Archive for January, 2022

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

Monday, January 10th, 2022

You can’t help but wonder what the Minister of Sport, Hon Grant Robertson, knows about his portfolio. On the 27 June 2021 he wrote to double Olympic Champion, Alan Thompson and said this:

More broadly, as part of ensuring the safety and well being across all levels of play, active recreation and sport system, the independent Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service (SRCMS), run by Immediation New Zealand, was launched in February this year.

So, what does that tell us? It tells us that Grant Robertson’s expectation is that the new service will ensure “the safety and well being across all levels of play, active recreation and sport”. I would love to hear from Robertson exactly how that is going to work. Because, you see, on the SRCMS website there is an explanation of what Raelene Castle’s new organisation cannot do. Here is a summarized version of the things they can and cannot handle:

Each team member is completely impartial and does not take sides in the dispute.

Does not provide any legal opinion in connection with the dispute

Is not there to take a detailed account or sworn witness statement about your complaint.

Is not there to assess or comment on the strength or weakness of a complaint or the evidence in support of it.

The team will provide you with general information about the facilitated resolution services and avenues available to you under the Service. 

So, there we have the Minister of Sport ensuring safety and well being across all levels of sport” and the organisation he believes will provide that safety saying they won’t take sides, they won’t provide a legal opinion and they won’t listen to your complaint or witnesses. Well, how does Robertson expect his new service to safeguard anyone? It really is the most incredible bureaucratic BS I have ever heard. The gulf between what Robertson expects and what the SRCMS says it can deliver is impossibly wide.   

My guess is there will be some who will use the new service and Robertson and Castle will claim it as a victory for justice and fair play.

But would Podmore be alive if she had taken her case to the SRCMS. No of course not. She desperately needed someone to take her side, to listen to her complaint and to provide a legal opinion. She would have got none of that from the SRCMS. Her desperation would have got worse, not better.

Would Cycling New Zealand have still cheated at the Olympic Games? Yes of course it would. Without anyone taking the side of fair play, without any legal opinion and without hearing the complaint there was no sanction to stop cycling’s dishonesty.

Would Alan Thompson have received a fair hearing? Well, we know the answer to that. Thompson did try the sport’s internal mechanisms for justice and was shafted by the system. In my opinion, Castle dispenses justice only to her own.

Would I have received a fair hearing in my Tribunal case? We know the answer to that as well. The Privacy Commissioner had no power to sanction and so Swimming New Zealand dismissed his recommendations out of hand. Would the SRCMS have been any different. Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

Would Novaxx Djokovic have received a relevant hearing before the SRCMS, had his case happened in New Zealand? No need to answer that. It is a pretty sad and pathetic joke that highlights the stupidity of Robertson’s letter.

And so, I hope we have proven a point. If you are unlucky enough to have a dispute with a national sporting organization, consult the normal avenues of the law. Do what I did and what Djokovic has done. Consult those who will take a side, who will listen to a complaint, who will hear from witnesses and who will provide a legal opinion.    

Grant Robertson is living in cloud cuckoo land if he expects the SRCMS will make any difference to justice in sport. His organisation is mere window-dressing. Bought and paid for to benefit Raelene Castle. If ever there was a case of public money being spent for the purpose of private gain the SRCMS comes close.

We have laws to help provide for our general safety. Use them.

NOVAXX DJOKOVIC

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

The world is having its say about Serbian tennis player, Djokovic. It would seem somewhat remiss if Swimwatch ignored events that have the sporting world breathless at his fate.

First things first – the guy is clearly as nutty as a well-made Christmas cake. This business of water going off by glaring at it with disapproval but staying crystal clear with a warm, approving smile – Djokovic believes that stuff. Consider how much Auckland City could save on water treatment. Just employ Djokovic to stand smiling at the edge of the Upper Mangatawhiri Dam in the Hunua Ranges and 16.22 gigalitres of pure water would be ready for us to drink.

And as for his belief that balancing a slice of bread on his stomach revealed his gluten intolerance. What else does that work for? Would a pork chop tell you to be a vegetarian? A small airplane covering your tummy button might cure a fear of flying. The potential of this discovery is endless.

I notice all his natural healing claptrap went out the window when he really needed medical help with a badly damaged elbow. Then a very modern surgeon was called in to operate. Four months later Djokovic won Wimbledon. My guess is Auckland City might be best to continue its current water treatment practice.

The Djokovic world is ridiculously funny, but dangerous as well. Because he is good at tennis, followers tend to believe his nonsense. This week his father compared him to Jesus Christ. The comparison may have merit. Australian Tennis has been as badly behaved as Judas Iscariot. Apart from what Australian Tennis says, even the look of their CEO, Craig Tiley, gives me the creeps. It is hard to escape the feeling that the decisions of Australian Tennis have been based on securing thirty pieces of silver. And certainly, the Australian Border Police have acted with the clear efficiency of a Roman Army. Whether Melbourne Judge Anthony Kelly has any resemblance to Pontius Pilot, I do not know. However, I am not aware of any request for a tennis court on Calvary.

But the real Djokovic danger is his insufferable arrogance. It is possible to be very good at sport without assuming the Djokovic conceit. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Sir John Walker and Sir Mo Farrar, Sir Steve Redgrave and Michael Phelps, Steffi Graff and Wilma Rudolph all managed their fame with dignity and class.

But not Djokovic. As Sir John Walker said to me a long time ago, “Some have class, others have ass.”  Djokovic has plenty of one and very little of the other.

For example, on the 16 December Djokovic tested positive for COVID 19. It was his second positive test in six months. The guy is a living walking incubator of the disease. The next day he attended the opening of a shopping mall and the first day of a new primary school. I guess the mall and the school asked for a celebrity. But wow, they got so much more. Attending the mall is bad enough, but attending a primary school is unbelievably thoughtless and cruel. If a person with Aids can be charged with attempted murder for sleeping with a clean partner, why should Djokovic get away with cosying up to dozens of pre-teens at school. A gun would be no more deadly.

Mind you his father says his son is Jesus (does that make the father God?) and you know what Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”. Any guy who would do what Djokovic did the day after testing positive does not give a toss about the health of Australia. Kick the waste of space out on the next flight to Belgrade. They seem to like him there. And they are welcome. We certainly can do without the likes of him in our section of the world.

Novaxx – no play.

RAELENE IS ON TO IT

Friday, January 7th, 2022

Nothing could be designed to make Raelene Castle’s Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service look pathetic and ineffectual than the Novak Djokovic visa problem in Australia. Stuff, the NZ Herald and Newshub are full of two main items of sport’s news. First is Djokovic, and second is Castle’s Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service.

Understandably thousands of news and opinion words are being written on Djokovic. It is off the subject of this post but in my opinion, Australia is handling the problem very well. They are giving Djokovic his day in court. That’s fair. As long as the end result sees us all waving at the Emirate’s flight, with Djokovic on board, leaving Australia next Tuesday. Normally I disagree with Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, on almost everything. I’m pretty sure he has only done the right thing on this occasion because the Australian elections are in four months. However, whatever the motive, he is right. The rules are the rules. And an arrogant piece of work like Djokovic needs to learn to obey them. Nadal said the obvious, “Two vaccines and a work visa and you can play anywhere”. Djokovic decided he was above that. Hopefully he is above that looking down on Australia as he is carted back home.

But back to the serious issue here. Whatever the mainstream New Zealand media are writing about Djokovic, there is Raelene advertising her Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service. I promise this is true. Yesterday there was an article in the NZ Herald on the Scott Morrison’s Djokovic press conference. Surrounding these deep and weighty matters were SIX Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service advertisements.

It is another ridiculous pilot fish and whale moment. Their proximity highlights the juvenile, pathetic and fake futility of Castle’s so-called service. When a real judicial problem comes along Djokovic goes to court. When I had a sporting problem, I did the same thing. In my case I used the Privacy Commissioner and the Human Rights Review Tribunal. In either case the thought of using Castle’s Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service was beyond useless. You would find more justice in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I am, of course, ignoring the distinction that Djokovic’s case is in Australia and the Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service is in New Zealand. Lack of jurisdiction however in no way alters the validity of the comparison between a real judicial problem and the futility of Castle’s agency to do anything about it, should they have both been in the same country. Asking for Castle’s help in a case like mine or Djokovic’s is like asking a five-year-old to do a critical appraisal of King Lear.

The reason the Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service is totally ineffectual at resolving anything approaching a serious issue is written right there on every advertisement. Castle’s folly was never equipped to solve my case or the Djokovic case any more than it could have handled the Podmore tragedy or the Thompson injustice. For example, here is what it says about itself:

Each team member is completely impartial and does not take sides in the dispute.

The one thing all our cases need is for someone to take sides – to make a decision. Who is right and who is wrong? Should Djokovic play tennis or be sent home? Castle’s agency is useless.

Does not provide any legal opinion in connection with the dispute

In other words, it has no resolution ability or power. It decides nothing. Castle’s agency is useless.

Is not there to take a detailed account or sworn witness statement about your complaint.

What on earth does it do then? The Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service doesn’t want to hear what happened but will resolve your problem anyway. Olivia don’t tell us you were paid $20,000 to lie to an investigation. Oh, and your friend who spent the night with her coach, we don’t want to hear from her either. Now how can we help? Castle’s agency is useless.   

Is not there to assess or comment on the strength or weakness of a complaint or the evidence in support of it.

So Olivia Podmore would have been told that $20,000 was not something Castle’s agency could discuss. Please don’t tell us about wandering, nocturnal games or cheating at the Olympics. We told you commenting on any of that was not our job. Castle’s agency is useless.

And so, what does the Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service do? Well Castle’s advertisements help us there as well.   

The team will provide you with general information about the facilitated resolution services and avenues available to you under the Service. 

Oh, I’m sure that is just what Djokovic, Podmore, Thompson and I needed – to hear all about Raelene’s Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service. Like that really is going to solve our problems. Castle’s agency is useless.  

STOKED

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

I am about to embark on a journey of self-loathing. I should close the computer now and avoid a day of hating my weakness. Months ago, I locked the author of the Kiwi Swimming Facebook page out of my phone, my email, my WhatsApp and my blog. My sport and my self-esteem were too important to participate in the Kiwi Swimming sewer. I wanted to be lifted up, to see the mountain tops, to learn from wise men and women and understand more. That was not what Kiwi Swimming offered. We were better off having nothing to do with each other. Kiwi Swimming is just not my sort of person.

And so, it has been for a while. Until today, when one of my swimmers suggested that, in terms of rubbish on the internet, Kiwi Swimming had just excelled himself. I admonished my informant. She should have passed the stage of reading comics. But like Eve with the apple, her information played on my weakness. I went home and read the post.

To avoid any misunderstanding, I have copied in full the Swimming New Zealand post Kiwi Swimming found objectionable and his reply.

First Swimming New Zealand:

Looking back on the best moments on 2021. After hosting record numbers at some events, our elite team inspiring Olympic pride and more kiwi’s enjoying the water more than ever. We’re stoked on the year that was 2021 and can’t wait to see you all for more good times this year.

That seems like a harmless wish for a good New Year. The sort of thing well-meaning, polite people of good will say to each other. But not Kiwi Swimming, it seems. Here is his reply:

It’s good that Swimming NZ is “stoked” about the good 2021 swimming year, saying more Kiwis enjoyed the water more than ever, when that’s simply not true.

Are they stoked that NZ Short Course champs were effectively cancelled, stoked that few achievements were attained by senior swimmers swimming in NZ, stoked that top swimmer Lewis Clareburt’s Capital Swim club is in turmoil and has lost three coaches, with their head coach now coaching juniors, stoked that we got no medals or even top six placings at the Olympics.

Stoked we could not even enter four freestylers in a relay for Olympics?

Are they stoked at the amount of time Auckland swimmers spent locked out of pools?

Stoked to employ an event coordinator who hasn’t even run one event? Stoked to have lost AON as a sponsor?

Stoked to have reduced Lewis Clareburt’s funding?

Stoked to exclude a highly seeded 12-year-old from National champs after accepting her entry then politicking her out?

2021 was a pretty bad year overall, apart from those who could swim offshore.

I’m sure you understand my reference to a sewer. I could spend an hour or so pulling apart every line. Because every line is rubbish. But instead, I will pick out a few examples of why you should ban this page from your reading list.

WITH THEIR HEAD COACH NOW COACHING JUNIORS

And what I might ask is wrong with that. Duncan Laing and Judith Wright coached juniors. Bob Bowman and Mark Schubert coached juniors. Arch Jelley coached juniors. Arthur Lydiard coached juniors. Some of the most satisfying coaching I have ever done was with juniors. They learn and so does the coach. If you can’t coach juniors, you will never coach a champion. Lydiard once told me, “David never call yourself a coach. Call yourself a teacher. It better describes what you should be doing.” But I guess that’s a bit beyond Kiwi Swimming.

WE GOT NO MEDALS OR EVEN TOP SIX PLACINGS AT THE OLYMPICS

After 20 years in the centralised training wilderness Swimming New Zealand is on its way back. Swimming can do without Kiwi Swimming’s negative stuff. Tokyo was the sport’s best result since 1996. The table below shows what I mean.  

Games Result
Tokyo 2021 2 swimmers made 3 finals
Rio 2016 0 swimmers made 0 finals
London 2012 1 swimmer made 2 finals
Beijing 2008 2 swimmers made 2 finals
Athens 2004 0 swimmers made 0 finals
Sydney 2000 0 swimmers made 0 finals

“Figures can’t lie, but liars can figure” Just go to Kiwi Swimming. You will see that skill on full display.

WE COULD NOT EVEN ENTER FOUR FREESTYLERS IN A RELAY FOR OLYMPICS

Well, what were Carina Doyle, Erica Fairweather, Ali Galyer and Eve Thomas? Looked like four swimmers in a relay to me. Chauvinism at its best.

AN EVENT COORDINATOR WHO HASN’T EVEN RUN ONE EVENT

What on earth does Kiwi Swimming have against Chloe Francis. Ever since her appointment he has taken snarky little shots at her. I reckon he has a beef with Gary and has decided the best way to inflict hurt is to attack his daughter. Pretty typical. He really should try to get his facts right, Chloe’s title is Events Manager – not coordinator. And for Kiwi Swimming’s information she is an ideal person for that job, both academically and her knowledge of swimming. In fact, I’d bet the house Chloe Francis has forgotten more about swimming that Kiwi Swimming has ever known.

REDUCED LEWIS CLAREBURT’S FUNDING

Don’t attack Swimming New Zealand for that. His funding is set by the Raelene Castle mob. Athletes have never been paid properly. But that’s down to Sport New Zealand. If Kiwi Swimming is going on the attack, he should at least select the right target.     

EXCLUDE A HIGHLY SEEDED 12-YEAR-OLD

I have no idea what that is about. All I can say is my daughter, Jane, qualified first for the Open Nationals when she was 11 years old. She was 12 when she swam. There was no problem. Is this another Kiwi Swimming storm in a teacup.

I’m sure you get the idea. That Facebook page is rubbish. And now I’m off to stand under a very hot shower for a very long time.

LIFE AND DEATH

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

Swimming New Zealand is in an unbelievably better place than it has been for over twenty years. Centralised training has come and gone. High performance swimming is gradually being taken back by local coaches. The influence of authoritarian Sport New Zealand appointments is on the wane. The atmosphere and spirit of the sport now is night and day better than the Stalin like grip we inherited from Jan Cameron. And, best of all, the sport is beginning to learn again how to live without the constant need for millions from the government. Alone and proud is most certainly a better place than the socialist shambles on display in cycling, rowing and canoe racing.

Results will come. Sure, they will take time. It took 20 years for Sport New Zealand to destroy swimming. Returning to the days of Loader, Moss, Hurring, Kingsman, Simcic, Jeffs and Langrell will take longer than five minutes. Give it time. From Whangarei to Invercargill, the right people are on the job.

My only two concerns are the temptation to get Swimming New Zealand involved in running a swim school. That is not the organisation’s role. It should stay well away. And second, as Swimming New Zealand improves, the temptation to allow Raelene Castle and her money back into the sport. Sport New Zealand and some within swimming wrecked the place once. They are poison. Don’t let them do it again.  

Steve Johns, Gary Francis and Nick Tongue don’t need me to say this, but for what it is worth, and in spite of the demented ravings of Kiwi Swimming on Facebook, well done. We are enjoying the new direction of the sport. In the words of Mohammed Ali, “You done splendid.”

But as always Swimwatch has to have a bitch about something. Take it as a sign that we care. Last year Swimming New Zealand received grants from Water Safety New Zealand totalling $602,000. This was up from $277,500 the previous year. That’s an increase of $324,500 (117%). I presume the purpose of Water Safety New Zealand increasing its grant to 17% of Swimming New Zealand’s total income was to lower the number of people drowning.

Nick Tongue and Steve Johns must be quietly dying inside when they read the following headline in todays Newshub report.

“As the warm weather hits Kiwis flock to the beach. But the sunshine also brings a dark cloud. December alone saw 20 drownings – twice as many as the same time the previous year.”

People like those who write Wellington Facebook pages are bound to jump on a number like that and push Swimming New Zealand over the Huka Falls. I can imagine his response now. “Swimming New Zealand doubles its money and doubles the deaths.”

However, that response is not at all justified. Without question the number of drownings this December is a disastrous statistic. However, there is another side to the drowning coin. Swimming New Zealand would do well to use the other side to defend themselves from Wellington rantings. For example.

  1. The number of preventable drownings in 2021 was exactly the same as 2020 – 74.
  2. From 1980, when 210 people drowned, the number has steadily decreased to 74 in 2021. That’s a pretty impressive result.
  3.  In the same period New Zealand’s population has increased from 3,176,400 to 4,860,643. The drownings per 1000 people have dropped from 4.6 in 1980 to 1.52 in 2021.  

I do not think Swimming New Zealand has anything to apologise for. I have no doubt they, like us all, wish December had been a better result. I hope Swimming New Zealand avoids blaming the December numbers on COVID. Too many businesses are using that excuse. It is becoming pathetic. In spite of December the story is a good one – a very good one. Better to focus on the positive than give the impression of blaming the world for one bad month.