Auckland Winter Champs

By David

Next week we’re off to the Auckland Winter Championships. Actually we’re not “off” to them at all. Being as we operate out of the Henderson Pool, the Auckland Winter Championships are coming to us. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve always enjoyed the meet, right back to when I swam in it in the late 1960s. The meet wasn’t held in the Henderson Pool back then. Henderson only became its home in the early 1990s.

Two of our swimmers, Nikki and Jessica

In 1969 I won the senior men’s 100 breaststroke title. New Zealand’s star breaststroker at the time was Joco Ruzio-Saban. He was from Auckland but fortunately for me he didn’t enter the Championships in 1969. Coming from rural Gisborne winning the Auckland Championships was a very big deal; or at least the local Gisborne Herald said it was. The time was painfully slow. Many years later when Jane won the women’s version of the same race she was about eight seconds ahead of her struggling parent. Mind you she did not have to deal with some of the ancient rules that made breaststroke harder to swim in the old days. I taught our Bronze Squad (that’s the young swimmers) 1969 breaststroke at practice today. They seemed to enjoy swimming along, with the old wide kick and head stuck up out of the water breaststroke that we used to swim. I heard Xavier tell his mates that this was the way the “old ladies” in the aqua-jogging lane swam breaststroke.

When Toni Jeffs came to Wellington to train the first “away” meet we took her to was the Auckland Winter Championships. On the flight to Auckland Toni, Gary Hurring and I were upgraded to First Class. Gary and I were sitting towards the back of the First Class section. Toni was near the front sitting next to Roger Douglas who, at the time, was the Government’s Minister of Finance. I leaned over and said to Gary in what I thought was a soft stage whisper, “Who’s that gray haired old bugger sitting next to Toni Jeffs from Wellington, New Zealand?” It can’t have been soft enough. Roger Douglas turned around, gave a small wave and a smile and said, “It’s Roger Douglas from Auckland, New Zealand.”

Several years later when all the controversy about Toni being sponsored by Tiffany’s Night Club was swirling around, Television New Zealand would call me in Wellington to see if our team was swimming in the Auckland Winter Championships. If we were entered a news crew would be sent out to Henderson to record the event. I’m afraid we don’t merit that attention these days; not yet anyway. Come to think of it no one does.

Back in those days our team always sat with Coach Ross Anderson and his West Auckland Aquatics swim team. Little wonder he was New Zealand’s best coach. He was a man who saw the big picture better than most. No matter what the controversy or gossip when we walked in the door of the Henderson Pool there was always a cheery wave and a, “Come and sit with us, David.” He had a great team too; John Steel, Johnny Munro, Ross Anderson Junior, Paul Kent, Nick Sanders, Craig Ford and Georgina Hall. Now there’s a list of characters. The place and the meet will not be quite the same without Ross Anderson. I just hope we can do a good job with the team that I still think of as being partly his.

Jane qualified for her first New Zealand Open Nationals swimming at the Auckland Winter Championships. She was eleven and won the 50 breaststroke in a time that was a hundredth of a second under the qualifying time. She was naturally pleased and came up to her father and coach and breathlessly exclaimed, “I did it.” I had no idea what she was talking about and asked, “You did what?” There is a moral in that. Too many swimmers are under too much pressure from coach and parent to qualify for this or swim fast in that. Swimmers generate their own pressure. There is little need for us to add to it. Lydiard used to say, “If it doesn’t happen naturally it won’t happen at all.” It’s good advice.

We’ve got twenty one swimmers entered in the 2010 version of the Auckland Winter Championships. It will be interesting to see how they go. They are a good group of swimmers who have worked well to understand their new coach and his strange training ideas. Since I arrived back from the United States there has only been time to do eight weeks of build up conditioning, one week of anaerobic swimming and three weeks of trials and coordination training. But, the Auckland Winter Championships have been good to us in the past. Let’s just hope that run continues. Two of the team’s seniors, i and Jessica are in this photograph. They are both great fun to have around; Jessica contentious and reserved, Nikki, larger than life, a New Zealand version of Rhi Jeffrey. With them and Zane, Justin, Kirsty, Anaru, Amelia, Jane, Sarah, Sophie and eleven others it should be a fun weekend. We will let you know.