Swimming bosses are in full swing on a significant change in approach which they hope will boost the standard at the top in New Zealand and ultimately lead to a stronger presence on the world's biggest stages.

Swimming New Zealand have shifted away from a centralised model, when the leading athletes were based at the national aquatic centre on the North Shore.

The problem there was some preferred to train overseas, primarily in the United States or Australia.

So now the elite swimmers are situated all round the country, in the US and Australia, with SNZ's encouragement.


"There were a number of reasons it wasn't working," SNZ chief executive Steve Johns said.

"But we haven't been getting the results we'd hoped we would, and certainly from a High Performance Sport perspective what they had hoped and expected we would be getting.

"So to continue with the centralised model and expect to get different results is the definition of insanity."

Swimming received a funding trim to the tune of $400,000 after the Rio Olympics. Last year the sport undertook a review in the wake of that financial hit, the impact on its business and decided to de-centralise and wrap support around them.

There are about 12 swimmers who sit in the senior group.

The highest-ranked swimmer is Wellington-based Lewis Clareburt, who is 11th in the 400m individual medley, the event in which he won a bronze at April's Commonwealth Games.

Others include the likes of American-based Corey Main in Florida, Gabrielle Fa'amausili at the University of Georgia and rapid rising teenager Alex Galyer at the University of Kentucky, along with Auckland-based Bradlee Ashby and Daniel Hunter.

Matt Stanley, Zac Reid and Mya Rasmussen are based in Queensland while there's a highly-promising South African Luan Grobbelaar, who swam at this year's Commonwealth Games for South Africa.

He is 16 but is standing down a year to become eligible for New Zealand.

"The swimmers not based in Auckland will also get some support. Under the old model if they wre based in the US or train in Queensland basically they had no support from Swimming NZ," Johns said.

"We have freed up some funding and by October-November will have fully implemented the new programme."

There is an eye on the second and third tier athletes too, and the idea is to periodically bring in some leading overseas coaches to offer a guiding hand and provide feedback.

"Ultimately we want to get more swimmers on podiums, but first we need more in finals," Johns added.

Expectations for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 are modest but the sights are set on 2024 and 2028.

"This is a huge change, not so much a U turn but a right angle in our approach," said SNZ's targeted athlete and approach manager Gary Francis.

"We're looking at what is going to work best for individuals, where the best programme is for them, who is the best coach for them and what is the best environment."

Francis acknowledged this isn't an overnight fix but believes inroads are being made.

Contact with coaches has been encouraging, those in the US and Australia have been supportive and "home-based coaches are itching to be more involved and feel they've been left out for a long time".

As a parting catch-all line Francis added: "We are very confident by 2024 of having not only really competitive swimmers but really strong coaches who know what they need to deliver."