A few posts ago you may remember Swimwatch said this.

“But if “worked” means, made progress, then the answer is a very positive yes. Swimming has had a breath of fresh air. It is a better sport, run by better people. It is a happier and safer sport. It is a sport that relies less on the destructive influence of the Castle gang. Its results have a way to go, but they are on their way back. And it is a sport where its members, especially its coaches, can feel valued again. How long will it take for the reforms to work? My guess is at least five maybe six years. We have had two. So be patient we have three or four years to go. If the damage done took 20 years, SNZ will have done really well to repair that in five or six years. But the sport is on its way – big time.”

At the same time the reforms Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) made were subject to endless petty sniping by SNZ critics. According to these experts SNZ couldn’t run a piss-up in Speights’ Brewery. Shock and horror, they said, SNZ had two old tabs that didn’t work on their new website. The Short Course Nationals were only 15 days after the Commonwealth Games. According to this group of Facebook experts – idiots were running the asylum.

And at the Commonwealth Games we have seen SNZ strike back. By their actions and deeds SNZ is exposing the lie of the criticism of its armchair critics. The reforms are working.

So, what are the facts that lead to this conclusion?

·        Three gold medals and two bronze medals from two swimmers in Birmingham – compared to one bronze medal four years ago on the Gold Coast, a gold and silver medal from one swimmer eight years ago in Glasgow, and three silver medals and three bronze medals twelve years ago in Delhi.

·        Every swimmer made a semi-final and/or a final. There is strength and strength in depth.

·        At the time of writing, swimming’s medal result in Birmingham is better than badminton3×3 basketballbeach volleyballboxingcricketdivinggymnasticshockeyjudolawn bowlsnetballrugby sevenssquashtriathlonweightlifting and wrestling

·        But best of all from 49 swims the New Zealand team recorded 12 personal best times (24.5%). Six of the eight swimmers swam at least one personal best time. That is a sign of progress. It says as clear as a bell SNZ is on its way back. The old days, before Sport New Zealand, don’t look so shabby after all.     

·        The team of eight swimmers was coached by eight different club coaches – six spread over the length and breadth of New Zealand and two in Australia. New Zealand coaches can be trusted to deliver. It is also far healthier for the sport than that Cameron, Layton, Cotterill, “let’s do it all in Auckland” rubbish. Grass roots swimming across New Zealand has delivered in Birmingham. The benefit of that to the sport cannot be underestimated, especially in comparison to the elitist product being peddled by the Castle gang.       

SNZ will need to exercise extreme caution on one aspect of what is about to occur. Because swimming is so clearly on the path back, Sport New Zealand will want a slice of the credit. Sport New Zealand can smell success in sport like a great white shark detects the scent of blood.  Sport New Zealand will attempt to buy its way back into the sport. The bribe will be simple – more money.

Castle will say how well the sport has done, but imagine if New Zealand had an Australian, or and American or someone from the UK in Auckland coaching in a centralised pool of their own. Let’s call it Owen Glenn. Then Clareburt could train with Gray, Ouwehand could compete with Gasson. And SNZ would have a million more taxpayer dollars.

Wouldn’t SNZ like to be just like cycling? As though the death of Podmore could be brushed away by the clink of a few gold, silver and bronze trinkets. Like a good door-to-door salesman, Castle will attempt to sell her shoddy product.

For the love of God, SNZ please reject doing a deal with the devil. The Garden of Eden apple was less tainted than Sport New Zealand’s money. Never forget it was Castle’s money that dragged SNZ to its performance knees. Never forget the reforms that have begun CPR on the corpse Sport New Zealand left behind. When swimming needed help the most Sport New Zealand walked away. Without a care in the world Sport New Zealand left a dying corpse to rot. Do not reward them for their treachery. Do not make the Cameron, Layton, Cotterill mistake again – please. As SNZ is offered the Sport New Zealand cash honey trap remember this, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The eight swimmers, their coaches, their clubs, their regions and SNZ at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games have shown us the decentralised path we should follow. Making that same path better and more available to other swimmers should be our guide – not Sport New Zealand’s money or their loony idea of what constitutes good coaching for swimming. Do not be tempted by a modern-day Eve offering her apple of knowledge.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Take Castle’s money. Grab every penny. Get as much as you can but give her nothing in return. Spend it on improving SNZ’s DECENTRALISED structure.

I’m no great scholar of religion but for SNZ right now a biblical verse does seem appropriate – “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

SNZ found it in Birmingham. SNZ is on its way back, using a path that leads to life. And that is the way it should stay.  

To the NZ swim team – as Mohamed Ali said

“You done splendid”

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