Andrew Alderson

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

Swimming: Boyle single-handedly keeping her sport afloat

Swimmer Lauren Boyle joined an elite club when she won gold and bronze at the short course world championships in Turkey this month.

The club could be titled: 'New Zealand athletes single-handedly maintaining the wellbeing of their sport'.

Lisa Carrington and Marina Erakovic are arguably doing the same with canoeing and tennis respectively. There have been past examples - rower Rob Waddell circa 1998-2000; boxer David Tua for most of the 1990s through to his 2000 heavyweight title fight with Lennox Lewis and, appropriately enough, swimmer Danyon Loader at the 1996 Olympics.

Boyle secured a gold medal in the 800m freestyle and a bronze in the 400m, becoming the first New Zealander to win two medals at the same short course world championships. It was buoyant news despite Swimming New Zealand's 16 years without an Olympic medal. Swimming was demoted as a targeted sport by High Performance Sport New Zealand last week. It will now contest for annual funding rather than being guaranteed investment to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The news is not as dismal as it sounds. The sport will still receive $1.4 million next year - a fraction less than the figure they applied for - to try to conjure up a medal at the Barcelona world championships in July and August.

That compares to the average of $1.65 million per year during the 2009-12 Olympic cycle.

With Boyle's form, albeit in the 25m rather than 50m pool, they could have a chance of redemption. Loader won New Zealand's last long course world championship medals in 1994.

Other swimmers such as breaststroker Glenn Snyders, freestyler Matt Stanley and backstroker Gareth Kean have shown potential but Boyle is the only one to achieve success at major meets. In addition to her two short course medals, she was the only New Zealander to make any finals (fourth in the 800m and eighth in the 400m) at the London Olympics.

Boyle is on an HPSNZ performance enhancement grant of $47,500 over the coming year for those efforts.

The 25-year-old is believed to be keen to race until at least the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Extending her career to the next Olympics might be a stretch.

As a result, SNZ owes Boyle its support. A significant proportion of the $1.4 million will likely be based on what she wants to do. Boyle is understood to favour another altitude camp like the one she lobbied for last November-December in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Not helping matters is Boyle's coach Mark Regan is currently only appointed on a month-by-month basis; hardly the sort of forward planning to lift her spirits.

The Herald on Sunday understands Luis Villanueva, the new SNZ high performance director who arrives next month after Olympic success with Spain, will be expected to make an early call on whether Regan is retained in the coaching structure.

The loss of fellow high performance coach Scott Talbot to the New South Wales Institute of Swimming and Sydney University means some budget might be freed to keep Regan.

Regardless of Regan's future, his pupil Snyders will be based in the United States next year. The 25-year-old's plan is to base himself in southern California and regularly participate in international competition after securing multiple breaststroke medals on the post-Olympic world cup circuit.

Investment in SNZ's satellite high performance programme with Gary Hurring in Wellington might also need to be reconsidered in a more frugal era with the main base at the Millennium Institute on Auckland's North Shore.

SNZ has already undergone significant change in the past few months with a new constitution, new board, new chairman, new high performance director and a search for a new chief executive officer.

- Herald on Sunday

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