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Lauren Boyle

Lauren Boyle

New Zealand has rarely produced a swimmer capable of winning an Olympic medal.

The freakish Danyon Loader, who swam to two gold medals in 1996 and a silver four years previously, has been the most successful by the length of a pool. Three other New Zealanders have won bronze medals- that’s it, unless we go back to 1912 and the gold Malcolm Champion won as a member of an Australasian relay team.

So when we learn that Lauren Boyle, already a Commonwealth Games gold medallist and triple world championship long course bronze medallist, has decided against defending her world short course title in Doha this week, we need to take notice.

It’s been widely reported that Boyle does not believe that the coaches available to her in New Zealand at present are providing what she wants. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has widely been accused of letting their star athlete down and threatening to severely hinder her build-up to the Olympics in Rio.

But I understand that ever since Boyle declared she really needed an expert middle to long distance freestyle coach to guide her to the world championships next year and beyond, the national body has endeavoured to support her request. It would be totally irresponsible of swimming’s administrators to not move heaven and earth to help. The outstanding swimmer has very specific needs to reach her goals and SNZ has tabled a few options which have not worked out. The search is continuing to find a top class coach who is willing to come to New Zealand to work with one individual- not an easy task I would imagine.

I’ve also heard that a solution had been agreed to a couple of months ago. However, that fell over in a blow to both SNZ and Boyle and this will no doubt have disrupted the planning of the two parties.

Boyle admits the whole scenario is ‘unsettling’. All New Zealand sports fans hope it’s sorted soon. High Performance Sport NZ head, Alex Baumann, is concerned too, but believes “it will be resolved.

There’s no timeframe as it depends on Lauren”.

So there it is. One of our real medal hopes for Rio is waiting for a solution. There is hope within SNZ that such a solution is not far off. If so, Boyle will have the time and of course the coaching support she desperately wants, to build-up perfectly for the world long course championships in Russia next July which invariably determine which swimmers are on track for Olympic success the following year.

McBeth has recently been awarded a Lifetime Contribution to Sport through Journalism Award


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