Archive for the ‘ Racing ’ Category

Revenge?

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

I see the qualifying times for next year’s Commonwealth Games have just been published. In my years involved in swimming I have complained about many subjects, but never about qualifying times. My attitude has been, “They are what they are – shut up and just swim them”. But this set of times is different. For a Commonwealth Games, they are unbelievably tough. Just look at these tables that compare them with other relevant times. The Commonwealth Games times in the table are the “consideration” times. The “automatic” qualifying times are even faster.

Women’s Events
Event Comm. Games World Champs National Record
50 Free 24.73 25.18 25.01
100 Free 53.92 54.90 53.91
200 Free 1:57.13 1:58.68 1:56.82
400 Free 4:08.16 4:10.57 4:03.63
800 Free 8:32.10 8:38.56 8:17.65
50 Back 27.96 28.52 27.81
100 Back 1:00.24 1:00.61 1:00.22
200 Back 2:09.29 2:11.53 2:09.13
50 Brst 30.82 31.22 31.21
100 Brst 1:07.06 1:07.58 1:09.26
200 Brst 2:25.80 2:25.91 2:29.73
50 Fly 26.02 26.49 26.30
100 Fly 57.96 58.48 58.51
200 Fly 2:08.15 2:09.77 2:09.84
200 IM 2:11.89 2:13.41 2:12.12
400 IM 4:40.11 4:43.06 4:39.07
Men’s Events
Event Comm. Games World Champs National Record
50 Free 22.21 22.47 22.31
100 Free 48.74 48.93 49.43
200 Free 1:46.82 1:47.73 1:47.09
400 Free 3:46.96 3:48.15 3:47.67
1500 Free 15:02.12 15:12.79 15:15.50
50 Back 25.38 25.29 25.24
100 Back 54.20 54.06 53.32
200 Back 1:58.83 1:58.15 1:57.15
50 Brst 27.66 27.51 27.06
100 Brst 1:00.16 1:00.35 59.78
200 Brst 2:10.56 2:11.11 2:10.55
50 Fly 23.82 23.67 23.40
100 Fly 52.13 52.29 51.61
200 Fly 1:56.76 1:57.28 1:54.15
200 IM 1:59.29 2:00.22 1:59.24
400 IM 4:18.68 4:17.90 4:17.72

So, what does this tell us about the Commonwealth Game’s consideration qualifying times?

  1. The times for 13 of 32 events (41%) are faster than the current open national record for the event.
  2. The times for 26 of 32 events (82%) are faster than the qualifying times set by Swimming New Zealand for the 2017 World Championships.

For anyone who knows anything about the workings of Swimming New Zealand the conclusions are obvious.

Although the basis of these times was published some time ago publishing the hard numbers is clearly a knee jerk reaction to the disastrously poor performance of the New Zealand team at last month’s World Championships. The people running Swimming New Zealand have very limited vision and, as a result, are easy to read. They have been stung by the results. As we predicted they have blamed the swimmers and have decided that this time around, at the Commonwealth Games things are going to be harsh, hard and unpleasant. What is needed, they have decided, is some tough love; some really tough love.

My guess is that someone at High Performance Sport New Zealand has threatened even more severe funding cuts and this is the Board of Swimming New Zealand’s reaction. It is all about appearances. The Board want to be able to say to High Performance Sport New Zealand that they have seen the problem and this is the tough stuff they have done about it. To the Swimming New Zealand Board, it does no really matter whether it is right or wrong, good or bad, as long as there is some fake news story to pass on to their masters. “We saw there was a problem,” they will say, “and this is what we’ve done about it.” If it sounds good that will be enough.    

As I say, it is a knee jerk reaction and like most knee jerk reactions it is fatally flawed. Qualifying times for various international events are, or should be, a part of a long term strategy for getting the best Olympic result. The thinking should be done years ahead and should be based on a progression through Oceania Games, World Cups, Commonwealth Games, Pan Pacific Games and World Championships to the Olympic Games.

I have coached swimmers who have competed in all those meets and made finals in five of the six championships. An all cases we progressed step by step from one level to the next.   

But this set of qualifying times is not part of any long term strategy or carefully thought out plan. This is just a reaction made in a state of panic, revenge and spite. This is amateur hour in the extreme. The publication of these times is further proof that those responsible for the organisation have no idea about elite swimming.  For as long as Swimming New Zealand is run by people who publish this sort of rubbish the sport will falter and fail. The careers of young New Zealand swimmers are being badly managed. The thinking represented by this sort of qualifying criteria is the problem. The people on the Board of Swimming New Zealand have no plan, no purpose and no idea.

For example I see that Brent Layton is one of the Swimming New Zealand selectors. Now that Swimming New Zealand has decided to give wider decision making discretion to selectors this position is important. And so what on God’s good earth is Layton doing as a selector? What does he know about world class swimming? What talent has he ever demonstrated in picking world class athletes? His Swimming New Zealand bio tells us his swimming experience is limited to some age group and master’s swimming.

For several years I flew myself in a Piper Arrow around New Zealand. That did not qualify me to select who Emirates should employ to guide their A380 between Auckland and Dubai. Layton’s position is even more ridiculous than that. Remember too he’s the guy who said Craig Lord and I had no credibility when we attempted to have the organization that Layton ran, tell the truth about the depth of the Kilbirnie Pool and protect the health and welfare of its members.

What a mess the organization has become. Every week there is a new scandal. Publication of these times is this week’s evidence that they have no idea. And yet when this sort of decision making has the inevitable consequence of damaging the sport even further, the Swimming New Zealand Board will dodge the role it played in causing the damage. Well, these times are damaging. The good ship “Swimming” is about to hit another iceberg and the buck for that stops with the Board of Swimming New Zealand.

Oh no, you may be thinking, that message of failure cannot be right. But it is. Let me explain why. The qualifying times mean that to achieve them every swimmer will have to be swimming at their very best. In most cases better than their best. Good enough to set a new Open National Record. Swimming the qualifying time will be a huge effort; a special peak performance. And what Swimming New Zealand is wanting is for the same swimmer to repeat that effort, or better two or three months later. And that is physiologically impossible. It just will not happen. The combined skills of Lydiard, Jelley, Schubert, Bowman and Salo could not pull off a feat like that.  

The only way two peak swims like that can happen is either for the second swim to be so close to the first – a week or two – that the peak that produced the qualifying swim continues on to the Games – the US program their trials this way – or for the gap between qualifying and the Games to be long enough – six or seven months – for the athlete to prepare again for another supreme performance. The six months gap strategy is risky and by no means certain. It is unusual for swimmers to produce back to back national record seasons.

And so you see, these times combined with the trial’s timetable impose physical conditions that ensure failure. Swimming New Zealand has set conditions that fail to take into account training and performance factors that cannot be ignored. This plan and these times will produce disappointment and failure at the Commonwealth Games just as certainly as the altitude camp hurt the World Championship team. Sadly all that will be left is for us to say again – we told you so.        

PS – I see from the Facebook page “NZ Swim” that Swimming New Zealand has recorded the Glen Ashby 200 IM record as having been swum on the 26 June 2017. It was actually swum on 26 July 2017. Swimming New Zealand really is a flying circus.             

 

In Their Own Words

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Four years ago, at the New Zealand Short Course Nationals, I submitted a protest about the decision to start races from the shallow end of the Kilbirnie Pool. I pointed out that the depth of the pool was below the minimum required by FINA Rules. The protest was declined. I was just making trouble, they said. There was no problem with the pool depth.

A few months later the question of the depth of the Kilbirnie Pool came up again when a swimmer from the Raumati Club was hurt diving into the pool. I wrote another Swimwatch article asking how serious an injury had to be before Swimming New Zealand would act to protect its members. Of course there was no response from Antares Place.

And then in 2014 Lauren Boyle broke the world short course 1500 meter record in the Kilbirnie Pool and Swimming New Zealand signed a record application form confirming that the pool complied with all FINA minimum standards. Clearly that was not true. The record was fine. Boyle received no advantage from swimming in a shallow pool; in fact probably the opposite. It would have been so easy for Swimming New Zealand to tell the truth and add a note explaining that the swimmer received no advantage. The record would have been ratified and Swimming New Zealand would have been honest. Instead Swimming New Zealand went with the lie.

Clearly the argument was a thorn in the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, Brent Layton’s side. In the 2015 Swimming New Zealand Annual Report this is what he said.   

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

The blogger he refers to was me and the media commentator was Craig Lord a journalist for The Times in London. Of course what Layton said was nonsense. No one was attempting to discredit Boyle’s record. We were just trying to get Swimming New Zealand to tell the truth – and look seriously at the dangers involved in diving into the shallow end of the Kilbirnie Pool. As Swimwatch said at the time if complaining about the signature of Boyle’s record saved one serious injury then the complaint had merit.

But our efforts were in vain. Instead of addressing the problem Swimming New Zealand blamed us – “The credibility the opinions of these bloggers deserve is clear; absolutely none.” Well we now know that’s not quite right.  

Because you see a month ago Swimming New Zealand published something titled “POSITION STATEMENT – DIVE ENTRIES”. In it the CEO of Swimming New Zealand says this.

With recent changes to the Health and Safety Act increasing the accountability on facility owners and operators to provide safe ‘workplaces’, an increased focus is being seen by swimming pool operators in relation to how swimmers are diving into pools for both competition and training.  This increased focus is particularly relevant to pools with shallow depths of less than 1.4m.”

The statement then publishes a list of minimum depths required for pools where swimmers dive. We were right all along. It is bloody sad that it took four years, a change in the law and a tirade of personal abuse aimed at people like me before Swimming New Zealand decided to protect the health and safety of its members. With the publication of this policy Brent Layton’s opinions and management of this issue have been shown to have no credibility. I guess it’s too much to expect an email apology and the return of my protest fee. After all Swimming New Zealand have now confirmed the protest was lawful and binding.

These events highlight an issue relevant to the current management of swimming in New Zealand. We have witnessed decisions being taken and statements being made that are now proven to be flat-out wrong. Layton and Renford made bad decisions. There replacements today do no better. Which is why the structure of Swimming New Zealand has to change from a compromised autocratic elite form of governance to a regional federal democracy. Federal management would have never have allowed the Kilbirnie Pool error to continue for this long; would never have demonstrated the arrogance that prompted a hard earned world record to be ratified by telling an senseless lie.     

PS On the 2 September the Wellington Short Course Championships will be held in the Kilbirnie Pool. It will be interesting to see which end of the pool they chose – shallow or deep?        

 

New Zealand at the 2017 World Championships

Monday, July 31st, 2017

I will write this post in the order that the results occurred. But before I do that, why have we arrived back at the point where no one can believe a word posted on the Swimming New Zealand website? In their first report of the swimming the website tells us the New Zealand team “got off to a quality start”. But there were no semi-finalists, no finalists, no National Records and no personal bests. By what measure was that a quality start? The website also told us that the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay place 15th in the heats. The team was actually 14th. The next day the SNZ website said this:

“The 21-year-old secured his first world championships final with a 53.76s effort in the semifinal to be eighth fastest of nine swimmers into the final.”

Every ten year old knows there are only eight swimmers in an international final – but not Swimming New Zealand it seems.

And so to the results.   

10 Kilometer Open Water Swim – Charlotte Webby

Webby placed 40th in 2:08.41.4. The time is not bad. Although time comparisons in open water do not mean a lot 2:08 does compare well with Webby’s recent Taupo 10 kilometer times. Her best in Taupo was in 2016 when she swam 2:09.30. The problem for New Zealand open water swimming is that world standards are progressing very quickly. Webby was eight and a half minutes behind the winner. By the time Tokyo comes along I would not be surprised to see the winner of the women’s event finish in well under two hours. New Zealand has a lot of catching up to do. Right now the open water world is leaving us behind.  

5 Kilometer Open Water Swim – Charlotte Webby

Webby placed 38th in 1:02.07.6. The 5 kilometer race told a similar story to the 10 kilometer result. The winner was 3 minutes ahead. When women’s marathon running was first introduced into the Olympic Games the world’s best performance improved by 20 minutes in just ten years. It appears similar progress is being made today by the women involved in open water swimming. New Zealand Swimming needs to take steps to ensure the sport in New Zealand keeps up. The event is no longer a home for average pool swimmers who do a lot of training. Open water swims will increasingly be won by Lauren Boyle types; fast pool swimmers of real class.    

Men’s 50m Freestyle PERRY Sam

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
49 22.93 22.47 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Men’s 50m Freestyle HUNTER Daniel

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
38 22.71 22.31 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Men’s 100m Freestyle PERRY Sam

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
51 50.14 49.48 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Men’s 200m Freestyle STANLEY Matthew

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
29 1:48.02 1:47.37 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Men’s 50m Backstroke HUNTER Daniel

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
37 26.02 25.87 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Men’s 100m Backstroke MAIN Corey

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
9 53.97 53.99 Personal best and qualified for semi-final.

 

Semi-Final Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
8 53.76 53.97 Personal best and qualified for final.

 

Final Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
8 53.87 53.76 Not a PB.

 

Men’s 200m Backstroke MAIN Corey

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
16 1:58.34 1:57.51 Not a PB. Qualified for semi-final

 

Semi-Final Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
16 2:01.00 1:57.51 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Men’s 200m Butterfly ASHBY Bradlee

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
29 2:00.53 2:00.19 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Men’s 200m Individual Medley ASHBY Bradlee

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
15 2:00.20 1:59.54 Not a PB. Qualified for semi-final

 

Semi-Final Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
13 1:59.24 1:59.54 Personal best, NZ Record, did not progress

 

Men’s 400m Individual Medley ASHBY Bradlee

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
23 4:20.65 4:18.68 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 50m Freestyle FA’AMAUSILI Gabi

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
24 25.38 25.02 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 100m Freestyle FA’AMAUSILI Gabi

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
35 56.60 55.89 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 800m Freestyle ROBINSON Emma

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
22 8:44.87 8:31.27 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 1500m Freestyle ROBINSON Emma

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
11 16:25.78 16:30.16 Personal best but did not progress

 

Women’s 50m Backstroke FA’AMAUSILI Gabi

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
23 28.47 27.97 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 100m Backstroke FA’AMAUSILI Gabi

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
26 1:01.80 1:00.83 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 200m Backstroke GICHARD Bobbi

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
24 2:15.97 2:11.93 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 100m Breaststroke LLOYD Natasha

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
29 1:10.11 1:09.53 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 200m Breaststroke LLOYD Natasha

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
25 2:33.93 2:29.73 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 50m Butterfly GASSON Helena

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
35 27.37 26.45 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 200m Butterfly GASSON Helena

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
27 2:13.71 2:09.84 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 200m Individual Medley GASSON Helena

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
21 2:13.91 2:13.14 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 400m Individual Medley GASSON Helena

Preliminary Place Time Swum Personal Best Comment
23 4:49.35 4:45.32 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Men’s 4×100 Freestyle Relay

Preliminary Place Time Swum NZ Record Comment
14 3:17.74 3:15.41 Not a PB and did not progress

 

Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay

Preliminary Place Time Swum NZ Record Comment
12 4:07.09 4:06.30 Not a PB and did not progress

 

SNZ BOARD – TIME TO RESIGN

The performance has been disappointing: worse than the previous three World Championships. The following table shows a comparison of this Championship with the previous three.

2017 2015 2013 2011
Number of Swimmers on Team 11 8 14 12
Number of Gold Medals 0 0 0 0
Number of Silver Medals 0 2 0 0
Number of Bronze Medals 0 0 3 0
Number of Finals 1 2 6 4
Number of Semi-Finals 2 1 5 5
Average Place over all team members 26 23 19 19
NZ Position on Medal table Nil 20 27 Nil

No gold, no silver, no bronze, one swim in the finals, two swims in semi-finals, not appearing on the medal table and an average place in their events of 26th – down 3 places from two years ago and 7 places from four years ago. A train wreck by any measure.

Another way of looking at this fiasco is the number and percentage of personal bests. The table below gives the numbers. A PB percentage of 14% is not good enough. A club coach would rightly have serious committee problems with that performance record. An international coach should pack his or her stopwatch and white board marker and head through the Waterview Tunnel bound for Auckland Airport.  

Item Number %
Number of Swims 29 100
Slower than PB swims 25 86
PB swims 4 14

The conclusion is stark. New Zealand swimming is bad and is getting worse. The sport is bankrupt. For twenty years swimming has received and spent over a million dollars a year. Twenty million tax payer dollars and the end product is a sport devoid of hope, lost in a world they do not understand. Ironically the one finalist, Corey Main lives and trains in Florida. He has almost no contact with the policies of Swimming New Zealand. Quite simply the New Zealand performance is not good enough – not by a country mile.

So, who is to blame? Well it is certainly not the swimmers. New Zealand has the talent. The country’s juniors perform well in international competition. It is not money. There has been plenty of money. But when Swimming New Zealand gets involved the whole thing falls to bits. Swimwatch has long argued that the policy followed by the Swimming New Zealand Board is fatally flawed. The problem is one of policy. Therefore the Board of Swimming New Zealand is responsible for this mess. The fault is theirs. The buck stops with them. They are to blame.

They should resign. Here are their names – Bruce Cotterill (Chairman), Geoff Brown, Margaret McKee, Nick Tongue, Anna Tootill and Simon Perry. They have had their chance. They have done their best and it has not worked. By any commercial standard it is time for them to step aside. Common commercial decency demands that they accept their collective responsibility for the organization’s poor performance. The sacrifice of generations of young New Zealand swimmers is their legacy. It is time for the Board to go.

It is time that a new policy and new ideas were allowed to take over. There is another way. There is a better plan. There is an alternative that offers a better path and will produce a better result. That alternative deserves to be given an opportunity to guide the fortunes of New Zealand swimming. A new way cannot do worse and will provide the sport with a much better future where swimmers win international swimming races again.  

What the new policy should be has long been discussed in Swimwatch. It is a policy direction that has also been suggested by writings I have seen by Clive Power and other senior New Zealand coaches. This is not the place to discuss those details but they do exist. It is their time.

The moral of Budapest is – clear the decks; get rid of the old guard and give some fresh ideas room to grow.

But instead of doing the decent and correct thing the American Head Coach will be blamed and a “world-wide search” for yet another Head Coach will begin. The current coach should of course come in for his share of the blame. That altitude trip to Arizona was a real rookie mistake and cost the swimmers involved dearly. But the real responsibility lies with those who gave the coach an impossible brief. And that was done by the Board. Each member has a duty to resign now.       

 

Accountable To The Stakeholders

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

As has always been the case nothing written here reflects poorly on the athletes. Posts like this are written in defence of New Zealand swimmers. The purpose is to identify those at fault for the constant cycle of New Zealand swimming failure.

Shown below is a list of the swimmers entered in individual events at next month’s World Swimming Championships. The current world ranking of each swimmer is also shown. The information needs to be viewed with some caution. The rankings are changing all the time as countries, especially the United States, hold their World Championship trials.     

Bradlee Ashby (200m individual medley), 22nd

Gabrielle Fa’amausili (50m freestyle, medley relay), 20th

Helena Gasson (50m butterfly, 200m individual medley, medley relay), 24th and 34th

Daniel Hunter (50m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay), 45th

Corey Main (200m backstroke, 4x100m freestyle relay), 25th

Sam Perry (50m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay), 64th

Emma Robinson (800m, 1500m freestyle), 29th and 29th

Matthew Stanley (200m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay), 29th

Clearly it is going to take a major improvement for the current rankings to change into medal winning performances. It can be done. Peter Snell was ranked 25th in the world prior to the Rome Olympic Games. Four of these swimmers have a ranking the same as or higher than 25th. We will see whether any of them can win from that position. I hope so.

However if, as seems more likely, no one manages to convert a current world ranking in the twenties, thirties, forties and sixties into one, two or three who is to blame? Well it is certainly not the swimmers. Like generations before them they have diligently gone about the bidding of the national federation. The Millennium program dates back to the days when Helen Norfolk left Christchurch, seduced by the hard sell of Millennium success, through to swimmers who have come and gone like Tash Hind, Penelope Marshall, Hayley Palmer, Amaka Gessler, Hannah McLean, Samantha Lucie-Smith, Mellisa Ingram, Alison Fitch, Daniel Bell, Glen Snyders, Corney Swanepoel, Cameron Gibson, Gareth Kean, Dean Kent, Moss Burmester, Michael Jack and many others.

No one will convince me there was not a World Championship or Olympic Medallist in that group of names – of course there was. But it did not happen. And if it does not happen again in Budapest eight more names will be added to the list. And the New Zealand federation will wander off looking for the next eight promising juniors to lure into the Millennium Institute.  

How long is the litany of destruction going to continue? When are those responsible going to be held to account? After all someone is responsible. Failure on this scale has a parent. But who is it? Well there is a fundamental policy problem. The policy was prepared by the CEO of High performance Sport New Zealand, Alex Baumann, and was then implemented by the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, Bruce Cotterill, and his Board. The policy is called “Centralized Training”. It has been promoted and financed for twenty years without success.

Today fear and ignorance prevail. The Board of Swimming New Zealand does not have the courage to stop the hurt their policy is causing. They do not know enough to plan and try something different. They depend on Baumann for so much money they will do whatever he says – even if it does mean eight more names go over the cliff. Yes Mr Baumann, no Mr Baumann, three bags full Mr Baumann. At least that’s the way it seems.  

The alternative, constantly promoted here, is to strengthen the country’s decentralised training structure; strengthen the New Zealand club program. There are several benefits of a decentralized approach. Since coaches have liberty to coach their teams according to their own plans, the sport experiences a wide variety of ideas, rather than a central body being presumed to have all the answers. In most cities, parents can shop around for age group programs, meaning a team must generate results to stay in business. It is a better, stronger and more comprehensive approach than the doctrinal nonsense followed by Antares Place just now. And even a weakened version of the decentralized approach gave New Zealand Moss, Kingsman, Jeffs, Simcic, Langrell, Kent, Loader and Bray. Swimming New Zealand wouldn’t mind having the competitive record of that group around just now – five Olympic medals, six world medals and five world records. They will never match that record with their ridiculous Millennium program.

It is relevant to ask what the New Zealand Coaches Association is doing about this problem. A few months ago there was a swimming pool full of froth and bubble as the Coaches Association said it was going to insist on a more proactive role in the affairs of the sport. The Association called for submissions and beat its chest in frustration. Things, they said, were going to change. But nothing has happened. It has long been my view that the Association does not have the fortitude or leadership to effect reform. Sadly they appear to have chickened-out again.        

And so, let’s see what happens in a month’s time. But if, as appears likely, the team returns with no medals, then there should be a call for the Board of Swimming New Zealand to stand down. The vision they have been charged with includes “exceptional results”. Their mission is to produce “world class performances”. Their goal is to “achieve podium results” through “targeted campaigns aimed at winning medals”. In their vision, their mission and their goals this Board has failed to deliver. They have pursued a policy of failure for too long. Good practice and the names of the victims of their policy demand that this Board shows accountability to its stakeholders by accepting responsibility for the failure and standing down. We will see.      

 

The Extent Of The Challenge

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

In a month the Swimming World Championships will begin. We have been given the normal assurances by the Swimming New Zealand Board that the New Zealand results will be better than ever. Before every international event the message coming from the Board is the same. “Boy, are we going to kill it this time.” And after the event the Board Chairman either seriously addresses the media, promising a full inquiry into why swimming has not progressed or assures everyone that the team’s performance had, in some way, been “the best ever”. It is becoming as predictable as Christmas.

There have been more tax payer funded inquiries into the malaise at SNZ than I can remember. In the recent past millions have been spent on reports from Sweetenham, Ineson and Moller. And it’s still a mess. Especially when they could have read Swimwatch for free.     

If New Zealand had actually swum “the best ever” as many times as Swimming New Zealand’s spin, we’d be beating the United States by now. In fact the country’s “best ever” result, at an event of this standard, was at the Atlanta Olympic Games, 20 years ago when Danyon Loader won two Gold Medals.

For this Belgrade 2017 World Championship the lead up by SNZ has been no less positive. Here are some of the quotes from the Head Coach Jerry Olszewski and others.

 

  • The nine swimmers to attain individual qualification in the pool is the highest number since 2005.
  • Jerry Olszewski was pleased with the promise of the team.
  • Basically all of this team and a number who just missed teams we have a healthy group of swimmers as we prepare for Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
  • The young swimmers are exciting for the future.
  • Swimming New Zealand is confident in the swimmers they have in the high performance system as well as their youth program.

 

And the Board Chairman Bruce Cotterill joined in the songs of praise.

 

  • This has been the most successful swimming era since the mid-1990s. We won five world championship medals. In the aftermath to London we had eight top-50 athletes, of whom four were seen as Rio targets. Post-Rio we’ve got 16 in the top-50 of whom 12 look capable of going to Tokyo. ”
  • “I think we’ve got the right coaching in place and a new facility [at the Millennium Institute].”

 

In the last two years, in support of this confident outlook, you and I have paid Cotterill 2 million tax payer dollars. Like obedient puppies Swimming New Zealand have persevered with the Baumann policy of centralized preparation. For twenty years the policy has not worked but evidently it is going to work this time. The predictions of success have not changed.

Let’s look at the results of the last three World Swimming Championships. Then we will have a basis on which to make a comparison.   

2011 SHANGHAI

Number of Swimmers on Team: 12

Number of Gold Medals: 0

Number of Silver Medals: 0

Number of Bronze Medals: 0

Number of Finals: 4

Number of Semi-Finals: 5

Average Place over all team members: 19th

NZ Position on Medal table: Did not appear

2013 BARCELONA

Number of Swimmers on Team: 14

Number of Gold Medals: 0

Number of Silver Medals: 0

Number of Bronze Medals: 3

Number of Finals: 6

Number of Semi-Finals: 5

Average Place over all team members: 19TH

NZ Position on Medal table: 27th

2015 KAZAN

Number of Swimmers on Team: 8

Number of Gold Medals: 0

Number of Silver Medals: 2

Number of Bronze Medals: 0

Number of Finals: 2

Number of Semi-Finals: 1

Average Place over all team members: 23RD

NZ Position on Medal table: 20th

2017 BUDAPEST

Number of Swimmers on Team: 11

Number of Gold Medals:

Number of Silver Medals:

Number of Bronze Medals:

Number of Finals:

Number of Semi-Finals:

Average Place over all team members:  

NZ Position on Medal table:

The numbers appear to highlight three trends. First, the extent to which swimming in New Zealand has relied on Lauren Boyle. From 2011 when she made up the bulk of the finals swum, to 2013 when the three bronze medals were won by her and in 2015 when she won the two silver medals. Certainly the improvement from not being included on the medal table to 27th and then 20th is all down to Lauren Boyle. Her performances papered over a lot of cracks that remained unaddressed because of her efforts.

Second the performance of the team apart from Lauren Boyle has got worse. From an average place in each swimmer’s event of 19th in 2011 and 2013 this dropped to 23rd in 2015. Of course Lauren Boyle is not going to be at this meet. She wisely decided to get her hip repaired in advance of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. We will now get an insight into what swimming in New Zealand is going to look like in the post-Boyle era. We will see whether Cotterill has spent our tax dollars wisely. We will be able to measure again whether the centralized coaching policy works.

Ironically swimmers that have done best have had the least to do with Swimming New Zealand’s centralized Millennium program. Boyle spent most of her time in the USA or Australia, Mains trains in Florida and Snyders has Salo in Los Angeles as his coach. Swimming New Zealand have no shame. They think nothing of claiming credit for swimmers trained thousands of miles from Auckland as proof that their policy of centralization is working.   

When the 2017 Championships end we will complete the table shown above. We will see whether the Cotterill and Olszewski confidence that New Zealand swimming is on the up and up is well founded. Or is their opinion as delusional as it has been prior to every other recent World Championships and Olympic Games?

PS – You never can tell with Swimming New Zealand. If they come out with some superlative, always check. They are masters of alternative facts. Even Trump could learn from these guys. Their published claim that, “the nine swimmers to attain individual qualification in the pool is the highest number since 2005” may or may not be true. What I do know is that in 2011 ten swimmers competed in individual events. In 2013 nine swimmers swam in individual events. In the 2016 Rio Olympics nine swimmers swam in individual events. And when I went to school nine and ten are the same as or more than nine.