Archive for April, 2014

Mistakes Happen

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

By David

I should preface this report with a confession. I was not at the Swimming New Zealand Awards Dinner. I doubt that Swimming New Zealand would sell me a ticket. Mind you the gang that run the organization these days give the impression there’s not much they wouldn’t do for a dollar; perhaps even entertain a Swimwatch author.

However and possibly to the surprise of Swimming New Zealand I did have some friends at the event. Obviously Renford never thought to put a ban on West Auckland Aquatics members. My guys have returned to training today discussing one story; debating the merits of one event.

Actually if the story is true, if the facts are as I’ve been told, the whole sorry event fills me with overwhelming sadness. You may find it difficult to believe but writing about the waste, the errors and the futility of Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand often fills me with a dark cloud of depression. I write about it because someone has to. The history of swimming in New Zealand demands that the sport gets rid of Miskimmin, Layton, Renford, Villenueva and Lyles as quickly as possible. Oh, and as a footnote, from what I hear from my Wairarapa friends let me add Mark Berge, the President of Wellington Swimming to that list.

Swimwatch may be a thorn in their side. But they should remember. If the content of this blog does not meet with their approval then they should not read it. We are not at high school. It is not required reading. I don’t mind if they prefer watching Coronation Street. Swimwatch is only one man’s opinion. However the blog may also be good for swimming. I do hope so. And with that thought, here is what I was told this afternoon.

The key purpose of the Swimming New Zealand Awards evening is to make money for the organization; $67,000 in 2011 and $41,000 in 2012. But after that mercenary goal, the 2014 event was the occasion chosen to announce various awards and the names of swimmers who will compete in the Commonwealth Games, the Oceania Games and the Pan Pacific Games. As I understand it, the television journalist, John McBeth was paid to announce the various teams. On a screen behind McBeth Swimming New Zealand flashed up the name of the successful swimmers and, for those unable to read, McBeth said the name.

The team that is the focus of this story is the Pan Pacific Games team. Swimming New Zealand put up the names of fourteen swimmers. McBeth perfectly repeated the names and announced triumphantly that this was the team that would represent New Zealand at the 2014 Pan Pacific Games in Australia.

Except it wasn’t. Would you believe it, for all their generous salaries and Mazda SUVs Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand had missed two qualifying swimmers. Someone from the audience, possibly Donna Bouzaid, called out, “What about the open water swimmers?” McBeth looked confused. I can understand that. He probably had no idea what the crazy woman in the back row was talking about.

But sure enough Donna Bouzaid was right. Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand had left out open water champions Kane Radford and Charlotte Webby. And that is nothing short of bloody disgusting; an inexcusable disgrace. Those two swimmers competed in two 10 kilometre open water events to qualify for the Pan Pacific Games. They raced for four hours, paid their own meet entry fees and their own travel costs to qualify for the New Zealand Pan Pacific team. No one had a more difficult test of their worth. No one paid a higher financial or physical price and Miskimmin’s new Swimming New Zealand just left them out; forgot they existed.

That does not surprise me though; if it’s not happening at Miskimmin’s Millennium Institute, it’s not happening at all. At least that’s the impression you get. I’m told Kane Radford was understandably upset. With some good cause Charlotte Webby and Kane Radford had every right to be furious. I’m told McBeth stumbled on; certain that he had missed something; but not quite sure what it was. Perhaps, McBeth may have thought, a Swimming New Zealand that has “Excellence, Integrity, Accountability” on all its correspondence would come to his rescue. Perhaps someone would explain that an error had been made. Renford could have said Swimming New Zealand was very sorry but had saved the best to last and announce the two open water specialists. After all isn’t that the meaning of accountability.

But no. Miskimminn’s new Swimming New Zealand sat on their bums and did nothing. They followed their age old practice, “Admit no fault. Acknowledge no error.” Two days have gone by since the new Swimming New Zealand screw up and I’d bet my house that Radford and Webby still have not received an apology. Surely an email saying sorry wouldn’t be too much to ask. It may help heal the hurt caused on Saturday night. But this lot never apologizes for anything. Their idea of accountability is called, “passing the buck”.

Perhaps SNZ don’t realize open water swimming is now an Olympic event. Philip Ryan from Waterhole often trains in the same pool as West Auckland Aquatics. He talks to my guys and I get the impression New Zealand has a long way to go to recognize open water swimming as an equally valid event to any pool competition. Certainly the treatment of Webby and Radford strengthens that impression. In my view Layton, Renford and Vilenueva have behaved badly – again.

If any of the facts in this story are wrong, please use the comments facility and correct my errors.

And while you are at it can someone confirm or deny that Auckland Millennium swimmers were put up in a motel at the New Zealand taxpayer’s expense during the trials. These people live in Auckland; some of them just a few kilometers from the pool. Why are we paying for them to sleep in a Henderson motel? If it’s true, it’s an outrageous waste of money. Especially ridiculous when swimmers like Radford, Ryan and Webby had to pay their own transport, accommodation and even their entry fees to represent their country in the Oceania Open Water Championships. Hang in their Kane, Phillip, Charlotte and our/Waterhole swimmer Bridget. It’s tough but you are leading the way. Those who follow will benefit from your trials and from your efforts.



Valid Point or Grumpy Old Bugger?

Monday, April 14th, 2014

By David

The conclusion of many New Zealand National Championships in the Cameron and Renford eras has left me trying to determine whether it is possible to question the standard of New Zealand swimming without unfairly undermining the progress and effort of individual athletes. Is it possible to be fair and honest? Can a valid point be made without being branded a grumpy old bugger?

Take the most recent Championships just concluded in Auckland. Take the last event swum at the Championships; a 4×100 metre freestyle relay time trial involving one team of the country’s four best female freestyle swimmers. The purpose behind the event was to see whether the team could swim faster than the Glasgow Commonwealth Game’s qualifying time and in the process break the national 4×100 relay record. The four swimmers did both. Their time of 3:41.50 was a second inside the qualifying mark for Glasgow and faster than the old national record of 3:43.49.

That seems pretty good, doesn’t it? Certainly the Otago Daily Times thinks so; calling the swim “a fairytale finish to the New Zealand championships”. Swimming New Zealand’s website went one step further describing the swim as “a massive climax to the championships”. As the relay time appeared on the results screen, David Lyles, the Peter Miskimmin swim school coach, repeatedly punched the air in a display that would have put Mohammed Ali to shame. Sky TV reporter, Ian Jones, must have been in danger of wetting his pants such was his level of breathless excitement. The poolside commentator could well have set off alarms in the Sydney noise control agency as his screams told us the relay time was the second or third fastest in the world this year.

And the swim was a good result. And I want to stress that point unreservedly. No comment made in this report should be taken as any criticism of the swimmer’s effort. They did just splendid. But was the swim as good as the SNZ hype? Was the reaction of Swimming New Zealand’s gofers fair and balanced? Was it good for the sport? Or was it another example of Miskimmin’s minions overplaying their success; spinning a story; desperate to justify the Mazdas? Did it, as Luis Villanueva from Swimming New Zealand has said move us close to developing “swimmers who can compete at the highest levels on the world stage”? I don’t think so.

Without downplaying the performance of the relay team in any way, I do not think the swim justifies the hype created by Swimming New Zealand and Sky TV. Consider these facts.

  1. The New Zealand time is a huge 9.78 seconds behind the 3:31.72 world record. At the speed they are swimming that’s about 18.5 meters, a third of the pool, behind. That’s not even close. Usain Bolt can run 100 meters in the time the New Zealand team was behind the world’s better swimmers.
  2. A time similar to the 2014 New Zealand time for this event was first swum by a German relay team on August 21 1984. The current New Zealand time is twenty years behind the world.
  3. 2014 is only four months old. In that time the Northern Hemisphere has been locked into its winter short course swimming. FINA only lists the event being swum three times and two of those are at an interclub meet in Orlando, Florida. Instead of telling us the New Zealand time is second in the world this year it may have been more balanced to say that the New Zealand time would have been 12th in 2013, 15th in 2012 and 12th in 2011.

I guess Swimming New Zealand can’t tell the truth. Eighteen and a half meters behind, in twelfth place hardly justifies $150,000 high altitude training camps and a parking lot full of Mazda SUVs. And that’s why SNZ has always spun the truth. What that team did was good enough without spinning it into a world leading swim.

Besides which, why is it that we all need to have relay names into meet control by 6.30pm on the night of the event and Swimming New Zealand didn’t hand their names in for this race until 7.37pm. Anyone else would be disqualified. Only a month ago West Auckland Aquatics was prevented from making a change to their relay for a five minute time infraction.

At the Open Nationals, SNZ’s late list of names also altered the names of one of the teams in an earlier event; another disqualification offense. Why do officials like Ross Bragg and Joe Davidson, who are responsible for policing the rules, let Miskimmin’s SNZ mob get away with that corrupt behavior? In a well-run sport the rule of law should apply to us all. The stuff surrounding this relay is back to the worst of the Cameron days. Swimming New Zealand learn nothing if Bragg and Davidson let them get away with this stuff.

Much has been made by Swimming New Zealand about the team selected for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. But perhaps things are no what they seem. Ignoring relays and para swimmers only four swimmers qualified to swim in individual events at the Commonwealth Games; Lauren Boyle, Corey Main, Matthew Stanley and Glenn Snyders. Two of those swimmers no longer have anything to do with the Miskimmin swim school. Corey Main is swimming at the University of Florida and Glenn Snyders trains with Dave Salo in Los Angeles. So what have we left? Miskimmin’s 1.6 million dollar budget, a $150,000 high altitude training camp, around the world junkets and coaches and administrators with generous salaries and flash Mazda SUVs bought New Zealand two individual event swimmers to the Glasgow Games. And, of more concern, for all their high altitude training, the two swimmers could only come up with one personal best time; Lauren Boyle’s 1:57.67 in the 200 meters freestyle; not really her main event. That’s $1,600,000 spent to purchase one “off-event” PB and near enough $1,000,000 of your money and mine, per qualifying swimmer. Well done Miskimmin. Looks like your swim school really works.

It is worth mentioning the Sky TV coverage of the Trials. It was a huge coup to have the event broadcast live; even if it did come across as a SNZ infomercial. I was however annoyed at Mark Bone’s commentary. Even John McBeth, with good cause, came across as concerned and embarrassed.

Of course Bone is entitled to his opinions. However he ripped into one of my swimmers who won a bronze medal in the 1500 woman’s freestyle. He called her stroke inefficient and likely to cause injury. Bone has always been a pretty political animal. Normally he treads very cautiously around any overt criticism. But not this time. I guess he felt safe tearing into one of my swimmers. After all Swimming New Zealand would love it. David Wright’s swimmers make for the sort of easy prey preferred by opportunist sycophants.

Well, Mark Bone let me tell you my swimmer has swum 9235 kilometers in the past three years without the slightest indication of any shoulder injury. In fact, she suffered from injury as a younger swimmer with other coaches, but has never once been injured or in danger of injury since swimming with me. She is an Open National’s bronze medalist, six times Open and Winter Championship finalist and three times World Cup finalist for her country and can do without you ripping her stroke to bits just because, I suspect, she trains with David Wright.

Her effort and application deserve better than your cowardly attention. In fact, your brother was a provincial administrator who did nothing while my daughter was treated disgracefully in Hawkes Bay because of her father’s outspoken views – treatment he knew about but has never apologised to her for, despite knowing how devastating it was. And now, it seems, you demonstrate the same level and type of suspect behavior. In this instance, I felt that the expression of your views diminished your reputation and your character.

As I say, valid point or grumpy old bugger? It’s probably a bit of both.


“You’re An Asshole”

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

By David Wright*

Day Two of the New Zealand Swimming Championships has just ended.  Everything seemed to be progressing well.  So far swimmers from West Auckland Aquatics have won two bronze medals:  Jessica Marston in the 1500 meters freestyle and Jane Ip in the 50 meters breaststroke. However, my mellow disposition was jolted this evening when I was accosted by the owner of Teamline, the agent authorised by Swimming New Zealand to sell swim-suits at National meets.

He began our conversation by asking if I was David, the person who writes for Swimwatch.   I said, “yes”, to which he retorted that Swimwatch had not written anything good about his business.  He then demanded to know why I called myself “David” on the blog and avoided adding my surname – “Wright”.  I explained that my name does appear on the website and that I was sure any suggestion that I attempted to hide my identity would be hard to prove.  To which this paragon of marketing expertise and Swimming New Zealand’s retail representative said vehemently and through clenched teeth, “Well you’re an asshole.”

I didn’t know his name as he did not introduce himself but I have subsequently discovered that he is Lindsay Campbell, owner of both Teamline and Pivot Marketing. Interestingly for a man who was so upset that he had not found my surname on my website, his surname does not appear on either Teamline’s nor Pivot’s websites. At least, Google can’t find it:

On the other hand, according to Google my full name appears on this site almost 100 times, regardless of whether or not I am an asshole.

While I’m sure there are many in Swimming New Zealand who would agree with this sentiment, I suspect good manners demands that Teamline’s behaviour is no way to treat a member of the public. What ever happened to the customer is always right? I wonder how, “You’re an asshole” meets CEO Renford’s call for excellence, integrity and accountability.

It’s also rather ironic that Teamline have this to say about their marketing and business development (on a similar “About Us” page to the one its marketing representative failed to find on this site:

Relationship building has been a key aspect of Pivot Marketing’s ethos and we intend to carry this through into the Teamline side of our business.

Certainly a great job building relationships was done tonight!

On the subject of swim-suits sold by my admirer, I did notice that the new Swimming New Zealand is advertising Teamline’s non-FINA approved swim-suits in every daily programme.  How on earth the organization Peter Miskimmin created to represent FINA in New Zealand can ignore the parent organisation’s rules is beyond belief.  Even an asshole knows that is not right.

Teamline and Swimming New Zealand’s promotion of unapproved swim-suits was compounded tonight by three swimmers in the 50 meters breaststroke B Final competing in the Teamline unapproved product.  The three swimmers beat a West Auckland Aquatics swimmer and provided a huge temptation for me to protest their participation. I wonder how the new Swimming New Zealand would have ruled? The fact that I didn’t protest is primarily because I view Swimming New Zealand and Teamline responsible for the rule violation.  The three swimmers were pawns enticed into error by those who sought to free them of a couple of hundred dollars.

If there is a moral to all this, I suspect it must be that good swim gear can be bought from a number of retailers.  Teamline may be best avoided.

*Note from the person who puts the stories up on the web – I have always written “by David” on David’s posts – he doesn’t add that. I do this for two reasons: one, because his identify is fairly obvious and mentioned elsewhere on the site, and there have also been other people write stories here, like me. I find it absolutely hilarious that two people in the past week have decided the most important thing to complain about is the author’s surname, especially when approximately three commenters in the site’s history have put their real names to their comments.

Know Your Enemy

Monday, April 7th, 2014

By David

It is a well-known phrase but where did it come from? New Zealand’s new National Coach, David Lyles, spent several years coaching in China so he should know the source of this quote. Its author was Sun Tzu a Chinese general, military strategist, and author of “The Art of War”, an immensely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy. Sun Tzu’s advice is valuable not only in the event of armed conflict. For life in general “know your enemy” is not a bad place to start.

And so, in New Zealand swimming, who is the enemy? Well, the enemy has names. The enemy is a coterie of five. Their names are Miskimmin, Layton, Renford, Vilanueva and Lyles. In my opinion, they are the enemy.

Of course I can hear your protests. How can anyone portray these five as the enemy? Surely this is the group charged with reviving a sick and ailing sport. These are the sport’s care givers. How can they possibly be branded as the enemy?

Well, here is a list of the behavior that, I think, merits using the label of enemy.

  1. Their primary purpose is to cultivate and nurture the Government’s swim school at the Millennium Institute. In the pursuit of that purpose the enemy recruits swimmers from club teams throughout New Zealand. The effect of that has and still is castrating the coaching resources of the sport. Every time a swimmer leaves his or her home coach and joins the enemy how do you imagine the coach’s self-worth is affected? Of course club coaches are going to be hurt. The enemy’s message is written clear for New Zealand to read – New Zealand best swimmers and best coaches are at the Millennium Institute. That’s where the best coaches live. That’s where the best swimmers should train.

    We all know of coaches in Hamilton, Rotorua, Christchurch, Hastings, Carterton and Auckland who have been beaten up by the sport’s parent body. And in my view, that makes them the enemy.

    Only a committed enemy would inflict coaching genocide on the swimming resources of New Zealand. But that is what has happened. From the time Jan Cameron came up with the Millennium idea and pursued by the enemy of five to this day; different people, same policy, same wanton destruction.

    And the really strange fact is that the enemy’s philosophy is founded on a lie. Surely the people involved in New Zealand swimming have not forgotten the days before the Millennium Institute; days when club coaches like Laing helped Loader (Olympic Gold), Naylor coached Simcic (World Record), Hurring coached Hurring (Commonwealth Gold), Golsch coached Langrell (Olympic Fourth), Wright helped Jeffs (World SC medalist), Anderson coached Steel (UCLA Club Captain) and Brown guided Moss and Kingsman (both Olympic medalists), – the list is stellar and huge. Only an enemy would wreck that successful club coaching structure but that is what the enemy has done.

  2. The New Zealand Championships begin tomorrow. This evening I was down at the West Wave Pool taking the swimmers from West Auckland Aquatics through their final preparation. I notice that the Millennium swimmers are no longer sitting on an elevated platform beside the meet control room. Jan Cameron would not approve but it is progress. At this meet the  Millennium swimmers have pink plastic chairs like the rest of us. However the enemy could not resist one last dig, one final insult. Behind the Millennium swimmer’s pink chairs the enemy has hung a sign that says “New Zealand’s Elite High Performance Swimmers”. The rest of us are second class; certainly not elite high performance it seems. A dozen National Champions who swim for their club or their US University are debased and insulted by that sign posted by the enemy.

    The enemy is doing it all the time. Remember when we highlighted the news item on Swimming New Zealand’s website that announced that New Zealand’s elite swimmers were in Arizona at an altitude training camp. The word “all” may not have been used. It was certainly implied. Elite, it seems, is a word reserved for Millennium swimmers. The rest of us certainly do not merit that level of greatness. Only an enemy would inflict that level of hurt on swimmers who remained loyal to their home program.

There is little doubt – the leaders of Swimming New Zealand are the enemy. The Millennium concept is an obsession that begins at Miskimmin and progresses through his four hired hands. They remind me of politicians and Generals in the United States who happily excuse a few dozen Pakistani children being murdered in a drone attack as unfortunate “collateral damage”. So infatuated are the five enemy insurgents with promoting the Millennium Institute, with proving their state centralized swim school is best, with their altitude camps and Mazda SUV’s that I doubt they even consider the damage they cause. And I suspect that even if the hurt did occur to them it too would be seen as unfortunate “collateral damage” on the ignorant not up to speed with their imperious mission.

Tonight I became a member of the New Zealand Swim Coaches and Teachers Association. Thanks to Neville Sutton I got my Memberships card number 462. The card tells me I have the American Swim Coaches Association Level 5 qualification and have completed a 2013 police check. All it seems is in order. Except I have one concern. The Swimming New Zealand Code of Conduct prohibits members from criticizing the organization. Well, I’m a member now. Is identifying five Swimming New Zealand insurgents as the enemy criticizing the organization? It may be. However in my view, given the damage to my sport that Miskimmin’s policies have wrought, it is a description that is well earned.

It will be interesting to see how the week of Commonwealth Games Trials swimming goes. By now most readers will realize I am committed to the success of any club or university coached swimmer. I find it hard to be as enthusiastic about those who swim for the enemy.

What A Tit

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

By David

Having begun a trend of writing Swimwatch stories about non-swimming subjects I would ask your indulgence one more time. After all, next week the Commonwealth Game’s Trials are being held in Auckland. Time enough then to return to aquatic matters.

But before that I would like to consider the variety of comments posted on Swimwatch stories. Many of them are very good. “Northern Swimmer” is always quick to point out errors of fact or logic. He or she writes without malice and has been fair and polite for the years s/he has been visiting the site. There is the occasional light hearted personal note but the subject is normally more important than the author. Yesterday “Northern Swimmer” posted a comment on the Swimwatch John Key story. This is what was said.

Northern Swimmer (Guest):

I think you may have jumped the gun here. And since swimming now has a one start rule, prepare to be reprimanded. You are absolutely right that Kim Dotcom’s freedom of expression should be upheld – Article 19, the First Amendment, Voltaire, and all of that. But our illustrious Leader Key wasn’t trying to restrict KDC’s rights (this time). He was freely expressing his own opinion on KDC owning a copy of Mein Kampf, with the intention to profit greatly from its resale. And i think this is fair criticism, and understandable given Key’s (mother’s) family history. As for your voting options this year: has any of them jumped to defend Mr Dotcom’s liberties? And I would have picked you for a libertarian, given your preference for the market providing our national swim team rather than a state regime.

I think most of us would agree. The comment is constructive, open and funny; a good comment that adds an alternative and valid view to the Swimwatch line.

And then you get some really moronic comments. For example today Dr Felix Cumberbund left the following text on the Sam Rossiter-Stead story

Dr Felix Cumberbund

Who has written this? David, what is your last name? Anyone prepared to character assassinate a community volunteer, should have the guts to put their credentials on full display. Why would anyone want to volunteer when there is poisoned, malicious insanity like this out there?

Let’s take a minute to consider the stupidities wrapped up in these four lines.

First of all, the author’s name, Dr Felix Cumberbund, is clearly fictitious. Certainly Google has no record of a New Zealander with that name. So we know Felix is tough at asking me to reveal all while he hides behind a nom de plume. That pretty well means Felix meets all the criteria required of a pathetic hypocrite.

Second Felix asks, “Who has written this? David, what is your last name?” Well Felix right at the top of the Swimwatch title page, in big white capital letters you may be able to read the words ABOUT SWIMWATCH. Click on that link. Here is what you will find.

Swimwatch was founded in 2003 by David Wright and Edward Yardley. Although neither were sure of the meaning of the term ‘blog’, the site developed into one of New Zealand’s most well-read swimming blogs. Yardley now live in the United States, whilst Wright is back in New Zealand after living in the US as well. Late-edition to the Swimwatch team, Jane Copland, lives in London. However, after six years, Swimwatch continues to provide a somewhat-alternative look at the swimming world.

It might not be a full biography but it does tell you my last name, which if you add “Swim Coach” to my name Google will direct you to a Wikipedia page that provides much more detail. Clearly IQ and computer technology are not Felix strong points so here is the link to my Wikipedia page.

So, what is the next Felix point? “Anyone prepared to character assassinate a community volunteer, should have the guts to put their credentials on full display.” I suspect this post has more than adequately covered the mindless accusation of “credentials on full display”.

I am however not at all sure what Felix means by “character assassination”. I’ve just reread the Sam Rossiter-Stead story. Perhaps Felix can help. Is he suggesting that Sam Rossiter-Stead is not “the individual who distributed an email to the Wairarapa swimming community claiming that he was the recipient of “crank phone calls”? Does Felix believe that Sam Rossiter-Sread didn’t tell “anyone who would listen that he was “working with Vodafone and the police to identify the culprit”? Surely Felix doesn’t believe the Masterton police lied when they reported that they “were not checking out a list of Sam Rossiter Stead supplied numbers.” Is Felix saying Sam Rossiter- Stead didn’t devote “a whole paragraph to the plight of Wairarapa youngster Grace Yeates and compare her distress to the behavior of some in the Wairarapa swimming community?” Does Felix believe that the comparison with a very ill child is acceptable and in good taste? Tell me Felix have I got it wrong? I’m sure Sam Rossiter-Stead pleaded for those making crank calls to “increase the frequency of their calls”. Felix, let me know if I’ve got some facts wrong. It certainly seems pretty factual. No character assassination there that I can tell.

And the final Felix gem, “Why would anyone want to volunteer when there is poisoned, malicious insanity like this out there?” Over many years involved in sport; after contact with thousands of volunteers it is no secret that, like every population, there is the good, the bad and the ugly. Because people volunteer their time does not put them above critical analysis. Normal standards of truth, honesty, good taste and manners apply equally to the professional and the volunteer. When volunteers err, and in this case I think Sam Rossitter-Stead has blundered, it is entirely proper for those of us affected to point out what we consider to be faults.

So Felix, thank you for your views. As you can tell we think they are rubbish but as always even rubbish benefits from some fresh air.