Surf lifesaving: Cuts will hit talent pool, says Beattie

By Peter White


Max Beattie was one of the standout stars in what he calls "the best experience of my entire life" as part of the New Zealand team that won the world title off Australia for the first time recently, but the champion 21-year-old surf lifesaver has ended 2012 with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Like the rest of the New Zealand organisation, Beattie has been left bewildered and angry that just two months after beating the Australians, High Performance Sport New Zealand decided to slash in half the sport's funding by 54 per cent from $710,000 to $330,000.

And to dig the wound even deeper, performance enhancement grants (PEGs) to individual athletes have been eliminated completely.

What that means for Beattie is he loses $15,000 in priceless income that enabled him to train full-time as a professional athlete and compete on the world stage.

Beattie was not holding back when he spoke about the decision just minutes after another outstanding performance in winning the prestigious Ian Porteous Memorial ironman title on his home beach at Omanu on Sunday.

"To be fair through a lack of other words that suit, it was an absolute joke," Beattie said.

"We did the unthinkable. We are world champions in a sport that Australia has dominated in for the past 100 years. No one has been able to touch them.

"To do what we did is something spectacular and in terms of funding we have not got anywhere near the recognition we deserve.

"Everybody has had their funding cut, not just me ... We are all absolutely flabbergasted. There is literally no more we could have done. We nearly beat Australia by 100 points ...

"That world's team of ours has no money whatsoever and what is even more unbelievable is we are all professional athletes. I train four times a day much like everyone else.

"I do as much training as rugby league and rugby union players, All Blacks and that sort of stuff, we are as much athletes as they are. Now I have to go and find part-time work, which is definitely going to hinder my performance and backing up the win at Rescue 2014 in France is going to be very, very hard.

"We have trips to Japan for the International Challenge around August, and Germany for the pool rescue event, that are preparation events for France, so it is going to be very hard for us to perform if we don't have the right resources.

"Look I don't even know if we can afford to go anymore."

Beattie says one immediate consequence of the funding cuts could well show up in the outstanding pool rescue area where the world championship against Australia was set up.

"We have some absolutely phenomenal swimmers in the pool and now they won't be getting the money we are going to really struggle in the pool, and that was our edge over Australia.

"... The pool side of things is where we really dominated at the world champs. I think we are going to see a lot of swimmers start being just pool swimmers, rather than in our programme, and we are going to lose a lot of strike power in that way."

The logic behind High Performance Sport New Zealand's decision was to target Olympic sports but winning coveted world titles off the Australians surely deserves recognition.

Over the years, surf lifesaving has proved a fertile source of Olympic competitors in sports like kayaking, swimming and triathlon.

Even more baffling is that in the latest funding round, cricket received $400,000 even though it is not an Olympic sport and has reached nowhere near any performance criteria for funding.

It seems once again surf lifesaving has had the sand kicked in its face at a time when it should be put on a pedestal as the blueprint for other sporting organisations on how to beat the best in the world.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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