Is It Time For Cameron To Resign

By David

The Commonwealth Games have come and gone. In the sport of swimming New Zealand has won four silver and two bronze medals. In the last ten Games that’s the country’s seventh poorest performance. In only three of the previous ten Games have we been unable a win a race. New Delhi adds a fourth Games to that unhappy list. It is the sort of performance we should not accept. New Zealand can do better. New Zealand should have done better. So who is responsible? Well it’s certainly not the swimmers. They are a truly talented lot who have complied with every coaching order. The buck, as they say, stops at the top. And the top in this instance is Jan Cameron. The balance of this article will pose serious questions that surround Cameron’s job performance; questions that may have compromised the financial investment of this nation and the efforts of its finest swimmers.

Performance: The effort of Swimming New Zealand and Cameron to spin the New Delhi result is shameful. They know how a medal tale is prepared. And if they don’t, in the medal table below, we’ve done it for them. After all the hype has gone; when the dust of superlatives has settled, the reality is that in the last ten Games New Zealand has performed better on six occasions. This meet ranks seventh in a list of ten. Add that to a one bronze medal performance at this year’s Pan Pacific Games and Cameron’s report that “our team is marching towards London” looks pathetic and desperate.

New Zealand invested millions supporting Cameron’s program and we are doing worse than when Moss, Simcic and Kingsman performed for nothing. Good swimmers bought into the Cameron plan; swimmers quite capable of winning races in New Delhi, and it did not happen. The centralized Millennium model has failed them and their country. Sporting socialism has not worked. Lydiard was right – a decentralized structure of powerful local coaches would have produced a better result.

Coaches: Swimming New Zealand belongs to all its members. It is not the personal playground of any individual. And yet the impression left by the selection of coaches at the Millennium Institute is most unfortunate. Cameron’s son was selected to be the Institutes full time Assistant Coach. At the time he only had three or four years coaching experience; hardly the pedigree required to guide the nation to sporting fame. Cameron’s ex-husband was appointed to advise South Island clubs on swimming related issues. The Head Coach is Australian, a characteristic he shares with Cameron, her son and her ex-husband. I hope part of Cameron’s job is to strengthen coaching in New Zealand. If she and her appointees disappear back home to Australia one day soon, her Millennium experiment will have left us with nothing. The impression of favoritism and nepotism may be unfair but it is also unfortunate and unhealthy.

Reporting: Cameron is responsible for the High Performance portion of Swimming New Zealand. That is an important and well paid job. Every New Zealander gives Cameron the money she needs to run her department. Given that Cameron told New Zealand that the New Delhi Games were the “pinnacle” test of the High Performance program this year, is it appropriate for her to accept an announcing job on television during the meet? At a moment like this, isn’t her full time responsibility to be with the New Zealand team? I can’t imagine Cameron’s American equivalent Mark Schubert accepting a similar appointment with NBC during the Olympic Games. I assume Cameron’s TV work was approved by Swimming New Zealand. If so, it just makes the whole thing worse.

Media: On the subject of journalism, Cameron’s current husband is the boss of Sky Sport television in New Zealand. Is there any truth in the thought that much of her influence and the lack of critical attention to her performance is the result of administrators and sport’s journalists wanting to curry favor with a media mogul? It sometimes seems that way. For example yesterday as I was driving to the pool a caller to Radio Sport was critical of the Cameron program. He made good and important points. As quick as a flash Miles Davis sprang to Cameron’s defense. Was it my imagination or was there really a note of panic in his reply? How far would he go to defend the Sky Sport’s supremo’s wife from any criticism? He sounded slightly pathetic. Deaker, Telfer and Television New Zealand News also appear to abandon their normal standards of critical analysis when it comes to high performance swimming. It would be disappointing if Sky Sport shows, game commentaries and commercial relationships had anything to do with their diminished investigative vigor.

Fear: Swimming in New Zealand operates in a climate of fear. A prominent administrator told me not to publish this article because, “Cameron will shoot the messenger.” A coach advised me not to upset Cameron or “your swimmers will not be selected for teams or camps.” A parent complained that his daughter had been abandoned when she declined Cameron’s invitation to join the North Shore Swimming Club. I’m told of a swimmer who hates Cameron’s high performance environment but stays because that’s how the grocery bill gets paid. These good people may well be wrong. That’s not really the point. The point is they believe it’s true. Whatever else Cameron may have done, there is a question mark over the appearance of division and alienation, of them and us, of privilege and privation. Has the cost of pursuing the Cameron’s experiment been too high?

We think the time has come to terminate the Cameron program. The resources currently focused into the Millennium Institute should be regionalized where coaches like Gary Hurring and Jeremy Duncan have just proven it can all be done so much better.

  • NZswimmingfan

    Just a very brief point to add to the spin/misinformation front- have a look at Cameron’s final report from Delhi on the SNZ website. She trumpets the top 16 rankings that the team have achieved but all the rankings she puts up are overstated! e.g. Kean 7th (really 9th equal), Wiegersma 200 IM 12th (really 16th), Ingram 11th (really 16th), Bell 15th (really 21st), Women’s 4×100 12th (really 16th). (I’m getting these from who have the best ranking database out there)

    I believe she’s artificially inflated the rankings by only taking the top 2 swimmers per country – but that’s not a real world ranking then is it?

    I’m not trying to take anything away from the swimmers – they all (bar Moss + Emily Thomas) can be pretty satisfied, maybe not with times, but with how they competed against everyone else in tough conditions.