Archive for October, 2017

New Zealand Swimming at the Commonwealth Games

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Since 2002 New Zealand’s swimming performance at the Commonwealth Games has been pretty average. Four Games have come and gone and New Zealand has won just two gold medals. The New Zealand taxpayer has invested about $20 million in swimming in that period for just two wins. At $10million per gold medal those two medals must be among the most expensive even won anywhere, by anybody. Counting medals of any colour, New Zealand swimmers have won sixteen medals. That is still well over a million dollars per Commonwealth Game’s medal. On the basis of that record alone the Board of Swimming New Zealand should acknowledge fault and resign.

Because, you see, there is no way that result is the swimmer’s fault. Generation after generation of New Zealand swimmers have loyally followed their master’s orders. Good swimmers of considerable talent have come and gone. Swimmers at least the equal of anything produced in Australia or the United Kingdom have given the sport their all. And sadly they have come up almost empty handed. Why is that?

Well the problem is those at the top have no idea what they are doing. Their record over the past twenty years says clearly they have no idea what they want or how to put together an internationally successful program. If they did, why haven’t they done it already? They have had long enough. Young swimmer’s lives are not transformers for the Board members of Swimming New Zealand to play with. The Board’s record of waste is such that common decency says they should move aside, resign and give others with more knowledge the task of putting things right.

The table below shows New Zealand swimming’s medal record over the past four Commonwealth Games. Para swimmers have not been included as they were not part of the earlier Games in this table.

  2018 2014 2010 2006 2002
Number of Swimmers on Team NA 15 12 9 12
Number of Gold Medals NA 1 0 1 0
Number of Silver Medals NA 1 4 1 1
Number of Bronze Medals NA 0 2 4 1
Total Medals NA 2 6 6 2

Comparing the results from the last two Commonwealth Games appears to show that the New Zealand swimming results are getting worse. In 2010 only six swims were not fast enough to qualify for a semi-final. Four years later, in 2014, eleven swims were not fast enough to progress. The table below shows these numbers. As a broad generalization it would be fair to say that in 2010 the bulk of New Zealand’s swimmers made it through to the Commonwealth Game’s semi-finals. By 2014 the bulk of the swims were not making it out of the heats. And that’s not good.

I have often thought the Head Coach, David Lyles, paid for that backward step. Certainly the 2014 performance was not good and must have influenced the decisions made at that time. Swimming New Zealand argued in Court that Lyles lost his job because of restructuring and the Court agreed. Swimming New Zealand told the Court a fine tale of management reorganization. Swimming New Zealand said the way forward required a new approach and different talents. That much was certainly true. Problem was – it is the Board’s approach and the Board’s talents that should have been in question.

I suspect that the Board of Swimming New Zealand had no idea what their restructuring was supposed to be or what it was going to achieve. One thing is certain, whatever it was, it hasn’t worked.

Games Heat only Semi Final Final Bronze Silver Gold
2014 11 3 11 1 1
2010 6 10 9 2 4

How do the swimming results at the Commonwealth Games compare with other sports – especially track and field athletics? Well in the past three Commonwealth Games swimming has won two gold medals, athletics has won four. In the past three Commonwealth Games swimming has won six silver medals, athletics has won eight. In the past three Commonwealth Games swimming has won six bronze medals, athletics has won five. In the past three Commonwealth Games swimming has won fourteen total medals, athletics has won seventeen. Track and field it seems has done our sport like the proverbial dinner.

And so I guess the important bit is what does the past mean for the Commonwealth Games next April. The signs are not good. Long-time reliable stalwarts, Lauren Boyle and Glen Snyders, have retired. There are some good swimmers still competing. Bradlee Ashby and Corey Main appear to stand out. But right now I can’t see anyone winning a race. My guess is two or three bronze medals will be it.

The extent of the swimming problem is highlighted by the news this week that Australian Cate Campbell lowered the world short course 100m freestyle record by 0.33 (0.7%) to 50.25. The world is progressing faster than we are. The women’s 100m freestyle at the recent New Zealand short course national championships was won in 54.19. New Zealand’s best swimmer is 3.94 seconds slower than the world. In a 100m race New Zealand’s fastest swimmer is now more than 7 meters behind. Cate Campbell is out of sight – in a different world.

It does appear that there’s bleak; and there’s bleak. But bleakest of all for the Swimming New Zealand Board. This time there’s no Head Coach to blame, no new restructuring plan to fob off the members, no gifted foreign recruit to employ. This time it’s all down to them. This time the buck really does stop with them. There isn’t anyone else.





Woeful West Wave

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Yesterday I described being asked to leave the West Wave Pool. My “crime”, I was told, was that I was coaching a swimmer in a public lane. The reality was that I had taken Eyad to the pool because he has no car. I am not his coach and am not paid for the help, with transport and the like, that I give him while he is in New Zealand. In the time he was swimming on Saturday, and before I was approached by the lifeguards, I had not spoken to Eyad at all. I had done nothing that could be identified as poolside coaching. On my wristwatch I did time two of his 100 metre swims and emailed the times to his coach in Saudi Arabia. No one was aware or knew I had timed the two swims – two swims out of the 100×100 Eyad was swimming that day. I hardly think anything I did counted as coaching and certainly did not merit being asked to leave the pool.

But since that story was written two interesting developments have occurred. First this morning I planned to take Eyad to the West Wave Pool for a training swim. As I was about to leave a friend called me to say he was going to the pool with his children and could take Eyad to the pool for me. I agreed. Three hours later I picked Eyad up from the pool to take him home. Eyad told me that during his training my friend had talked to him on several occasions, had photographed his stroke, had timed a couple of his 200 swims and had generally acted far more as a “coach” than I ever would.

It will surprise no one to read that the West Wave lifeguards never said a thing. My friend’s obvious coaching was no problem. Clearly the West Wave Pool management has no “coaching” problem. This is a personal vendetta – pure and simple. David Wright looking at his wristwatch twice is cause enough to ask him to leave the pool. Anyone else can hold discussions with, photograph and time swimmers without censure or mention. David Wright would be banned for life if he so much as tried any of that.

And that’s not right. There is no way that sort of personal victimization should be tolerated in the management of a public facility. There is no way that sort of behaviour should be tolerated anywhere.

And so I decided to do something about it. You see in New Zealand we are fortunate to have an organization whose role it is to protect individuals from bullying and harassment. The organization is called the Human Rights Commission. Today I submitted a complaint to the Commission. I described the events that occurred a month ago when Eyad and I were asked to leave the pool because we were told the manager felt “uncomfortable” with us being there. I also told the Commission about being asked to leave yesterday because I had been seen looking at my wristwatch and that was clear evidence of coaching. I also made it clear than many others “coach” swimmers including Eyad without so much as a second look from the lifeguards or the West Wave Pool manager, Alex Calwell. The evidence of “bullying and harassment” is overwhelming. I will let you know what happens.


Auckland Council Ignores Its Own Code of Conduct

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

A month ago I published a story about an attempt by the manager of the West Wave Aquatic Centre, a guy called Alex Calwell, to ban Syrian swimmer, Eyad Masoud, and me from the facility. He said he felt “uncomfortable” with me being in the pool. My complaint was investigated and Eyad and I were allowed to use the pool. It was agreed Alex Calwell had made an error.

At the time I confirmed I was not Eyad’s coach. I was asked to make sure I did not coach Eyad while he was swimming. I agreed to that condition. I asked if I could occasionally time an Eyad swim to communicate his progress to his Syrian coach. As long as I was discreet this amount of attention was agreed.

Since those events, a month ago, I have been back to the West Wave Pool on four occasions without incident. I have not coached Eyad but have twice unobtrusively timed two one hundred metres swims and conveyed the times by email to his coach.

But today Alex Calwell’s staff decided I should again be asked to leave the pool. Before I interpret what happened let me describe in a series of factual bullet points what occurred.

  1. Eyad’s coach had set him a session of 100×100 metre swims. He began swimming the set and I sat on a chair as far back from the side of the pool as possible.
  2. Eyad had swum about ten of the 100s when I was approached by two lifeguards who said their boss had told them I was not allowed to coach Eyad and if I did they would ask me to leave the pool. I assured them I was not his coach and was not coaching him.
  3. About another ten 100s went by and the same two lifeguards came back and said their boss had been “studying” my behaviour, had seen me look at my wristwatch, which he said was clearly coaching and I was required to leave the pool.
  4. I protested my innocence and asked to see this “boss” person. I was told he was not available.
  5. A third more senior person arrived. I don’t know who she was. She said I could stay in the facility but had to sit in the grandstand seating. I took this option and went up into the grandstand.

So, that’s what happened. And now here is my interpretation.

  1. Nothing that was done this morning breached my agreement a month ago with the Auckland Council. In the course of twenty 100 metre swims I had timed two of the swims and emailed Eyad’s coach. I have an IPhone watch and used it to time the two swims and send the email. No member of the public or Eyad was aware that I had timed the two swims or that I had told Eyad’s coach the two times.
  2. I only spoke to Eyad once. After the lifeguard’s first visit Eyad stopped to ask me what the lifeguard’s wanted. In their second visit my explanation to Eyad was described as clear evidence I was coaching.
  3. I still have no idea who this “boss” is that issues orders to junior staff at the West Wave pool. What is it with that pool? A month ago Alex Calwell sent a junior staff member down to do his dirty work and today some other “boss” dispatched two juniors while he hid somewhere and was unavailable. The evidence suggests some training in the responsibilities that go with office is required.
  4. The two junior lifeguards said the fact that I looked at my wristwatch was all the proof they needed to confirm that I was coaching Eyad. They seemed to be unaware that my watch also sends and receives emails, sends and receives text messages, counts my daily steps, takes phone calls and performs a number of other functions that require my attention.
  5. If looking at my watch was the “sin” that caused me to be asked to leave the pool, why did the senior person say it was fine for me to sit in the grandstand? I would have thought it just as easy to look at a wristwatch in the grandstand as on the pool deck. The decision to send me to the grandstand makes a mockery out of the accusation of coaching. It makes no sense at all.
  6. At the time the lifeguards asked me to leave for “looking at my watch” there were two women at the pool who were clearly coaching swimmers. In their cases they were either walking alongside the swimmer or sitting right down on the side of the pool talking to the swimmer after every length. Nothing was said to either of these women; just to Eyad and me.
  7. While all this was happening only four swimmers, including Eyad, were swimming in the six lanes available. Members of the public were not being inconvenienced or even aware of our presence.
  8. It seems the West Wave pool staff have it “in-for” Eyad and me and I have no idea why. Certainly the events of the past month appear to be in stark violation of the Auckland Council Code of Conduct. That document clearly says the following behaviour is unacceptable:

“Victimisation, intimidation, harassment, bullying or inappropriate behaviour towards another person, client or customer.”

  1. Lest there be any doubt that I sat quietly, well away from the poolside and did not communicate with Eyad in any coaching way, the West Wave pool is full of security cameras. Just play the tapes. Eyad was not being coached. I was not behaving badly. The staff just made it up. As Bob Woodward, the journalist who exposed the corruption of President Nixon said, “Happily history won, largely because of the tapes.”
  2. Since Eyad arrived in New Zealand he has swum twice a day, every day for six weeks in seven different swimming pools. Four of those pools are operated by the Auckland Council. We have conducted ourselves exactly the same way at every pool. In fact I tend to be extra cautious at West Wave because I am aware the staff there are particularly sensitive and aggressive. But only at West Wave has there been a problem. It is insulting. It is hurtful and it is wrong.

Once again the circumstances need to be investigated. This time the correction needs to be stronger and needs to include an apology from Alex Calwell and the four staff members involved today. We look forward to the Auckland Council response.


The Duty to Preserve Protect and Defend

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017



The negligence that led Swimming New Zealand to publishing the names, sex, date of birth and email addresses of thirty-six of New Zealand’s best swimmers is of serious concern. It is not the first time Swimming New Zealand has demonstrated scant regard for member’s privacy or their safety. Their cavalier attitude to the responsibility they have to their members raises serious questions about their fitness to govern. Let me give you two examples.

The first involves the publication of swimmer’s personal information that occurred this week. The decision of Swimming New Zealand’s to publish the swimmer’s personal details is covered by the Privacy Act 1993. The Act has twelve principles that stipulate how information can be collected and used, and people’s rights to gain access to that information and ask for it to be corrected.

The clause that could cause Swimming New Zealand problems is Clause Twelve. This says;

“The information must not be disclosed except in certain situations. These include where the disclosure is directly related to the purpose for which the information was collected, where the source of the information is a publicly available publication, and where the disclosure is authorized by the individual concerned.”

It appears that Swimming New Zealand may have disclosed information that is not directly related to the purpose for which the information was collected and may have done so without the authorization of the individuals concerned. The breach is serious. Swimmer involved should consider whether Swimming New Zealand’s behaviour merits filing a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Alternatively swimmers could initiate proceedings to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. If the Tribunal believes there is an “interference with the privacy” of an individual it is able to grant a range of remedies. The Tribunal can award damages to an individual of up to $200,000. The highest award so far has been over $168,000.

The second example of neglect involves a video of one of my female swimmers taken in the girls changing rooms, during the National Championships, at the Millennium Pool and posted on Instagram. The swimmer was getting changed and had no top on but did have her back to the camera. The person taking the video is heard saying “Dirty bitch”. I complained to the CEO of Swimming New Zealand. I gave him copies of the pictures involved. Clearly taking a picture of a topless girl in the changing rooms and posting it on the internet was serious and required Swimming New Zealand’s immediate attention.

The Swimming New Zealand CEO verbally told me that he did not feel the posting of topless photographs taken in the girls changing rooms was serious and probably did not merit further investigation. Only when I threatened to file a complaint with the police did he agree to look into the matter. Three weeks later I got an email from the CEO. This is what it said:

Hello David,

The matter in question was investigated following the NZ Open Championships. XXXX responded to Swimming NZ queries by 12 April and matter was subsequently closed on 15 April.

Kind Regards 

No reprimand was made. No sanction was imposed. It was a cover up. A cover up that begged the question of just how bad behaviour would have to be before the Board of Swimming New Zealand acted to protect its members.

Those two examples are bad and superficially appear very different. However there is a common thread. The dissemination of email addresses, especially the addresses of female swimmers and the cursory treatment of topless photographs appearing from the National Championship changing rooms demonstrate a cavalier disregard for the welfare of women; a syndrome we could call the Weinstein Effect.

Both examples demonstrate a pattern of conduct that should not be ignored. Better to do something now than wait until the culture of neglect in swimming causes a very serious problem. When that occurs responsible people will sit around, wringing their hands, saying, “We should have done something.” If someone had done something about Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood years ago dozens of women would have been spared his wanton behaviour.

Swimming New Zealand has shown it cannot be trusted. In recent years the organization has demanded more and more information from its members. The organization has toiled tirelessly to assume greater control over its members, over competitions and results. The Antares Place bureaucracy has grown and infiltrated every aspect of a swimmer’s career.

And the result?

Personal information gets plastered all over the internet and disgusting behaviour is swept under the carpet. On past performance the less Swimming New Zealand know about swimmers, the better. After recent events I’m not too happy about them having my credit card details on file. And if you are saying, “Don’t be silly. Of course your information is safe with Swimming New Zealand.” Just remember there were thirty-six families who thought the same thing about their son’s and daughter’s email addresses until events earlier this week. It could be that identity theft is keeping my credit card safe. I doubt that anyone in Antares Place wants to assume my identity.

The regions of Swimming New Zealand need to act to bring order to the sport. If they do not then they will be as guilty of negligence and possible collusion as the occupants of Antares Place. There is every reason for the information required from regions to be withheld until the people it is being sent to in Auckland show some remorse and demonstrate they are capable of handling their responsibilities properly.

When Privacy Means Tell The World

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

I was interested to read the Swimming New Zealand “Long List” of swimmers eligible for Commonwealth Games selection. I was also interested to read various swimming commentator’s opinions. Thirty-six names are included in the list – fifteen female and twenty-one male swimmers.

What was a surprise was the amount of information provided by Swimming New Zealand. In fact I use the word surprise in the broadest possible sense. Words like amazed, stunned appalled and shocked better describe my reaction. For there, on the Swimming New Zealand website, published for the world to read are thirty-six names, thirty-six birthdates, thirty-six classifications of sex and – wait for it – thirty-six email addresses.

Now I have no idea whether publication of swimmer’s email addresses like this is legal or not. I suspect it is not. I don’t know whether Swimming New Zealand asked the swimmers for permission to share their contact details with the world. I suspect they did not. However the technicalities don’t really matter. What is of concern is whether disclosing that amount of personal information is wise, or safe, or caring or professional. And I do not think there is any doubt about the answer to that question.

There is no way swimmer’s names, sex, dates of birth and email contacts should be spread all over the internet. It makes it difficult for members to have faith in the organization when the Head Office pays no regard for the sport’s Code of Conduct. I would be delighted if anyone could explain to me how the publication of this private information complies with these Code requirements.

For example Swimming New Zealand is required to:

  1. Provide a safe environment for the conduct of the activity in accordance with relevant Swimming New Zealand policy.
  2. Members should recognise that at all times they have a responsibility to a duty of care to all Swimming New Zealand members.
  3. Do not disclose any confidential information relating to their athletes without written prior consent.
  4. Place the safety and welfare of the participants above all else.

Is Swimming New Zealand aware that fifteen of the names are young women? Are they aware that three of them appear to be under the age of eighteen, another two are under twenty and the other eight are under twenty-four? You may ask how I know all that. I know because Swimming New Zealand thought it important to give me their dates of birth. And if anyone wants to check Swimming New Zealand provided the girl’s private email addresses. You could write to them and ask.

It is bloody incredible. We have just witnessed the behaviour of Harvey Weinstein. There is no need to go on creepy chat sites in New Zealand. Just dial up the website of the organization responsible for competitive swimming and you’ll get a list of fifteen girls, their ages and their email addresses. Is anyone in Swimming New Zealand aware of how creepy that looks?

I know that when I had a family member swimming for New Zealand and when I was helping three other female swimmers represent the country if the National Federation had published their age and personal contact details I’d have gone crazy. I just hope the families of fifteen women are beating down Swimming New Zealand’s door this morning. Pimping out their family member’s contact details is beyond unacceptable.

But there are commentators who are not much better. I’ve read pages of stuff debating the merits of having this “Long List” of names. Lengthy discussion examines the value of the long list. The stunning revelation that only two swimmers on the list have actually qualified is questioned in detail. The work still to be done by the other thirty-four swimmers is analyzed. A thousand words debate the implications of the “Long List” for swimming as a sport.

As valid as that discussion might be, the real issue of the list; the real problem its publication brings into focus is not mentioned at all. At best the publication of the swimmer’s personal information is a mere footnote to the issue of whether New Zealand is going to perform well in the Commonwealth Games. Without the timely intervention, on Facebook, of someone called Emily I doubt the scandal of the publication of the email addresses would have been mentioned at all. Well done Emily.

Many years ago I accepted money from a Wellington strip club to pay airfares for my swimmers to compete in Europe. I got summoned to a Swimming New Zealand meeting to answer the charge that accepting the money had brought the sport into disrepute. The Swimming New Zealand case collapsed when I pointed out that the same strip club had advertised on the back page of the Swimming New Zealand quarterly magazine. SNZ had accepted the strip club’s money before I did. SNZ gave me the idea. However accepting money from a strip club comes nowhere near the irresponsibility and danger of publishing swimmer’s names, sex, dates of birth and email addresses. When it comes to bringing the sport into disrepute this publication is in a class of its own.  

Members have a right to expect better than this. The CEO and staff directly responsible for the publication of the “Long List” should be disciplined. Thirty-six swimmers and especially fifteen female swimmers have a right to be protected from potential abuse. If staff members are not seriously sanctioned, I guess we will all know the extent of Swimming New Zealand’s sincerity when it comes to member’s safety.