Email News Today

By David

I got three emails today, one from Singapore, another from Monte Carlo and the third from a local hospital here in Delray Beach. The one from Singapore was from Clive Rushton. He has just resigned as New Zealand’s High Performance Director or some similar title. He’s taken up the position of Head Coach at the exclusive and successful Singapore Sports School. When I was leaving New Zealand to coach in the US Virgin Islands Clive called to wish me well. He concluded our conversation with a never to be forgotten quote, “Coaching” he said, “is always best done under a palm tree.” He has, at last, followed his own advice. New Zealand swimming is a vastly better place for the years Clive spent there. I can’t remember the exact details, but at one Junior World Championships while he was in charge, New Zealand actually lead the boy’s point’s competition.

I coached three swimmers who represented New Zealand during Clive’s years there – Toni Jeffs, Nichola Chellingworth and Jane Copland. His contribution to their careers was always positive and fair. You can usually tell more about a person’s character when things go wrong. When Jane swam in the Pan Pacific Games in Yokohama one or two New Zealand swimmers took their last night celebrations a little too far. Nothing on a Tiger Woods scale; just a few not so delicate moments over various Japanese toilets. I know of many an official who would make a mountain out of such indiscretions. Clive chose to write to all the team and simply said, “I know what went on. I will not put up with it. Don’t do it again or the wrath of God will be inadequate to explain the consequences”. I thought it was brilliant. Any swimmer who did not understand the fairness of this last warning deserved more than the wrath of God.

On the same trip Jane was not coming back to New Zealand. After the meet she was heading off to the USA to begin her University education. Many a coach would have required her to return to New Zealand with the team before flying to the USA. Clive recognized it was much cheaper to fly from Japan to America and that’s what he arranged. It’s that sort of common sense that makes for good coaching and good administration.

I’m not at all sure that Swimming New Zealand always appreciated the value of their High Performance Director. Achieving anything in an environment sated with regional politics must have required the skills of a Clinton or Blair. The fact Clive got so much done is exceptional. He once came to dinner at our place. It was a most enjoyable evening, good wine, good food and good debate over things swimming. I’ve had similar evenings with Arthur Lydiard, Lincoln Hurring, Ross Anderson, Arch Jelley, Duncan Lang and a few others. In all cases I’ve left knowing more and feeling better for the contact. Good luck in Singapore Clive and thank you for what you did for swimming in New Zealand. An endorsement from Swimwatch may be the last thing you want. Bad luck, on this occasion you’ve got it anyway.

The second email was from the Mare Nostrum organizer in Monte Carlo. The subject was just to let everyone know they have changed their email address. Last year our Club had four swimmers in the competition. Since then some pretty negative changes have resulted in the team only having one swimmer qualified for the 2010 series and she wasn’t even there in 2009. Her name is Nicole and she joined the team to swim in the masters program. She has a doctorate in physical therapy and doesn’t have all that much time to practice. She can swim though. After two weeks training and in her first competition she swam 50 meters in 28 and 100 meters in 1.04. It never ceases to amaze me how a good swimmer leaves and is always replaced by another. Certainly that’s what’s happened on this occasion. I’m going to try and talk Jane into swimming at Mare Nostrum with Nicole. We will go to Font Romeau for a week’s training again and then drive to Monte Carlo, Barceloma and Canet. It will be good to be back. It is a good series and with these two sane and sensible athletes should be a heap of fun.

The third email was from a swim team parent. You may remember the story we wrote about him. He’s the parent who used to be a leading Fords model. He is in hospital with a collapsed lung and one or two other complications that fortunately seem to be coming right. He’s been in an isolation ward and the ICU for two weeks now but appears to be on the mend. He is hoping to be on his way home in a couple of days.

I’ve called in to see him three times. I was interested to visit an American hospital; the pride of capitalist medicine. From all I could see the facilities were good but no better than New Zealand’s socialist Hawkes Bay hospital where I spent three weeks once while they got my blood pressure under control. The capitalist $5000 a day hospital was clean but no cleaner than the Hastings free version. I am not qualified to comment on the standard of care but the profit motive version here appears to have done a good job of fixing Martin’s problems but no better than Hawkes Bay hospital did fixing my blood pressure problem.

But today I found a difference. Martins “dinner” arrived while I was there tonight. For $5000 a day he got a pathetic, limp hamburger, a small salad that had seen better days and a couple of very small cookies. It was awful. A very small portion of the hospital’s capitalist income had been spent preparing this culinary masterpiece. The worst hamburger joint in the country can do better than this. A potato top pie bought in a New Zealand gas station is a delight in comparison. The food I got in Hastings hospital was a million times better – no contest. The socialist’s food is not only edible, but when I was there I looked forward to its arrival. So if you are thinking of getting sick anytime soon head to the socialist system in New Zealand; at least the foods worth eating. If President Obama’s public option results in a better hospital food service, I’m all for it.