Swimming: Leader of provinces

By Shane Hurndell

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Mike Lee is the country's best provincial swimming coach again. Photo / Duncan Brown
Mike Lee is the country's best provincial swimming coach again. Photo / Duncan Brown

Eleven years ago Hawke's Bay swimming coach Mike Lee was given a personalised car registration plate.

It reads "I H8 2ND" and no longer travels. It sits among the Napier Aquahawks mentor's prized trophies.

Lee's peers again appreciated how appropriate the gift was when he collected the Provincial Swim Coach of the Year award for the third time at the annual New Zealand Swimming Teachers and Coaches Association awards night in Wellington this week. While the four gold medallists among his 10 medallists at last week's national age group championships were a key factor in his success Lee was quick to point out the award recognised his achievements for the entire season.

"Our feats at the national junior champs in February, the national division two meet in March and the New Zealand Open championships which doubled as the Commonwealth Games trials also contributed."

The 2008 and'09 winner of the award, which has also been won by Greendale's Noel Hardgrave-Booth and former Sundevils coach Jon Winter, Lee, said his third collect was celebrated in a manner which made it tough for him to make the sunrise start to a coaching session in the capital the following day.

The session was part of a two-day conference for association coaches.

One of his gold medallists, 15-year-old Stuart Graham, won five titles with wins in his 50m, 100m and 200m fly finals and in the Hawke's Bay Poverty Bay 4x50m freestyle relay and 4x50m medley relay teams. Graham's twin brother, Tavis, was also on the two relay teams.

Fourteen-year-old Ruby Adsett won gold in her 400m, 200m and 50m freestyle finals while 15-year-old Maddie Mason won gold in her 100m breaststroke final.

Silver medals were won by Hadlee Dyer in the 400m individual medley, Bruin Maunder in his 200m breaststroke final, Adsett in her 100m freestyle final and in the HBPB 4x50m medley relay final and by Mason in her 400m and 200m individual medley finals and in her 4x50m medley relay final.

Nine of Lee's swimmers travelled home with bronze medals.

When asked if this haul from a team of 15 swimmers, Hawke's Bay Poverty Bay's biggest at the champs, exceeded expectations, Lee replied: "We got exactly what we earned. "I was pretty happy as I wasn't really anticipating any more."

A Napier-based coach for the past 15 years, Lee coaches 100 swimmers for up to nine sessions each week.

He is poolside at the Napier Aquatic Centre for 30 hours each week.

While he isn't predicting any of his swimmers to qualify for the Rio Olympics he said several have the talent and potential to make the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"They don't know who they are yet so I won't name them. At the same time a lot of work is required over a long time before they reach Olympic level," Lee said.

A former basketballer who missed the cut for Olympic Games selection in 1980, Lee stressed his award win was a team effort.

"My wife, Robynne, teaches our swimmers how to win, my daughter Anna taught them how to win and I reaped the rewards.

Anna was his assistant coach for five years before moving to Wanganui with hubby and fellow swimming coach Andy McLay earlier this year.

Lee pointed out he will continue coaching until the Tokyo Olympics.

"A fourth win of this award will be better," Lee added with a firm grip on his plaque.

We didn't need reminding this bloke hates second.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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