Swimming's bad boy diving back in deep end

MURRAY HILLS
Last updated 05:00 27/09/2013
Daniel Bell
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
NEW GOALS: Taranaki swimmer Daniel Bell has his sights set on making the New Zealand team for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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Rightly or wrongly, Daniel Bell has been tagged as Swimming New Zealand's bad boy. The 23-year-old admits he did a few things wrong when he was younger, but he has matured and is keen to resurrect his career in the pool. He talks to Murray Hills about his goals.

Daniel Bell has always been one to hit the headlines.

On most occasions it's been for the right reasons, with wins and record times in the pool.

But three indiscretions weigh heavily on the talented swimmer.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, only hours after Bell and the New Zealand men's medley relay team finished fifth in the final, a photo of a drunken Bell, passed-out in a toilet cubicle, found its way around the New Zealand team.

A year later, after the world championships in Rome, Bell was admitted to hospital suffering from excessive alcohol intake.

Then, in 2010, Bell was sent home from the Commonwealth Games in Delhi for breaching the zero-tolerance alcohol protocol after celebrating his silver medal in the 100m backstroke.

In the months that followed, Bell's career dipped.

His results were average and when Swimming New Zealand cut back the funding to their elite swimmers, Bell's passion for the sport faded.

Now Bell is back in the pool and determined the only headlines will be positive ones.

"People have a perception of me as a bad boy. There's been lots of negative articles written about me and in some cases I've been quoted when I didn't even talk to the reporter," he said this week as he prepares to get back into competition mode at the New Zealand short course championships, starting in Wellington on Sunday.

"Over the last three years, I haven't popped up in any negative reports in the media. I've been trying to keep my nose clean."

Bell said he was misunderstood by many.

"People believe what they read. The people who know me, know what's true."

But Bell is the first to admit he did make mistakes early in his career.

"I was only 17 when I was first selected on the national team. I've never broken any laws, just been outlawed.

"People don't understand that you train hard for six months and don't touch a drop. Then you have a couple of celebratory drinks and you get slammed," he said. "Maybe I've grown up a bit, matured. There's other things in my life now. I'm trying to settle down now and make Taranaki my home."

Bell, who grew up in Auckland, is now working fulltime.

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"Basically, when I first started swimming I was paid to swim. Then Swimming New Zealand cut their funding and I lost my carding, my ranking levels.

"Now I'm having to work to swim. It's a big change."

The 23-year-old is now employed by Jeremy and Racheal Cottam, who own Flush Plumbing, where he is doing a drainlaying course.

"My aim work wise is to be a swimming coach, but I'm happy for now drainlaying and helping out being a farmhand for Jeremy and Racheal."

The couple's daughter, Maxyna, is Bell's partner. The talented cyclist is at home recovering after a nasty bike accident while out training in the Waikato.

Bell is in for a busy time in Wellington next week competing in the 50m backstroke, butterfly, freestyle and breaststroke, along with the 100m backstroke and butterfly.

"Plus I'll do the 100m individual medley and the club and regional relays. Eighteen swims over the week. It's full-on."

The day after the champs end on Friday, Bell and Maxyna Cottam fly south to Invercargill where she will compete in a track carnival run in conjunction with the Yunca Tour.

Bell said he was just getting back into full training.

"I took a year off to get my shoulder right. I've always had a problem with it since I hurt it playing rugby when I was younger. Bodylogic has been a great help. Mick McBeth is a sponsor and he keeps me in the pool," he said.

"I'm doing four or five pool sessions a week with my coach Sue Southgate.

"When I get back into full training, I'll be doing nine sessions a week. I might be a bit underdone for the champs."

Bell's immediate goal is making the New Zealand team for next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

It will be his second Games, following his mixed time in and out of the pool in Delhi. He also has a bronze medal at the 2008 world short course champs in Manchester to his credit.

"The long-term goal is Rio in 2016."

- Taranaki Daily News

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