supposedly wanted a complete cycle of training after the covid break, before racing.”  

Could that possibly be true? Sure enough 18 towns and cities will have swim meets before Auckland decides it is time to swim a swimming race. To be fair there is an Auckland junior festival listed as a possible meet and an Auckland secondary schools open water race in that time. But for regular senior pool swimmers it’s a matter of wait until mid-March or spend a fortune traveling the country.

Among the 18 towns with swim meets Christchurch is listed with 4 meets of their own. Hamilton and Wellington have 3 meets each. Dunedin, Invercargill and Rotorua have 2 meets each. They all clearly do not subscribe to Auckland’s requirement that we should, “complete a cycle of training after the covid break, before racing.” Even Bluff has a meet. Well done Auckland (population 1,657,000) – behind Bluff (population 1,797). Oh, and I missed Akaroa (population 624, that’s 300 people less than the Auckland suburb of Piha) who also have meet before Auckland.  

There are two thoughts about this ridiculous example of administration. First, it is not the “Auckland Coaching Group’s” job or responsibility to decide when swimmers should race. Perfectly good people, called coaches, like Andy, Igor, Paul, Sheldon, Horst, Phillip and me can decide for ourselves when swimmers should race. Many coaches may follow an acceptable plan of racing to full fitness. Many records have been broken after intense periods of racing. We certainly do not need some bureaucratic committee telling us how swimmers should be prepared. The Coaches Group should put on the meets and let us decide who will swim.

Even if the Coaches Group includes coaches they have no business telling other coaches when their swimmers should race.  

For too long in the past administrators have exceeded their powers. I must have been told hundreds of times that my distance conditioning programme was not the modern way. My reaction was always the same. “It is none of your business”. The same goes for making it impossible to race at home. “It is none of your business”. Put on the meets and we will decide whether to use them or not. If a full-on programme of racing is your thing, move to Canterbury. Auckland is not the place for you.

Second, I am concerned that motivation for the decision might be shear bloody old-fashioned laziness. Far be it from any of us to interrupt administrator’s two months soaking up the rays on Waiheke or the Coromandel. Don’t disrupt their daily cruise around Auckland Harbour or their lunch at Ahi Restaurant on the Auckland waterfront. Far better to make up a pathetic excuse and laze-about for ten weeks convinced they have done swimmers in Auckland a huge service. Did you really think ten weeks of no races was in the best interests of the sport, or were you just too lazy to do the right thing?

One feature I have found is true in sport. Athletes have to work hard. Coaches have to work hard. Administrators have to work hard. It is a hard team game. This racing example is not good. From what I can see swimmers have got back into training after the lockdown. Coaches are also pulling their weight. But Auckland’s administrators are sitting around doing bugger-all. That is especially galling when in some cases we are paying their wages. Come on you guys – get off your bums and do some work.  

PS – Brett and company must be enjoying the Auckland summer. We have just been told the one pool junior meet planned for Auckland has been postponed. They have used the new COVID variant as their excuse. Now there really are no pool meets. However, during Brett and the Coaches Group’s busy schedule I can recommend Ahi’s oysters and the Prophet’s Rock Riesling from Central Otago. They won’t be able to drink their Riesling down there. They are too busy running a local swim meet. Whether Ahi do takeaways to your meetings held on Bret’s boat, I don’t know.

What has swimming become?