Musings and Other Things

By David

I see the New Zealand Short Course Meters Championships are being held this week. They are only about halfway through so it’s a bit early to form an opinion on quality of the event. However, three items have caught my attention.

I was pleased to see that Melissa Ingram is back competing. She won the 400 freestyle on the first night of the Championships in 4.05. Regular readers of Swimwatch may remember our story about last year’s World Cup meets in Moscow, Stockholm and Berlin. I was delighted to be there and see a New Zealand athlete out there, on her own, taking on the world’s best swimmers and winning. In everything Ingram did she was a fine ambassador, carrying on a proud tradition of competing anywhere against anybody characteristic of New Zealand’s best athletes. Her performances in the World Cup series would have made her my first choice for the Beijing Olympic team. Instead of that Swimming New Zealand insisted that she swim some very fast qualifying time at the selection trials. That requirement works well in Australia and the United States. New Zealand however is not so overwhelmed with swimming talent it can afford to copy their cut throat selection policy. The way swimming does it, Peter Snell would never have got to Rome, let alone win the 800. Prior to the Olympic Trials Ingram had more than proved her worth; more than earned her place and certainly would have placed better than eleventh; the best anyone else could manage.

I see Jonathan Winter is at it again; coaching fast swimmers I mean. This time he’s come up with a butterfly/freestyle swimmer called Tim Dawson. Dawson won the 100 butterfly on the first night of the Championship in 51.40. He beat the far more fancied Bell and Burmester. Whoever writes the meet reports for Swimming New Zealand made me laugh. Dawson’s win obviously came as a surprise and he beat swimmers from their treasured North Shore International Training Center. SNZ’s reporter clearly felt the loss needed to be explained. Dawson being faster was not going to be enough. Here is what their report said, “In the absence of champion Corney Swanepoel, who is swimming off strokes at this event, Dawson held off swim stars Daniel Bell and Moss Burmester to win the final in 51.40s.” Congratulations on a fine job Jonathan and thank you for taking the time out to travel to Wellington last week for my mother’s funeral. For those who may wonder at the connection, Jonathan attended the elementary school where my mother taught. I think she may have even taken him for some learn to swim lessons. If she did, she played a small part in producing a very good swimmer and successful swim coach.

I see in the news reports that swimmers from the North Shore International Training Center who swim slower than their best or who shockingly get beaten are excused because they are, “currently competing here while in full training load.” I’ve never understood all that. Either train or compete; don’t do both. But then I learned this trade at the table of Arthur Lydiard whose phrase for this nonsense was a cryptic, “Don’t try and run a four minute mile and around the Waitakeres at the same time.” It seems to me some coaches are more intent on proving how tough they are than winning a swimming race. Nothing else could explain swimming a full training load in the middle of the National Championships. Besides it shows scant respect for the nation’s premier swim meet. New Zealand has gone far too long without winning a medal in a world competition. This sort of decision is part of the reason why.

In other news, I recently got a call from a sports book publisher. They wanted to know if there was a possible sequel to my previous books, “Swim to the Top” and “Swimming – A Training Program”. I asked whether they would be interested in a book on “Sporting Parents Behaving Badly”. Over my years as a swim coach I’ve seen some pretty bizarre behavior; some of it illegal, much of it slanderous, all of it bad mannered and rude. The sad fact is that in every case the real victims have always been the children of the angry malcontents. Not once ever have I seen the child of a badly behaving parent achieve elite swimming success. That should not come as any sort of surprise. There are exceptions, but it is generally true that success in elite sport requires a certain type of honesty, a degree of loyalty and as the movies say, “But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” There are some who do not teach their offspring these values. Instead they teach dishonesty, they preach hatred and instill deception. Most of all they demonstrate the fraud of never accepting responsibility for your behavior when you can blame someone else. Champions do not grow well in such an environment. To my surprise the publisher is most interested. In principle he agreed to publish the book. And so I have begun. The first 1500 words are tucked away – only 68500 to go. Fortunately a fair number of the remaining words have already been written in emails from the crazies. They can be the stars of their own show.