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A Christmas Story

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

By David

It’s Christmas morning and for some reason NBC is showing a program about the formation of the Home Depot chain of stores. It’s actually quite interesting. Three guys had the idea, moved to Atlanta and opened one store with money they’d borrowed from friends. Money was so short they also borrowed empty boxes and paint tins from suppliers and stocked the shelves with the fake stock. The impression of service, of being busy worked and after some early losses the retailer was on its way to becoming the 2,200 store giant it is today.

I love the fake paint tins story. I’ve formed two swim clubs in my coaching career: one in New Zealand in 1990 and the other in Florida in 2009. The New Zealand club was the most difficult. Alison came up with the name “The Local Swim Team”. At first Swimming New Zealand didn’t like the name as it did not suggest a geographical location. We pointed out that the Aquahawks Club name said nothing about Napier, Comet Club said nothing about Gisborne and while our old club Gale Force, was an accurate indication of Wellington’s weather, it certainly did not mention the town. Swimming New Zealand relented and The Local was formed – well, almost formed.

In those days to be a club in New Zealand meant having a minimum of 25 members. We had two, Toni Jeffs and Jane Copland. There was nothing wrong with the quality of the team, Toni was already representing the country and Jane would one day do the same. However we were a huge 23 members short of Swimming New Zealand’s minimum. Alison and I joined. Alison’s sister, brother, brother in law and mother became members – only eighteen to go. One of Toni’s friends who couldn’t swim but worked with her in the Body Shop became a founding member. Gradually we reduced the deficit. We even found another swimmer, Nichola Chellingworth who also went on to represent New Zealand with distinction in World Championships and Pan Pacific Games. The Local Swim Team must be the only Club ever formed whose entire founding swimming membership went on to swim for their country.

Finally, we had 24 members; just one to go. I think it was Alison’s idea; what about Sammy, our cat? The forms were completed and sent to Swimming New Zealand and there, as a proud founding member, was number 25 Sammy Wright, aged three, status: beginner. Our application was accepted and for one year Sammy was just as important to our cause as his more heralded team mates. In year two Sammy retired, his work well done. By that time we had real swimmers ready to take his place. For several years Alison’s mother and brother stayed on as members, proud of the role they had played in founding The Local.

One of Sammy’s many ploys to avoid swim practice

Forming the new team in Florida was not as difficult. There were a few idiots who went out of their way to perform a late term abortion; but failed. There was no need here for feline memberships, which is good since we no longer have a cat. We operate out of two pools and work hard to attract swimmers from families whose parents cannot afford the training fees. We rely on donations to cover the training fees of our swimmers. So far it’s worked. We have had fantastic support and today about half our members receive some form of financial assistance from the swim team Board. I like it. Talent is not restricted to the rich.

Each evening outside our pool young children receive instruction in football, basketball, cheerleading, tennis and now swimming. A couple of nights ago I noticed a huge man get out of a new Cadillac Escalade and wander over to join in a pick-up game of basketball. Soon he was absorbed in the game of feints and dunks, lay ups and three pointers. His size and skill prompted me to ask the Pool Manager, did she know who he was? Turns out he’s a defensive guard for the Cincinnati Bengals football team. It also turns out that twenty years ago he began his career out on the field behind our pool. Now, he’s not too big to come back at Christmas and share a game with his old mates. As I said, talent is not restricted to the rich. I’ve always thought the purpose of what we do is not to be an afternoon babysitting service. The purpose of what we do is to provide an opportunity to excel. I’ve known many call that elitism and demand more numbers and less quality. Elitism is not a sin. Elitism gives those who want the chance to excel; the opportunity to one day come back in an Escalade to play pick-up ball with their mates.

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of politicians. Washington DC changes a person’s ideals. Or does it? This week a member of Congress heard about our new team and its work. On Thursday, a check for $1000 arrived with a simple hand written note. It said, “Hope this helps.” It does – it helps because we need the funds but mostly it helps because a national representative understands our cause, understands the importance of offering the highest quality tuition to the least of us. Thank you Congressman.

From Sammy to Washington DC that’s quite a leap. Although I guess they share the distinction of getting something good up and running.

Donations to the East Coast Swim Team adopt a swimmer program can be made by using the DONATION button at the bottom of this page.

Swimileaks

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

By David

Back in the days of Coulter and Byrne the Swimming New Zealand Board meetings leaked a torrent of information. Nothing was secret. Actually, the sieve-like nature of that Board wasn’t all that important. Within a few days the old Swimming New Zealand Board posted their minutes on the organization’s website. Unofficial chit-chat plus the official record gave a pretty clear picture of the Board’s deliberations.

I thought those days had gone. Certainly the new Board stopped publishing their minutes. It is sad when any sport’s organization feels it must hide information from its membership. I wonder what they have to hide. I have little time for directors of public organizations who feel their decisions are above the scrutiny of the membership. The danger is that the arrogance of secrecy can quickly get out of hand, can quickly lead to an abuse of power. Good governance requires that public sporting Boards have their decisions examined.

I also thought that the people Swimming New Zealand now have on their Board would be leak-proof. The new “Institute of Director” sorts have accumulated power by doing deals, almost always behind closed doors. They are people who understand the power of information, who appreciate the value of secrecy, who live by mushroom-managing the membership – feed them shit and keep them in the dark. Or as a friend of mine said today, “goldfish never question the bowl”.

But I was wrong. The Swimming New Zealand Board Room does leak – probably more than the old Board. I confess this only to tell you that my source tells me I featured on the Agenda of their most recent meeting. I’m told the item was listed under the heading, “David Wright – Legal”. For a Board determined to conduct their affairs in secret this Board is not very good. They talk way too much.

I was told the David Wright item was on the Board Agenda for two reasons. First because, after the young girl from Raumati lost her teeth diving into the Wellington Pool, I filed papers with the Disputes Tribunal asking for my 2011 Protest Fee to be returned. It is a pity when, it seems that, the only way to get this new Board to address the safety of its members is to threaten them with the loss of $50.00. Charles Dickens wrote a Christmas story about that sort of behaviour. Certainly if I was ever in any doubt about the value of filing the Tribunal papers, the fact that the tragedy of this young swimmer’s misfortune made it onto the Agenda of Swimming New Zealand’s precious Board Meeting dispelled my concern. It is a pity, but not unexpected, that their Agenda referred to the incident by my name rather than the person who could be considered a victim in all this. I hope we have not reached a point where a young girl’s teeth are of little consequence when there is $50.00 at stake.

And, I was told, the second motive for putting me on their Agenda was to consider whether they could put a stop to the publication of Swimwatch. Achieving that would actually be very simple. Just reverse the current obsession with central power and national uniformity, privatize the Auckland and Wellington high performance programs, start promoting swimming around the regions, restore and increase Regional decentralized power and change swimming from a state run socialist empire to a private and free enterprise dynamic sporting market – do that and Swimwatch will either disappear or will be stacked full of feel good niceness.

Like all extreme socialist movements this New Zealand swimming version will eventually fail. However that will take time. Until then Swimwatch is here to stay. Oh, SNZ can try and close us down, they can knock themselves out with legal fees and Board Room debate but we ‘aint going nowhere.

Of course Swimming New Zealand may feel there is a case for libel. And they may be right. If Chris Moller did not use a Special General Meeting to call for the resignation of Brian Palmer, if Alex Baumann’s children did not train with Millennium High Performance swimmers, if Philip Rush did not get stopped in Mirimar with twice an illegal amount of alcohol on his breath, if Valerie Adams did not meet with the Minister of Sport to “arm wrestle” herself out of the system, if a young swimmer did not lose her teeth diving into a pool I warned Swimming New Zealand about a year earlier, if Swimming New Zealand didn’t call two candidates for two vacancies an election, if Swimming New Zealand did not initially schedule their 2013 AGM at the same time and on the same day as heats were being swum at the National Swimming Championships, if Swimming New Zealand didn’t provide the national press with false information about the performance of New Zealand swimmers at the World Championships and if someone at a National Camp did not ask one of my swimmers to swim 100×25 meter sprints in the middle of distance conditioning, then a case for libel could well succeed. But if all of those things did happen, the merits of a case for libel seem slim.

However the following data may help Swimming New Zealand’s legal team decide in which jurisdiction to file libel proceedings. I write most of the articles published in Swimwatch and I live in Auckland New Zealand. The blog however is published in London. The server hosting the website is in Brea, California. And the blog’s lawyer lives in Tampa, Florida. If SNZ need the physical address or email details of any of the above just leave a message in the comments section. We will get them to you straight away.

Sadly I suspect the lesson that will be debated at the next Swimming New Zealand Board Meeting is where are the leaks coming from? Who is talking to the wrong people? How can the Board tighten security? Who is the Swimming New Zealand mole? Does Swimming New Zealand have a “Deep Throat” in its midst?

That will be a shame. The moral of this story should highlight the benefits of an open, honest and inclusive relationship between the Board and the membership. It should not be seen as an excuse to increase secrecy and concealment. But in the new Swimming New Zealand I’m guessing that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

A Failing Future

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

The future of world swimming is being played out before our eyes. Sadly New Zealand is being left out. Abandoned, we have not even received an invitation to the dance. New Zealand swimming is going to be absent from the top tier of world swimming, relegated to second class status. Cotterill, Johns and Francis will eventually realise world swimming has passed us by. Of course they will blame the clubs and the coaches. But the failure will be theirs and they should never be allowed to avoid the blame.

So what is this future that will pass New Zealand by? It was described recently by Craig Lord on the Swimvortex Facebook page. The table below shows a summarised version of what’s been going on.

British swim ace Adam Peaty took his first big stroke towards becoming a swimming millionaire today by signing up as ambassador and star of “The London Team”, one of eight multi-nation professional squads taking shape for the launch of the International Swimming League (ISL) in August.

The League, Peaty told this author, would “put swimming on the world sports map in between Olympics” in a way that FINA had failed to do. The British ace could be earning $5 million a year within five years if the League goes the way he plans, says Russian billionaire backer Grigorishin.

The world’s first professional swimming league will launch elimination rounds between August and December this year, half of them in the United States and half in Europe, London set to host one of four European events on November 23-24. Peaty will race at three rounds and aims to get The London Team to the super-final set for Las Vegas on the cusp of Christmas.

Of a total budget of $20m, $5m will be handed out in prizes to individual swimmers, while each of the eight professional teams, four based in Europe and four based in the United States, will receive $150,000 each in appearance fees, for a total prize pot of just over $6 million for swimmers. Beyond that, the ISL will fund all travel, accommodation and subsistence for teams to the tune of $3 million.

So there it is; the professional future of world swimming. It is as obvious as the nose on your face. Swimming is moving steadily along the path followed by world tennis, and athletics. In tennis the Australia, French, Wimbledon and US open events have more status than the Olympic Games. In athletics the Diamond League is growing in stature every year. Just ask Tom Walsh or Rafael Nadal. I’m pretty sure they will confirm that being in the top tier of their sports means competing in the Open tennis events or in the Diamond League.

In swimming, very soon, the same standard is going to apply. Swimmers not included in the 256 swimmers (eight teams of 32 swimmers in each team) competing in the ISL competition are going to be outside the best the sport has to offer. In future years every Olympic champion is going to be one of the highly paid professionals taking part in the ISL world league. Nothing is more certain than that.

And where is New Zealand in all this? Nowhere is the answer. I doubt that Cotterill, Johns or Francis even know that the ISL is happening. And if they do, my guess is, they probably don’t approve and, like FINA, believe the ISL should be resisted with all New Zealand’s might. Athlete welfare, swimming millionaires and sporting democracy are very low on Swimming New Zealand’s order of priorities.

Their cavalier disregard for refugee, Eyad Masoud’s application to join the IOC refugee team stems from the same pig-headed ignorance and disregard for an athlete’s welfare that has led them is ignore the future of world swimming. The sport in New Zealand is about to pay a very high price for the stupidity of those who live in Antares Place. If Cotterill, Johns or Francis had any idea about the future and good health of swimming one of them would have been on an airplane this week heading to London to secure a place in the ISL’s chosen 256 for Clareburt, Hunter, Godwin or one of a handful of others.

But, oh no, there is nothing in it for Cotterill, there is nothing in it for Johns and there is nothing in it for Francis so why should they bother. Besides, the Godfather of New Zealand sport, Peter Miskimmin, might not approve. So let’s put on another training camp. Let’s make a Cotterill song and dance about paying a trivial $400 contribution to a $5,300 travel bill. Let’s include Daniel Hunter’s name on a Francis Folly list. Let’s give them a SNZ t-shirt and a cap with their name on it. That should keep the troops happy. Hunter and Clareburt never wanted to be millionaires anyway. Besides we sure as hell can’t have swimmers earning more than any of the residents of Antares Place. Who do those swimmers think they are – Tom Walsh or Rafael Nadal – ridiculous?

I have little doubt that the warning contained in this post will be ignored just like ten years of warnings about the stupidity of centralised training were ignored. When finally SNZ realised the futility of their centralised training policy – Swimwatch was right – it was all years too late. The damage was serious. Repairs will take years. My guess is the same thing is going to happen with the ISL competition. Instead of getting New Zealand involved from the beginning, the attitude of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost will be to do anything but agree with David Wright. I guess that means, in ten years,  when a couple of New Zealand’s best swimmers should be enjoying retirement in million dollar homes in Wanaka or the Bay of Islands, instead I will be writing another, “I told you so” story.

Sadly that will all be too late for this and the next generation of New Zealand’s best swimmers.

2018 – What Will We Remember?

Thursday, December 27th, 2018

Let’s begin this Christmas post by discussing the performance of Swimwatch during 2018. The blog published 60 articles (this is number 61) and was read by 62,273 unique visitors. That compares with 28,000 in 2017 and 16,000 in 2016. To be fair those two years were affected by my coaching contract in Saudi Arabia. This year’s total is well short of the 2011 record year when the blog was read by 124,000 visitors. That was the year Peter Miskimmin conned Brian Palmer and Bronwen Radford and orchestrated a fatal coup of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Interest in the devious political intrigue at the time was high.

Not that the popularity of Swimwatch did much good. Miskimmin won, the constitution was changed, democracy in swimming died and the sport began a steady and inevitable slide into oblivion. Eight years later and every measure of performance has collapsed. Membership numbers are down. Income is down. International results are down. The only measure to go up is staff turnover. SNZ demanded that New Zealand’s best swimmers transfer to the national training programme and provided them with eight national coaches in eight years. The negligence involved in forcing swimmers like Lauren Boyle, Mathew Stanley and Mellissa Ingram to accept a coach a year was stunning. But did SNZ care? Did they even apologise? Did they acknowledge their role in destroying a generation of New Zealand talent? No, of course they didn’t.

Instead SNZ roll on convinced of their divine right to rule; certain that the sport is there to make a generous living for them. The 2018 New Zealand team sent to the World SC Championships is a classic example of the depths to which Cotterill, Johns and Francis will descend. While the swimmers were each invoiced $5,300, Francis and his fellow bureaucrats made the journey on the sport’s dime. The blind greed, the savage exploitation of that decision should never be forgotten; must never be forgiven.

No wonder the world’s best swimmers stood up to FINA in 2018 and demanded reform. When SNZ and FINA treat swimmers like slaves they forfeit the right to rule. The new ISL rebel organisation does not operate in a vacuum. In 2018 ISL found a receptive audience because of the naked greed of administrators like Cotterill, Johns and Francis.

But don’t expect those three to change their ways. These leopards are not about to change their spots. They are batting on a good wicket and that’s where they intend to stay. A couple of Swimwatch posts ago I included a quote from the Cuban freedom fighter, Che Guevara. He said, “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” That is exactly what is needed in FINA and SNZ. The apples have to be made to fall. 2018 has shown us that FINA and SNZ are not about to accept reform. Making life better for swimmers and swimming is not on their agenda. Eventually the swimming communities worldwide and in New Zealand are going to realise that truth and are going to turf bureaucrats like Coterill, Johns and Francis into the garbage can of swimming history. World class swimmers are moving in that direction using the American courts. New Zealand will follow. It is a legal case we intend to pursue in New Zealand in 2019. The rebellion that began in 2018 cannot have its conclusion come soon enough. I suspect the New Zealand High Court will be adept at picking apples.

In almost everything SNZ do, you can find deceit; some of it mild, some of it deadly serious. Take this week’s announcement of the entry numbers for the New Zealand open-water championships. Here is how the SNZ website trumpeted that news.

The largest number of athletes ever to enter the NZ Open Water Championships will gather in Taupo across EPIC WEEKEND to compete for national honours.

That is true. However it is also a lie. You see the extra numbers are the result of adding three new events. In previous years there were two open-water championship events. This year there are five championship events. The news report is simply not comparing like with like. Swimmers have been stolen from the EPIC program to earn more money for SNZ – hardly the way to treat a loyal sponsor.

The reality is that in the main 10k event 36 swimmers have entered the 2019 race. That is exactly the same number as entered the same race in 2016. The SNZ headline is a classic con. Double check everything. Don’t believe a word they say.

I object to the SNZ decision to steal swimmers from the EPIC races in order to earn more money for themselves. In my view it is a disgusting way to treat a loyal sponsor. But worse than that is what is going to happen to the additional income. Experience has taught us that it will all go to improving the lives of Cotterill, Johns and Francis. Daniel Hunter, Simon Perry and Emma Godwin are not going to benefit by one cent from the money SNZ is taking from the EPIC organisation. SNZ steal from everyone to benefit themselves. Anyone who believes for a minute that Cotterill, Johns and Francis have a shred of love for swimming and its members, in my view is sadly blind to the reality of the sport. And that is the lesson of 2018.

A Duty To Protect?

Monday, September 24th, 2018

 The Stuff website reported today that Rotorua policeman Brendon Keenan was able to compete, and win his age-group title, in Saturday’s Tauranga International Marathon. You might think there is nothing too unusual about that. But there is. You see Brendon Keenan is serving a four year suspension from “all sport”.

Keenan was banned in July by the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand, after admitting to importing the drug Erythropoietin, (EPO), which is used by cheats to illegally increase red blood cell production. The suspension was backdated to 7 September 2017 – the date Keenan made the online purchase of the drug.

However, Keenan was allowed to run in Saturday’s race, because it was not considered an Athletics New Zealand ‘authorized’ event, and was operated by an outside promoter – Total Sport.

Stuff reporters asked Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ), Total Sport and Athletics New Zealand for their view on a convicted drug cheat competing in the Tauranga Marathon. The three organizations ducked for cover.

DFSNZ chief executive Nick Paterson said, “It’s all organized sport carried out under the guise of the national sporting organization. What it doesn’t include is social events. I want to see increased leadership on the part of promoters.”

Total Sport event organizer, Jules Harvey, said, “I need to get a bit more information about that.”

Athletics New Zealand chief executive, Hamish Grey, confirmed that the event wasn’t sanctioned by his organization, which he said left him in an unfortunate spot.

“If they’re not under the auspices of the bodies that he was banned from, then there’s nothing we can do, as much as we might like to. In the end, it’s over to each of the promoters, but we would welcome that dialogue.” he said.

Their responses are pathetic. All three organizations have a duty to protect sport from drug cheats – no matter what the circumstances or risks. All three failed in that duty. The only person feeling delighted with himself today is the cheat, Keenan.

Authorities have a habit of being tough when it’s easy and running for cover when the going gets tough. It really annoys me when I compare the way DFSNZ has treated clean athletes compared to their gutless reaction to Keenan.

For example consider their response to the Trent Bray positive test. Trent proved that his sample had baked in the summer sun in an Australian laboratory over the Christmas holiday. Any chemical reaction was possible under those conditions. But did DFSNZ take that into account. Of course they didn’t. Instead of throwing the samples away and starting over again DFSNZ used their wealth to drag Trent through a legal nightmare. Eventually, but only after spending a fortune on legal fees, Trent was cleared of all wrong doing.

Take for example the treatment of New Zealand’s best sprinter, Toni Jeffs. Toni was a big strong girl. She loved working out in the gym and it showed. Because she was female, because she was a sprinter and because she had muscles, DFSNZ wouldn’t leave her alone. She was tested eight times in one year. I don’t feel there is any need for that frequency. When does proper surveillance become harassment? Actually the number of tests would have been nine. I got Toni to refuse to attend one of the tests. She had been contacted and ordered to attend a motel in central Wellington. The motel was next to the Salvation Army night shelter. It was not a nice part of town. The motel was best known for renting rooms by the hour. For DFSNZ to use it for a partial medical testing procedure on young New Zealand women was disgusting. Toni’s next test was programmed in the offices of a well-known Wellington doctor; a much better choice.

And finally consider the example of Jane Copland who was drug tested after winning her first medal at the NZ Open Championships. I asked to be sent copies of the paperwork transferring her samples from Dunedin to Australia. I noticed that the sample number sent from Dunedin was different from the sample number received by the laboratory in Sydney. Of course I asked DFSNZ, why? I was told the original paper work was lost between Dunedin and Auckland. Fresh forms were prepared in Auckland for the trip to Sydney. I was told not to worry. The samples were the same. Everything was going to be fine. The right thing to do was to throw the samples away and start again. But, like the Trent Bray case, DFSNZ pushed on; blind to honesty, deaf to justice. Jane’s samples tested negative to any drugs; crisis avoided.

You can probably appreciate why, with that history of the poor treatment of honest athletes, I feel aggrieved at the gutless behavior of Total Sport, DFSNS and Athletics New Zealand in the Keenan case. The rules and fairness didn’t seem to worry them when Trent’s samples baked in the sun, or when they were selecting a location to test Toni or when Jane’s paper work went missing. No problems of justice on those occasions.

But when it’s a dishonest policeman, when kicking a rogue drug cheat out of a race is difficult, suddenly it becomes tough. The rule book is brought out not to protect sport or to prosecute Keenan but to provide something for DFSNZ, Athletics New Zealand and Total Sport to hide behind. You can often tell the calibre of those you deal with, not by what they do on good days but by how they react to adversity. Their response to Keenan’s entry into the marathon was gutless and inexcusable. Allowing him to run put back the cause of drug free sport. Those involved, including Keenan, should be ashamed. Keenan is a policeman. He should know that by running in the marathon he was dodging justice. He was using the rules as callously as some mob boss. In my opinion his behavior reflects badly on him and on the organization that employs him.

The three bodies responsible for protecting the rest of us should not copy Keenan’s disregard for justice.