I have always been a bit suspicious of the Waikato Region. It began in the 1990s when the Open Nationals were held in Hamilton. Swimming New Zealand had ruled that the next Pan Pacific Games’ team would be selected solely on the time swum in the finals of each event. I was coaching Toni Jeffs and Nichola Chellingworth who had swum the qualifying time on several occasions. But never in a pool as shallow as Hamilton.

I wrote to the Chairman of the Organising Committee, Merle Jonson, explaining that the conditions were unfair, especially for sprinters. Sprinters were going to have to use a different and slower dive. It was, I said like asking Carl Lewis to “run uphill on a muddy path”. As often happened in those days I got a letter back that said, the rules are the rules. Bad luck.

I made a visit to our Club’s lawyers. We arranged to file an injunction to have the meet stopped unless things were changed. The papers were submitted to the High Court in Wellington, and Swimming New Zealand was instructed to turn up to a Court hearing. A day before the hearing I got a phone call, telling me there had been a misunderstanding, other swims would be considered when selecting the Pan Pacific Games’ team. No more injunction. Toni and Nichola were selected for the team

Another change to Swimming New Zealand rules happened because of a protest at a Waikato swim meet. You probably know the clause, in meet flyers, that says, “We will attempt to have the required number of officials but reserve the right to have fewer.” That clause was never used until Jane Copland got disqualified for a turn in a Waikato breaststroke race. I protested. The rules require sixteen turns’ judges and Waikato only had four. The rules also said that if a mistake by a swimmer follows a mistake by an official, the swimmer must be reinstated. Waikato did not have the correct number of turn officials. Jane must be reinstated. A hearing was held. Waikato was furious but Jane was back in – the winner of the women’s 200 breaststroke. And that is how the clause came into being.

Those two occasions were pretty serious. A shallow pool and disqualifying a swimmer when the nearest official is fifteen metres away are worth arguing about. I have also occasionally thought the Waikato Region’s flyers are a bit officious. Like their rule that says, “Swimmers may enter up to a Maximum of 8x Individual Events Only.” Is the “only” necessary. Or the meet description that says, “to strategically maximise FINA Points”. Wow, that’s a strategic mouthful. These are small points, best ignored.

However, I have done Waikato swimming a disservice. Despite the last minute COVID red light change, this weekend Waikato put on a 300 swimmer meet. I have just received the reseeded psych sheets, divided, by age, into three groups of 100 swimmers each. The groups then alternate through Saturday and Sunday.

Brilliant work, Waikato. The administration effort required to prepare this plan is impressive. The hours that must have gone into putting the plan together is swimming administration at its best.

I apologise for banging on about Cotterill’s $25million, 20-year, centralisation disaster. That whole failed catastrophe was based on the premise that a centralised sport could do things better. New Zealand, they said, did not have the skills to see swimming compete at the highest level. We needed to consolidate power in Auckland. We needed coaches and administrators from the USA, the UK and especially we needed to lean on Australia – two Camerons, Regan, Renford, Sweetenham and Talbot were all imported across the Tasman.

At the same time Cotterill was costing us New Zealanders like Gary Hurring. No sport, especially in a country as small as ours can afford to lose a huge talent like Garry Hurring. That is the Cotterill legacy.

Cotterill certainly didn’t look in Hamilton. This weekend dozens of volunteers have proven the skills available in the regions. Skills that for twenty years Cotterill wasted. Waikato has put a lie to the centralisation nonsense. Given the opportunity, given hard working and talented administrators and coaches the regions can and are lifting this sport back up by its local bootlaces. The decision taken by Tongue, Johns and Francis to decentralise was justified tenfold in Waikato this weekend.  Well done Waikato and thank-you.

I see Gwen Ryan from the Waterhole Club has given the meet a Facebook thumbs up. Gwen is a tough judge. One of the world’s best swimming administrators – if Gwen thinks the meet was well run – it was well run indeed.     

There were many good swimmers in Hamilton. Eyad had a ball. He swam eight events which is double what I would ever dream of getting him to swim. But we were using the weekend as an anaerobic training session. Here is how he got on.

100 Fr 53.71 55.52 no Good first race
50 Bk 32.63 Convert 31.56 yes Big PB 3.3%
50 Fl 26.16 26.61 no Good first fly race
100 Br NT 1.22.69 yes Good time only 20s rest after the 50 fly
100 Fl 59.01 Convert 1.01.16 no A LC PB the 59.01 is SC converted
50 Br 32.63 32.25 yes Another PB this time 1.2%
50 Fr 24.23 24.05 yes Wow, wow PB in best event in first meet
200 IM NT 2.32.50 yes Good warm down lol

And finally thank-you to the official who saw Eyad only had 20 seconds rest between his 50 fly and 100 breast and thought that deserved a spot prize. I told you there are good officials in New Zealand’s regions. That gesture makes it all worthwhile. So, thank-you Waikato. As Mohammed Ali said, “You done splendid.”

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.