Andrew Alderson

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

Swimming: Coach's return hits wall

Mark Regan. Photo / NZ Herald.
Mark Regan. Photo / NZ Herald.

Efforts by the New Zealand Swimmers' Association (NZSA) to return former high performance coach Mark Regan to pool deck remain in vain.

Regan recently resigned after a three-year tenure with Swimming New Zealand. He is understood to have been fed up with what he felt were restrictions on his ability to do a good job.

Attempts at a compromise between SNZ and the NZSA (on behalf of Regan's athletes) have failed thus far. Regan's squad includes world short-course 800m champion Lauren Boyle who was New Zealand's best performed swimmer at the Olympics with fourth in the 800m.

The Herald on Sunday understands Regan's exit was driven by four factors.

1. His contract was rolled over on a month-by-month basis rather than being given any certainty leading to the world championships at Barcelona in July and August.

2. He wanted to take his squad to another high altitude camp - much like the one at Flagstaff, Arizona in November and December 2011 - but SNZ said this year, with reduced high performance funding, they only had the budget to send London Olympians Boyle, Gareth Kean and Matthew Stanley.

Regan's response was along the lines of: we either all go or none of us go.

3. SNZ refused to continue providing him with a car.

4. There was no guarantee he would continue to be granted office space at SNZ's Millennium Institute base on Auckland's North Shore.

The NZSA, with the help of New Zealand Athletes' Federation boss Rob Nichol, argued that while Regan could sometimes be difficult to deal with, his expertise was vital for New Zealand to have any chance of achieving their goals at the world championships. They will receive $1.4 million of taxpayer investment this year but need to keep securing top results before High Performance Sport New Zealand will guarantee them further annual funding.

Regan did not return calls and swimmers are bound by a code of conduct which includes clauses such as "to restrict public comment to his/her own personal performances, and not make any public comment in relation to other swimmers' performances, or the policies, management or administration of SNZ".

However, tensions are understood to be high among the swimmers affected because no contingency measures are in place with world championships qualifying due to take place at the New Zealand open championships in March.

The possibility of a Regan recall has been complicated by the appointment of high performance director Luis Villanueva from Spain. The NZSA is hoping Regan would accept a role under Villanueva on the understanding his dealings with SNZ office staff are kept to a minimum. There is a feeling momentum will be lost if SNZ has to go back to the coaching marketplace.

- Herald on Sunday

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