World Championships Daily Report – Sunday

So what happened on the last day in Korea? Did New Zealand swimming make progress on day six of the championship – Saturday 27 July 2019?

New Zealand had one swimmer in the pool – Clareburt (400 IM).

Clareburt placed 5th in his heat in a time of 4:14.56s and qualified for the final. He was 0.29s away from his personal best time. His ranking after the heat was 5th, an improvement from 11.

In the finals tonight Clareburt placed third in a New Zealand record time of 4:12.07.

After today’s heats and finals the team’s final PB ratio is 3 PBs (men’s 4×200 relay, Clareburt 400IM and Galyer 100 back) from 20 swims or 15%; not good at all.

Excluding Galyer who qualified for the semi-final and Clareburt who qualified for the final, 18 swims by New Zealand swimmers averaged 1.8% behind the time required to progress to the next round.

Sunday 28 July

Name Event PB Swum Ranking Swum
CLAREBURT 400m IM 4:14.27 4:14.56 11 5
CLAREBURT 400m IM Final 4:14.27 4:12.07 5 3


So that’s the world championships done for another year. What has been learned. Here are some facts.

Gary Francis is right. Repairing New Zealand swimming is not going to be an overnight fix. The damage caused by the inhabitants of Antares Place has been serious. It took a decade and $15million to create this mess. There is no reason why repairing it should take any less time or cost any less money. The real question is do Cotterill and Johns know what to do or how to spend the funds needed to fix the harm? I don’t think so.

Three New Zealand records were broken. That may seem like success. New Zealand’s problem is that at the Championships the rest of the world broke 8 world records. Quite simply that means the world is moving ahead far faster than New Zealand is catching up. There is no other way of explaining a ratio of 3 to 8. Here is a list of the world records broken this week.

100m breaststroke 56.88 Adam Peaty
200m breaststroke 2:06.12 Anton Chupkov
100m butterfly 49.50  Caeleb Dressel
200m butterfly 1:50.73 Kristof Milak
200m backstroke 2:03.35 United States
4×200m women’s freestyle relay 7:41.50 Australia
4×100 mixed freestyle relay 3:19.40 United States
4100 women’s medley relay 3:50.40 United States

Confirming that problem, and excluding Galyer’s qualifying swim in the 200m backstroke and Clareburt’s qualifying swim in the 400IM, the New Zealand team ended up averaging 1.8% behind qualifying for a final or a semi-final. Remember that is not behind winning an event – that is 1.8% on average behind progressing to the top 8 or top 16. The American Swim Coaches Association tells us swimmers should be improving at an average rate of 3% per annum. New Zealand is 1.8% behind the world. If the world stands still that’s about 7 months of improvement. New Zealand’s problem, of course, is that the world is not standing still. In fact it’s improving close to 3 times faster than we are. Remember the ratio of 8 world records to 3 New Zealand records.

Exacerbating that concern is the awful PB ratio of New Zealand’s swimmers. Not only is the world improving faster, New Zealand is improving far too slowly – nowhere near the ASCA 3% per annum standard. Ignoring individual swims in relays, the team swam 3 PBs (men’s 4×200 relay, Clareburt 400 IM and Galyer 100 back) from 20 swims or 15%; that is terrible. Club coaches all over the world would be asked difficult questions about a 15% PB ratio. If New Zealand swimming is going to catch the rest of the world it will have to do a lot better than 3 PBs from 20 swims. Our current PB ratio of 15% needs to be well over 50%. Sadly we are miles behind. Eyad at the last NZ National Championships achieved 100%. That’s how to catch up. Remember this problem is not the swimmer’s fault. This mess is down to Cameron, Miskimmin and Cotterill. Francis could fix it if only he managed to summon the courage to tell Johns to bugger-off.

Because, you see being 1.8% (7 months) away from making a semi-final or a final is a difficult hill to climb – especially when the world is moving ahead at three times New Zealand speed. But what is going to take time is winning a world event. The average gap between the New Zealand swimmers in Korea and the winner of each event was 5%. That is a huge problem. According to ASCA data New Zealand is close to 2 years behind – that is assuming the world stood still and New Zealand improved at the ASCA rate of 3% per annum. Sadly 8 world records tells us that the world is not standing still and 3 PBs from 20 swims tells us we are not improving at anything like 3% per annum.

The table below shows the gap between the time swum by the winner of each event in Korea and the time swum by the New Zealand swimmer. The table also shows the percentage gap between the two times.

 Swimmer Winning Time NZ Time % Gap
Galyer 58.60 1.01.53 4.8
Ashby 52.43 55.02 4.7
Stanley 1.44.93 1.49.36 4.1
Fairweather 1.54.22 1.59.68 4.6
Hunter 46.96 49.78 5.7
Reid 7.39.27 7.57.46 3.8
Reid 3.42.44 3.51.25 3.8
Fairweather 3.58.76 4.12.30 5.4
Hunter 22.35 24.21 7.7
Ashby 49.66 53.73 7.6
Women 4×200 Relay 7.41.50 8.03.28 4.5
Men 4×200 Relay 7.00.85 7.13.06 2.8
Galyer 2.03.69 2.09.98 4.8
Ashby 1.56.14 1.59.96 3.2
Thomas 8.13.58 8.44.65 5.9
Pickett 21.04 22.59 6.9
Edwards 24.05 26.05 7.7
Claireburt 4:08.95 4:12.07 1.2
Average     5.0

So let’s do a theoretical exercise. The table shows us that the winners at this championship were 5% ahead of New Zealand’s swimmers. We also know the world is progressing at about 2% per annum. So what rate do we need to improve at to catch the world by the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France. The answer is simple maths. If New Zealand wants to catch the world from where we are at after this world championships Gary Francis and Steve Johns have to secure an improvement in New Zealand elite swimming that is 1% higher than the rest of the world. If the world is progressing at 2% New Zealand has to achieve 3% to catch up by 2024. Is Steve Johns capable of improving the sport by 3% per annum for five years? I don’t think so, but we are about to see. He’s great at holding everyone else to various KPIs. Let’s see how good he is at meeting some of his own.

What we need to avoid like the plague – and what Johns is almost certainly going to do – is focus excessive attention on the performance of one swimmer, Clareburt. It is a temptation encouraged by Sport NZ’s allocation of funding and accepted by weak administrators. Too often SNZ administrators have grabbed hold of one good swimmer in a desperate effort to impress Sport NZ. Too often the focus on one individual has been at the expense of the rest of the sport. SNZ did it with Lauren Boyle, and before her Danyon Loader. That “cult of personality” management has badly hurt the sport of swimming. It has been yet another reason behind the performance-desert faced today.

Nothing can detract from the bronze medal performance of Clareburt. It is admirable in every way. But we need to maintain a sense of balance and remember it was not so long ago that Boyle was winning 1 Gold, 2 Silver and 4 Bronze medals at world championships or Danyon Loaders 2 Gold, 2 Silver and 2 Bronze. I remember traveling with a New Zealand team of three swimmers to what was then the world short course championships when all three swimmers came home with medals. On the list of all time medal winning countries New Zealand ranks 30th. Indeed we have a long way to go.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.