Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Swimming: Cut puts swim coach's job on the line

Mark Regan. Photo / Getty
Mark Regan. Photo / Getty

As Swimming New Zealand readies for a high performance funding cut after no Olympic medals in the last 16 years, one of the governing body's three top coaches could be axed as part of cost savings.

Mark Regan, Scott Talbot and Gary Hurring are listed as "high performance coaches" on the SNZ website. However, next month, the sport is expected to be relegated to 'contestable' or annual high performance funding rather than 'targeted' funding over the four-year Olympic cycle.

As a result, the coaching budget will face scrutiny, especially with SNZ's intention to appoint an additional "performance director", who would sit over the coaches.

No appointment has been made as yet. The Herald on Sunday understands one Australian candidate got to a "check the references" point before pulling out.

SNZ is faced with a conundrum. It's believed a top quality appointment would demand a salary in excess of $200,000, money which would have to be taken from elsewhere in the SNZ coaching budget. The expectation of medals in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics makes that a tough sell.

Regan's contract runs until the end of the year but he has New Zealand's two leading swimmers in his stable - Lauren Boyle and Glenn Snyders.

Freestyler Boyle led the Olympic team with two final appearances, the only Kiwi to do so. She finished last in the 400m freestyle final and fourth in the 800m final, 2.4s off a medal. Breaststroker Snyders made the 100m and 200m semifinals.

There were few other thrills for the 16-strong team. They contested 20 events, with five personal best times achieved - two by Boyle, two by Snyders and one by the women's 4x200m freestyle relay.

Sparc, the predecessor to High Performance Sport New Zealand, had long claimed a medal and five finals would be SNZ's minimum required return to maintain the current funding - $6.6 million out of an overall high performance budget of $60 million in the last Olympic cycle.

In a further indictment on the national programme, Boyle spent most of the Olympic cycle in the United States, working towards a degree at the University of California, Berkeley. She was mentored by the American women's swim coach Teri McKeever. Boyle had been under the coaching of Australian Regan since May 2011 and continued to progress. She also made three of New Zealand's four finals at last year's world championships.

As the country's best swimmer, Boyle may consider her options elsewhere if Regan leaves but that might mean funding her future herself. Any plan she comes up with requires SNZ's stamp of approval if she is to continue to get government funding. It may be a Catch-22.

While Regan has produced the best results among local talent, home-grown coaches Hurring and Talbot have received considerable SNZ investment. They have been selected for the High Performance Sport New Zealand three-year coaching accelerator programme.

Hurring had the best result of the pair at the Games, coaching Gareth Kean to a semifinal of the 100m backstroke, where he finished last. Talbot is favourite to be appointed team manager at next month's short-course world championships in Istanbul.

- Herald on Sunday

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