OPINION: New Zealand Swimming faces a grim post-mortem as the curtain begins to fall on week one of the London Olympics.
After a poor first half of the meet, Lauren Boyle and Glenn Snyders aside, swimming's problem has grown even deeper.
The sport which headlines the opening half of the Games has seen the impressive Boyle almost single-handedly carry the New Zealand flag in the Aquatics Centre, with Snyders the only other to earn his ticket.
With national records in the 100m and his less-preferred 200m breaststroke, inconsistency in the semifinals undermined Snyders' achievements, falling short of fulfilling his potential.
Last night Daniel Bell and Melissa Ingram added to what has become a long and alarming line of slow times. Times not even threatening personal bests.
Ingram personified things yesterday. Three-hundredths of a second cost her a place in the 200m backstroke semifinal, ending her Olympic campaign and possibly even her Olympic career.
Considering the tiny margin, she was understandably annoyed to come in 17th.
However, deep down Ingram will know there’s not a lot to grumble about when her personal best, which she was a second and a half short of, would have placed her eighth. She should have qualified.
Athletes, across all sports, go to the Olympic Games to produce career-defining performances, not to try and get close to personal bests.
Likewise, Bell, who in fairness has been battling a shoulder injury, was 2.2 seconds off his backstroke grade - a massive amount over a 100m sprint.
Two days remain in the pool with Boyle’s 800m freestyle final, Hayley Palmer in the 50m freestyle and the men’s 4x100m medley relay all that’s left to go.
Despite 16 Kiwi swimmers coming to London, one more than the group that went to Beijing in 2008 and three more than Athens 2004, they’ve so far been carried by two members.
To put it another way, 12.5 per cent of the team has delivered.
Tomorrow morning Boyle features in her second final of London 2012.
The swimming community always knew she was going to lead the Olympic challenge. But now the New Zealand public, whose taxes help fund elite sport, understands the situation too.
Over the coming days and weeks Swimming New Zealand, itself in disarray, should prepare for some direct questioning from the media, from the public and from over-arching Crown funding body Sport New Zealand.
Should qualification standards be higher? Why are athletes' performances going backwards? Has taxpayer money been wasted on London 2012?
And, how do you propose to develop the one shining light you do have?
- © Fairfax NZ News