Archive for the ‘ Europe ’ Category

The Two Million Dollar Man

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

By David

I wonder if Miskimmin’s SNZ imports, Renford, Villanueva and Lyles, are feeling the pressure. Two million taxpayer dollars will be invested this year in their Millennium Institute to prepare one swimmer for the individual events at the Commonwealth Games. More specifically I wonder if Matthew Stanley is feeling the pressure of representing the sport of swimming’s two million dollar investment – the Millennium’s two million dollar man.

You see, the other three individual event swimmers are training 6500, 8000 and 12,000 miles from the Millennium Institute. Cory Main had the good fortune to bypass the folly of Millennium membership and decided to further his swimming career with Greg Troy at the University of Florida. I hear Cory’s brother is about to join the same swim team. Glen Snyders and Lauren Boyle sampled the Millennium waters and decided that Dave Salo in Los Angeles and Fred Vergnoux in the Spanish Sierra Nevada mountains were more to their liking. The choice made by three of the four best swimmers in the country must be relevant. The location of New Zealand’s high performance swimming is certainly not at the Miskimmin swim school.

I was amused to read the following report on the Stuff website. It was based on an interview with Luis Villanueva, the SNZ High Performance Director. And this is what Villanueva had to say:

It’s Villanueva’s “preference that the country’s best now train in New Zealand. We have two high performance programmes with excellent programmes and excellent facilities and with good coaches,” he said. “They can be compared with those in the US or Australia.  But not in general to send our best swimmers to anywhere else, because we have programmes at the moment in Auckland and Wellington that can be very good for the development to international standards.”

What a load of rubbish. Who on God’s good earth does this guy think he’s talking to? Please don’t come to New Zealand and patronise us with a pile of Spanish mierda de toro. These words were barely out of his mouth when Lauren Boyle voted with her feet and fled from Villanueva’s “excellent programmes”. Looks like Boyle was not convinced. Events have conspired to make Villanueva look out of touch and silly.

And so, as far as individual qualifiers in the sport of swimming are concerned, New Zealand has a two million dollars per year organization preparing one individual event swimmer, Matthew Stanley. Just consider that, a CEO and his staff of a dozen or so, a High Performance Director, a Head Coach, an Assistant Coach and access to, what the SNZ website tells me are services in strength and conditioning, life planning, physiology, biomechanics and psychology, focused and paid to prepare one swimmer, Matthew Stanley.

Assuming Stanley makes the final of both his events at the Commonwealth Games; his twelve month’s preparation will have cost us about $4,500 per stroke. I would think that level of investment makes Matthew Stanley the most expensive swimmer in the world. When an investment costs that much, it’s pretty important for it to provide a golden return. If Renford, Villanueva and Lyles are not feeling the pressure, they certainly should.

Swimwatch has long viewed Miskimmin’s policies as a joke. His view that international results can be bought is about to be tested big time. On this occasion there are no distractions. Matthew Stanley is alone. He currently has the government’s multi-million dollar domestic investment in individual events at the Commonwealth Games all to himself. The validity of Miskimmin’s socialist policy will be determined by the performance of one man in Glasgow.

I am guessing there will be some readers who feel this view is unfair on Matthew Stanley. Some may be asking why should the full weight of Miskimmin’s policies be loaded onto Matthew Stanley’s shoulders. Why should he be called the two million dollar man?  After all he was not responsible for the three other individual event qualifiers choosing to train overseas. Remember though, it was not Swimwatch who put Matthew Stanley in this invidious position. He has become the figurehead of the government’s swim school because that organization costs us a fortune and he is the only individual event swimmers they’ve got. Responsibility for that lies with Miskimmin, Renford, Villanueva and Lyles – not Swimwatch.

We think Snyders, Boyle and Main have made good choices. If Swimming New Zealand had cared for the sport properly the three swimmers should have been able to prepare properly in a New Zealand club program. But given the neglect of a decade the decision to train overseas is understandable and sensible – no matter what Villanueva might spin.

Of course just as the performance of Matthew Stanley will be a test of the worth of Miskimmin’s centralized, socialist delivery of sport so will the results of Snyders, Boyle and Main be a test of the private enterprise, freedom of individual choice delivery of elite preparation. To be fair it would probably be more accurate to say that the performance of Snyders and Main will measure the worth of a diversified method of providing elite training.

Lauren Boyle is a special case. Her training in New Zealand since she left Cal Berkley has been a disgrace. Swimming New Zealand should be ashamed. Here they have one of the world’s best swimmers and the only good thing they’ve done is pay the girl. Apart from that she has had five different coaches, Regan, Villanueva, Sweetenham, Lyles and Vergnoux. Five coaches in four years, five coaches with five different water philosophies, five different dry land philosophies, five different personalities, five different everything. As I say, with abuse like that, no wonder she has gone off to Spain. It is a wonder she is still swimming at all. Whatever she swims in Glasgow will be a testament to her courage and the consistent and reliable grounding she received during four years in the Cal Berkley swim team. Boyle can’t publically say what she really thinks, but she must be pissed. And who among us would blame her.

The well-known swimming blog swimvortex.com has been to see Boyle in Spain. Here are some extracts from their interesting article.

The two, Spain’s Mireia Belmonte and New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle, are embroiled in a 10-week pact of pain in Spain, at the CAR center of excellence in Barcelona and up on high in the Sierra Nevada with Coach Fred Vergnoux.  

Belmonte and Boyle trained together last year for the first time, their experience on the way to and their results at the World Championships in Barcelona suggesting that it might well be a good idea to repeat the exercise.

Vergnoux tells SwimVortex: “Lauren came last year to train with us in altitude and this year she wanted to repeat the experience and extend her stay. The idea is to train together here at the national training center, compete together, and then go to altitude together. It’s a longer phase of preparation that she wanted to do with us leading into the summer meets, and both parties agreed to arrange this long training camp.”

Ten weeks in all, the heat of session-by-session reflected in the session they went the evening before leaving for Monte Carlo:

  • 6x 150 free + 50 fly best: all swim
  • 8x 100 free + 50 free best all pull+pad
  • 10x 50 easy + 50 dive max
  • 8x 100 free + 50 free best all pull+pad
  • 6x 150 free + 50 fly best

For Boyle, the challenge involves a small step up in meters covered and “probably a lot more weights lifting”, Vergnoux noted.

Both will race Mare Nostrum in Monaco, Canet and Barcelona in the week ahead. Both will race in the full flight of training. Says Vergnoux “Racing the Mare Nostrum under fatigue is the best situation that we can find in this point in time. Commonwealth and Europeans are still far away and racing will be a huge test of character.

“What I see on the daily basis tells me that both girls could race really well, but they will have to find a way of doing so being very tired and having no rest going into the meet.”

Boyle, a class apart back home in training, adds:

“For me, it’s good to train with a group of high-class distance swimmers because they push me to do better in training – and in return I also help them.”

And how do they communicate: English/Spanish/hands, etc.,? Says Vergnoux:

“A combo of everything! But we make sure Lauren is working on her Spanish!”

The first Mare Nostrum meet in Monaco was held last weekend. The table below shows Lauren Boyle’s results.

Event

Heat

Final

Place

200 Free

2.01.02

2.01.11

6th

100 Free

58.15

-

28th

400 Free

-

4.11.18

5th

From a purely competitive point of view the results are well short of Boyle’s best. However Vergnoux did warn us that was likely to be the case. Personally I’d be very pleased with 4.11 from a swimmer buried in the severe training schedule I imagine Boyle has right now.

Anyway New Zealand swimming at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games will be interesting on two counts. First, how does New Zealand compare with the other Commonwealth swimming nations? And second how do the results of the three swimmers who have chosen to prepare in a free market economy compare to the results of the one state sponsored, social welfare beneficiary. That will be a fascinating duel of ideologies – private enterprise V state control.

What Is The Truth Of All This?

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

By David

I see the Swimming New Zealand website is doing its usual impersonation of a Billy T James comedy script. It is an interesting fact that there are members of the Miskimmin Swimming New Zealand community who would like nothing more than to see Swimwatch silenced, and who knows one day their wish may well be realized. Many readers probably view the content of Swimwatch as negative and uncalled for criticism, not to be tolerated in the brave new world of Miskimmin’s swimming empire. It seems there is little tolerance of dissent in the new Swimming New Zealand. I suspect Miskimmin minions prefer grievances to be processed through their formal constitutional channels. That way rebellion can be controlled, channelled, filed and ignored. Swimwatch on the other hand is free and out of their control. And that, they just cannot stomach or allow.

But until Swimwatch is silenced let’s look at the latest tall tales and true, published by the party’s central committee. The item this week is about the Oceania Championships being swum at the West Wave Pool in Henderson. The press release begins by saying:

All of the New Zealand team for Glasgow are competing aside from US-based Glenn Snyders and Corey Main while triple world championship medallist Lauren Boyle is in Europe.

However the truth may be different. Only four swimmers qualified to swim in individual events at the Commonwealth Games. Four swimmers are on the team by right; qualified because their individual performances met the selector’s standard. The rest, that’s ten others, are going because of generous relay conditions. Of the four swimmers who swam an individual qualifying time three, that’s three-quarters, are not swimming in the Oceania meet. Only one, Matt Stanley, will be in swimming in Auckland this week.

Perhaps another way of wording the Swimming New Zealand press release may be to say – three of New Zealand’s four best swimmers have buggered off overseas to train in a better environment that they can find at home. Now that is a thought that might have merit.

The Swimming New Zealand press release then goes on to discuss the decision of Lauren Boyle to train in Spain. Here is what it says.

Boyle decided to up the ante in her training regime with a three-week stint alongside some of Spain’s leading swimmers including double Olympic medallist Mireia Bemonte.

She suffered a setback in March when she fell ill during altitude training in USA which affected her build-up to the New Zealand Open Championships.

Boyle now wants to push herself in training to make up lost ground. I have to get some really hard work in a competitive environment,” Boyle said.

“I’ve trained with the Spanish group before and that link has allowed me to hook up with Fred Vergnoux, a coach that I admire.

“It will be hard because of the language barrier and I am on my own but it’s what I need to do.”

While I am sure apologists for Peter Miskimmin would prefer Swimming New Zealand to get away with this stuff, the ironies included in the item should not pass unmentioned.

First of all this sentence – She suffered a setback in March when she fell ill during altitude training in USA which affected her build-up to the New Zealand Open Championships.” Can this possibly be the same organisation that said about their USA altitude training camp, “There’s been no major illness or disasters, so in terms of adaptation to the environment we’ve had no issues. It has been a good experience and hopefully very valuable for the preparation.”

How can anyone take an organization seriously when one article says Boyle’s preparation for the Commonwealth Games trials “suffered a setback” when “she fell ill during altitude training” then claims “no major illness” at the altitude camp had affected their “very valuable – preparation.” I may not be the brightest light bulb in the store, but I’m struggling to put those two claims together.

Then Boyle makes a very strange claim. She says, “I have to get some really hard work in a competitive environment,”

But hold on a second. I thought the whole reason for having a Millennium Institute; the justification given by Miskimmin for having centralized canoeing, rowing, cycling, triathlon and swimming was the have “the best competing against the best.” The SNZ website tells me clearly that Lauren Boyle’s home pool was built, “To provide a sustainable high performance environment that systematically produces world class performances.” I may have got it wrong, but I thought Boyle was at the multi-million dollar Millennium Institute so she could, “get some really hard work in a competitive environment,” But no, it seems New Zealand’s best and most experienced swimmer has had to go to Spain to find what Miskimmin’s dream cannot provide in Auckland.

My confusion over the content of this SNZ report intensified when I read this next comment. “I’ve trained with the Spanish group before and that link has allowed me to hook up with Fred Vergnoux, a coach that I admire.” Of course it is possible to admire several coaches. For example, I’m sure Boyle has many good memories of her Cal coach, Teri McKeever. However Boyle’s comment could be interpreted as meaning she has more in common with a coach in Spain than with David Lyles, the Head Coach of the Miskimmin swim school. If that is the case, if Lauren Boyle has decided she gets on better with Vergnoux and can train better in his team, that should come as a surprise to no one. Much of the Swimwatch case against centralization in swimming is based on the almost impossible odds of one coach being all things to all swimmers. Perhaps Boyle has detected that and is in the process of doing something about it. If that is the case, I suspect her decision is a good one.

But better than that, perhaps Miskimmin’s centralized dream for swimming is beginning to unravel again. Certainly the time Boyle has spent training around the world is beginning to mean that if she was good enough to break a world record tomorrow it would be very difficult for Miskimmin or anyone else to claim the coaching credit. I suspect the acclaim for that would rest on Boyle’s able shoulders alone.

Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

By David

What does it take to succeed in New Zealand sport? What qualities does Miskimmin look for when he appoints a suit to the Boards of Cycling, Rugby League, Swimming, Marbles and Tiddlywinks? Is there a special talent or feature that Miskimmin holds dear? Is there a unique detail that marks a person as suitable for power in the Board Rooms of New Zealand sport?

Well, I am going to let you in on a secret. I think I have the answer. I think I can disclose why some of the best administrators in New Zealand sport are overlooked; despatched into a bleak, sporting wilderness. I think I also know why some characters I wouldn’t put in charge of a student party in Speight’s Brewery end up as sporting VIPs. Be very careful what you do with this information.

But if you want to be anything at all in the Miskimmin empire you have to be a member of the Institute of Directors. It is as simple as that. If you can’t put “Member of the Institute of Directors” on your Resume, the corridors of sporting power are not for you. If you are a member of the Institute then three years in power and a junket to the Rio Olympic Games beckons. Membership of the Mezzanine Floor, Tower Building, 50 Customhouse Quay, Wellington and “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.” At least that’s the way it seems.

Just look at the evidence. The hired guns Miskimmin used to have planted in Swimming New Zealand Board Meetings were both members of the Institute of Directors. I’m not sure whether he still is but a couple of years ago Kerry McDonald was President of the place. On the current Swimming New Zealand Board Brent Layton is a “Fellow” of the Institute, Margaret McKee is a member, Bruce Cotterill is a member – Bruce Cotterell has more companies in his Director’s Resume than most of us have hot dinners – and Geoff Brown doesn’t say, but the number of his directorships strongly suggests Institute membership. Swimming is not the only sport that Miskimmin has populated with Institute members. Chis Moller is a favorite and, of course, Moller is a fully-fledged member of the Institute of Directors.

But, perhaps I should test my theory. After all, I’d be very interested in a position on one of Miskimmin’s Boards. It doesn’t have to be swimming; although I do have a fair bit of international experience in that sport. However to misquote Tim Shadbolt, “I don’t care where as long as I’m there.” After all I’ve got an impressive list of directorships. Not quite as many as Bruce Cotterell. No one has as many as Bruce Cotterell. But I have been on the Board of some pretty big companies, scattered around the world. So this is what I’ll do.

Tomorrow I’ll call on my past and go off and have lunch at the Head Office of the British Institute of Directors, 116 Pall Mall, St James, London SW1. Surely that’s going to be enough to get me in Miskimmin’s good books. Surely that will lift me into the McDonald and Moller clique. Surely I will become a candidate for New Zealand sporting prominence. To assure you that I’ve actually been welcomed in for lunch, I will finish this post tomorrow with full details of the food, the conversation and the company. I wouldn’t want Miskimmin thinking I was padding my Resume with any unearned status. In the meantime here’s a photo of where I’ll be at 12.00noon tomorrow afternoon.

… And now it’s tomorrow. My lunch is over. From 12.00noon to 5.30pm it’s only just over. My contact with the British Institute of Directors has been confirmed. I am expecting a call from Miskimmin at any moment. Lunch was a lot of fun. Two old mates of mine were there. Until recently Richard was the CEO of Britain’s largest meat company. Stephen owned his own lamb business until he sold it for many millions of pounds and retired into the Yorkshire countryside.

Actually Stephen is famous for another reason. Most Swimwatch readers will be aware of the children’s rhyme – The Grand Old Duke of York. You know the one.

The Grand Old Duke of York

He had ten thousand men

He marched them up to the top of the hill

And marched them down again

Well Stephen owns the castle at the top of the Duke of York’s hill; all sixteen bedrooms and fourteen bathrooms of it. He says the castle is becoming a bit much for him and his wife. In case he sells it I’ve included a photo of Stephen beside an Institute of Director’s statue of the Duke of York.

For lunch I had an entrée of English Rabbit and a main course of Welsh Lamb – deliciously washed down with far too much Chardonnay. As usual the occasion, the food, the company and the location were all you would expect from the British Institute of Directors.

Of course much of our conversation centered on what we had been doing since we last met. It is interesting that these self-made directors have little time for the socialism promoted by Miskimmin. And when you think of it – New Zealand must be unique. Here we have members of the New Zealand Institute of Directors, responsible for preserving and promoting the health of free market place economics, happily accepting Miskimmin’s invitation to sit on Boards that pillage the resources of private businesses like ours in West Auckland. Adam Smith should be their guide. Instead it seems Leon Trotsky is their leader. Never let there be any misunderstanding. The appalling condition of swimming in New Zealand that prompted the most recent changes was the direct consequence of central control. A free enterprise market in swimming would have done things so much better. Our problem is that the recent changes increased Swimming New Zealand’s central power. The feature that caused our problems has not been addressed. And the result will be the same. At least that’s what they tell me at the British Institute of Directors.

But hey, Peter you haven’t called yet. What more can I do? What more do you need?

 

The Sublime And The Ridiculous

Monday, October 21st, 2013

By David

For ten years the United Kingdom was my home. And I loved the place – especially Scotland. On this trip back a phenomenon I’ve noticed before has been starkly evident. Some readers may have observed the same thing. After a long period away, when you revisit a place of personal importance, somewhere full of special memories, it is wise to be prepared. Time can cause irreparable damage or bestow unimagined benefits. Seldom are things the same. Revisit the past and the memories you treasure are about to be broken or, if you are lucky, raised to new prominence.

After eight years coaching in Florida the National Short Course Championships in Wellington provided an opportunity to visit my favourite New Zealand restaurant; Il Casino in Tory Street  The place was lovely; a big open fire, soft leather couches and chairs, food to die for and a welcoming owner. When I worked in Wellington I had dinner there every Wednesday night. For old time’s sake I had to go back. Alas, Il Casino is no more; the owner has passed away, the old Victorian building has gone, replaced by a glass and steel office block. Italian salads, tender steaks and fine European wine have been ousted by harsh flat face computer screens. There really was no going back.

With a heavy heart I drove away, certain that the other Wellington restaurant of my past, the Green Parrot would have suffered a similar fate. But at the bottom of Taranaki Street there was still a sign that said Green Parrot. It even looked like the same sign. In 1968 Pru Chapman and I ate at the Green Parrot after training on a Sunday evening. Yes, even in 1968 there were some of us who trained seven days a week. Pru was preparing to swim for New Zealand in the Mexico City Olympic Games. I walked in and the tables looked the same, even the “windy” one close to the door was still there. And then I knew that all was well in the world. The waitress brought out a plate of thinly sliced white soggy bread. For 45 years every meal at the Green Parrot meal has begun with a plate of white, soggy bread. I had a huge steak and toasted Pru’s memory. 1968, them were the days and at the Green Parrot they still are.

Swimming New Zealand was a huge disappointment. After the years in Florida I came back to New Zealand and the sport was a shambles. The centralized model that was being built when I left was in total control. The Millennium Institute commanded all the resources; demanded all the attention. The rest of New Zealand was a swimming waste-land bereft of ideas and starved for attention. The jury is still out on whether the new lot are going to be any better. The centralized model has not been dismantled. People like Christian Renford have not started well. After an early junket around New Zealand he made some scathing comments to Radio Sport about the standard of New Zealand coaches. How dare he do that. How bloody dare he. It was his predecessors that bled us dry. It was the policies of Australians that cost two generations of swimmers their careers. Christian Renford has much to make up for. A little humility, perhaps too much to expect from an Australian, would go a long way. Swimming New Zealand is a long, long way from regaining my trust. I think it would be wise if they were just as far from regaining yours.

This trip to the UK has been a very “sentimental journey” full of surprises and disappointments.

The meat plant I built in Perth is fantastic. Well managed, bigger – 500 cattle a day – and better than when I left it thirty years ago. It has become everything I ever imagined and more. Selfishly and personally it is very rewarding to see something that I began – I shot the first steer killed there – grow and prosper.

Time has not been kind to the Station Hotel in Perth. Once the scene of fashionable afternoon teas, lively Scottish Young Farmer’s Club dances and serious business lunches, the Perth Station Hotel is now tired, in need of some tender, loving care.

Gleneagles is full of memories. In the 1980s Alison ran hundreds of miles around its four golf courses. Its steep green hills and long manicured fairways prepared her to win UK, Scottish and NZ National Championships and set NZ and Scottish records. Today Gleneagles looks spectacular. In 2014 the Ryder Cup will be held there and it shows. The tees, the greens, even the club house breakfast are perfect.

If you need a reason to avoid living in London, travel on the Underground at 5.30 any week day afternoon. Thirty years ago it was awful, crowded, hot and uncomfortable. That has not changed. The town is lovely. Its subterranean transport is a “cruel and unusual punishment”.

And then there is the Grenadier. Thirty years ago it was my local. The Grenadier was simply the best pub in the UK. This is how it is described on the “Traditional English Pubs” website.

Tucked away down exclusive Wilton Mews, on the corner of Old Barrack Yard, the patriotic Grenadier is painted red, white and blue. A bright red sentry box tells you, if you hadn’t guessed, this is a pub with a military history. The Duke of Wellington’s Grenadier Guards used it as their mess.

Inside it is small, dark and cosy; the ceiling coffee black, the walls dark panelled. The bar counter has an original pewter top, maybe the oldest of its kind.

The walls are cluttered with military memorabilia; bayonets and sabres, a breast-plate and bear-skin. If you’re lucky you may even see the ghost, said to be that of an officer who was flogged to death for cheating at cards. The Duke is said to have played cards here too. This is a gentlemen’s pub.

On this visit I was especially cautious. The memory of Il Casino tempered my optimism. But the Grenadier looked the same. Inside was still “small, dark and cosy”. The menu was promising. I ordered the double Guineafowl and Venison. It was fantastic. The Grenadier was all that I remembered; was all that I could have hoped. Getting there may have taken thirty years and thirty hours on an A380 but it was well worth the effort.

Now, Swimming New Zealand why couldn’t you be like that.

In The Spirit Of Drake

Friday, October 18th, 2013

By David

The town of Plymouth is in the far south west of England; three hours by very fast train from London’s Paddington Station. It is also a town of huge historical importance. It was here in 1588 that Sir Francis Drake was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when he observed the Spanish Armada sailing up the coast preparing to invade England. Drake, it is said, finished his game before sailing from Plymouth to defeat the Spanish scourge. The spirit of Drake was needed when Miskimmin invited the Spanish to take over swimming in New Zealand.

Yesterday I visited Plymouth Hoe. Two modern British warships were parked where Drake’s vessels once lay. I have no idea whose armada they are waiting to repel, but I do know that the sense of history here is demanding and loud.

Nowhere was that better shown than at the purpose of my visit; the Plymouth Leander Swimming Club. The work the Head Coach, Jon Rudd and his team are doing there is remarkable. Jon began coaching in Plymouth twenty five years ago in a four lane 20 metre pool. His club was not even the largest in Plymouth. Today Plymouth Leander is one of the largest in Britain, operates out of several town pools including the new eighteen month old ten lane 50 metre facility known as the Plymouth Life Centre and is the club that the current breaststroke Olympic Champion and World Record Holder, Ruta Meilutyte, calls home.

I decided to visit because I’m always interested to see how successful programs operate. Are they Millennium Institutes that simply plunder the talented from local programs? Do they pillage the work of others to feather their own nest? Or, do they build and create? Are they some Spanish conquistador or do they honour the memory of Plymouth Hoe and Sir Francis Drake.

Well, the Plymouth Leander Swim Team is no Millennium Institute; no Spanish Blackbeard. The Club and its coach operate in the spirit of Sir Francis Drake. They do their own thing and they do it well. The program I watched was similar to the schedules we swim during what we call the Trials and Co-ordination speed training period. Apart from the warm up and warm down most of the Plymouth Leander practice was swum at race pace. Rudd made the point that he preferred this pace as it conditioned swimmers to the speed they would actually be using in a race. Swimmers were not practicing something artificially fast or slow.

There was a difference though. Rudd’s practice was longer and harder than we would normally do during the speed work period at West Auckland Aquatics. For example our swimmers often do a set of 6×50 hard on one minute. Rudd did the same thing but followed it quickly with another hard 6×50 with fins. Every set was the same; our set but more. Clearly this is something I am going to have to ponder. Do we need to increase the quantity of the speed portion of our training?

I didn’t see anything that would convince me to drop the tough aerobic, 100 kilometres a week portion of the West Auckland Aquatics’ training. In fact, I think if we are to follow the Plymouth Leander lead of tougher speed sessions, the importance of a good aerobic base of conditioning is enhanced rather than diminished. Speed work done to the standard I saw at Plymouth could only benefit from having a well-conditioned base.

I was interested to watch Ruta Meilutyte. Some Swimwatch readers may know that I have been fortunate enough to coach three good breaststrokers. A few years ago Jane Copland was a National Open Champion and record holder. She swam for New Zealand in the Oceania Championships and in the Yokohama Pan Pacific Games. At West Auckland Aquatics, Jane Ip is the current New Zealand short course open woman’100 metre breaststroke champion. Abigail Frink may not be as fast but has improved very quickly from quite humble beginnings.

Ruta’s slow breaststroke in the warm up was quite normal; five strokes for each 25 metres, a count Jane and Abigail can easily manage. Even at a slow speed the power and thrust from Ruta’s kick were very apparent. At faster speeds, however there were differences. First of all Ruta is fast. From a dive all her 25 meter swims were below 15 seconds; probably averaging 14.7. Compared to Jane and Abigail I thought Ruta’s breaststroke was very busy; almost verging on ugly as she drove hard from one stroke to the next. There were no pauses. Ruta’s swims were a constant drive as she crashed angrily from one powerful stroke to the next. Swimming fast, Jane and Abigail look nicer. But that’s not really the point is it?

I was interested in the relationship Rudd has established with the Plymouth Council run learn to swim program. The most advanced learn to swim class is taken by a club trained teacher. The purpose is to ensure continuity. When a swimmer is ready to leave the learn to swim program, as Rudd said, “You came here this Monday you go over there next Monday.” That has the twin benefits to the learn to swim program of promoting those ready to move and makes space available for younger swimmers wanting to progress. Years ago in Wellington where our club controlled both the learn to swim and the competitive program there was a similar easy transition from school to club. The advantages to the Club are of course obvious. Smoothing this transition is an enlightened approach that in Plymouth is yielding spectacular results to both the learn to swim program and the Club. It is a relationship model that could be of benefit to many New Zealand learn to swim and competitive programs.

So thank you Jon for your welcome and for an interesting and rewarding afternoon. I learned and I was impressed.