Swimming faces long rebuild - Danyon Loader

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2012
danyon loader
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DANYON LOADER: "There's never been a good model in place. Even during my career, the best interests of swimmers were not at heart."

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New Zealand's greatest Olympic swimmer, Danyon Loader, warns that rehabilitation of his sport could take up to 10 years.

Welcoming calls for extreme change inside Swimming New Zealand as "a landmark moment", the two-time Olympic champion says there should be no expectation of a quick fix.

Loader was one of 46 people to attend a public meeting in Auckland on Friday where experienced sports administrator Chris Moller unveiled sweeping recommendations for the organisation's reform.

Moller's taxpayer-funded investigation is the third ordered by Crown entity Sport NZ into Swimming NZ in four years and follows a stakeholder revolt against the sport's national body.

Loader says Swimming NZ has never had a good administrative framework. This was the case even during the peak of his career, when he was winning Olympic gold medals and breaking world records, and he says reform is vital.

"This is a landmark moment for swimming, very much so," Loader told the Sunday Star-Times.

"I think it's a positive move, but it's no quick fix. While there's emphasis for change to happen, there's no timeframe.

"It's not going to happen within a year, or two years, it might even be 10 years down the track.

"There's never been a good model in place. Even during my career, the best interests of swimmers were not at heart."

The review had done a thorough job, but this was just a draft stage, lacking detail – "they've not gone into any nitty-gritty".

"It will be up to whatever appointments are made to really bring about change.

"It can only get better from there. It really needs a shake-up, it needs to start again.

"There's a glimmer of hope now, the other reports only gave solutions to some of the problems."

Another at Moller's Auckland meeting was Beijing Olympics head coach Jan Cameron, who also welcomed the draft findings, adding she wished such a comprehensive review had occurred during her reign.

Cameron resigned from Swimming NZ after extreme criticism of her in the previous report, conducted by former New Zealand Sports Foundation boss Chris Ineson in 2011.

"It would have been good if this thorough a report had been done during my time," Cameron told the Sunday Star-Times yesterday.

"The Ineson report offered no concrete evidence on its findings, it's a document consisting of `he says, she says'.

"Hopefully what we will see when the full Moller report comes out is detail, depth and facts.

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"The sport must move on and these draft recommendations are a positive step."

The public release of the draft findings dropped a bombshell on Friday.

In a scathing assessment, Moller made 17 major recommendations including the immediate resignation of chief executive Mike Byrne and the replacement of the entire board.

Following Moller's presentation, Swimming NZ board member Humphrey Pullon claimed that although Byrne was still technically employed and confidentially discussing severance, he had "already packed up and left the office".

Pullon also claimed general manager Mark O'Connor had been moved into Byrne's role as a temporary replacement.

Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin says the three reports conducted into Swimming NZ sit as a unit, with no one individual investigation having precedence over another.

"In my mind this one is really about the sport, the management and the governance of it," Miskimmin said.

"The Ineson and [Bill] Sweetenham reports were basically about one element, high performance. But I'd rather look forward.

"The most important thing is there is no impact on elite athletes and hopefully their success in London."

Miskimmin declined comment on the potential impact if swimming fails to take on board the Moller report's recommendations, which are expected to come out in full over the next two months.

- Sunday Star Times

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