Updated 23 March 2024   Link to Sports Photos

This section of my website is an autobiographical account of my swimming career starting from learning to swim, competing as a Junior, Senior, and Masters swimmer in New Zealand and includes descriptions of not only my swimming, but also my running, two activities which I have continued into my 70s. My account includes an historical comparison of swimming in the 1960s compared to modern day swimming, a comparison of swimming and running, and mentions fellow swimmers and officials. My autobiography also includes an account of my academic and work career with anecdotes which were inextricably connected to my sports activities. My sports photos provide an additional glimpse of my sports activities.


There are many people who influenced me and helped me during my swimming career. The following summary sets the record straight as to the roles of swimming teacher, coach, trainer, mentor, and supporter who have been involved in my swimming career. I elaborate more on these roles later on.

Learning to swim
– I taught myself to float and swim.

Stroke technique
– Lyndon Olds taught me the basics of freestyle stroke technique. I taught myself the stroke technique of backstroke and butterfly by observing and imitating Otago Senior swimmers. I ignored how other Seniors swam breaststroke and I taught myself to swim my own distinctive style of breaststroke where I drew my elbows in sharply to my ribs at the end of each arm stroke. This arm action is now universal stroke technique for modern day competitive swimmers.  In the summer of 1963-1964, George Ashton, an amateur swimming coach in charge of a squad of swimmers in Blenheim, persuaded me to change the timing of my breaststroke. He saw fit to leave my leg kick and arm stroke alone. That was the last time I received any stroke technique instruction. Many decades later I regret that I did not take advantage of Duncan Laing’s stroke technique workshops on Saturdays to improve my backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle.

Training programmes
– In the summer of 1963-1964, George Ashton also introduced me to interval training and I followed his training programmes for four weeks as a member of his swimming squad. George Ashton posted me several training programmes on my return to Dunedin, but it soon became clear to both of us that training by correspondence was not the way to go. From then onwards I developed my own training programmes as a Junior, Senior, and Masters swimmer with the exception of a 4-week tapering programme set by Duncan Laing in June 1966. In July 1966 I continued swimming my own training programmes as I had done before with success at the 1965 Junior National Swimming Championships where I won two gold medals in breaststroke and a gold medal in the 220 yards medley. At the Junior Nationals I broke my own National record in the 220 yards breaststroke. In September 1965 I lowered this National record a third time and set a new Junior National record for the 110 yards breaststroke.

Mentors and supporters
– Bill Hammond and Duncan Laing were my long-term mentors and staunchest supporters. In the winter months of 1964, Bill Hammond, then caretaker of the Otago Boys High School, allowed me access to the school’s 20-yards swimming pool at 6.00 am each morning during week days while he had breakfast. At the end of my solo training sessions, he timed me over 100 yards breaststroke. In July 1966, Duncan Laing allowed me to swim with his training squad in a separate lane. For this, I am eternally grateful. Not every coach would have been as generous. Duncan Laing later on became my boss and friend when I joined him as his third assistant coach in 1973/1974.

I am grateful to all those who have helped me with my swimming career and I have taken care to pay back that debt by helping other swimmers in return.


I was a Ward of the State from the age of 2-1/2 years to 18. My siblings and I were subject to parental neglect while under “care” at the Girls Home in Elliot Street, Dunedin, the Boys Home at Lookout Point, and physical and mental abuse for 18 months while under the “care” of a foster parent. It is a story which I feel should be told and which I have held back from publishing out of deference to my siblings. I will continue holding back on publication until if I should become the last sibling standing. I came under the charge of my final foster parent at the age of 7 until the age of 18. The extent of family support I received during my swimming career is included where appropriate in the following pages.

Ron Malcom, a 47 year-old bachelor living with his elderly mother, became foster parent of my two older brothers and me a few months after I turned 7. Two years later he married Hazel Mears after his mother passed away. Hazel Mears was my aunt on my mother’s side of the family, so Ron Malcom became my uncle by marriage. He was still my foster parent and the Child Welfare Department was my legal guardian until I turned 18. Shortly after the marriage, the Malcolm parenting became progressively dysfunctional. My passion for and success in swimming served as respite against what was happening within the family.


Keith, my older brother by 18 months, had joined an archery club in 1958 and I wanted to also join. Ron Malcom told me he wouldn't allow me to join the archery club until I had learned to swim. As a Ward of the State, I hadn’t been taken to a swimming pool. My first introduction to being immersed in water was as a five year-old in the murky waters of the Andersons Bay Primary school outdoor pool. I had a scare in this pool due to lack of supervision and a subsequent fear of drowning. My older brothers tried to teach me to swim when we occasionally went to the Tepid Baths in Lower Moray Place, but I didn’t trust them when they tried to pull me away from the edge of the pool. I decided to teach myself to float.

Ron Malcolm’s promise and my keenness to join the archery club provided me with the motivation to go to the Tepid Baths every day after school. There were long queues of kids waiting to be admitted and we whiled away our time waiting by coining the brickwork of the Tepid Baths and the masonry of adjacent commercial buildings. The Tepid Baths was demolished decades ago to make way for a carpark building. Peter Olds immortalised the coining activity with a poem written on a sheet of Perspex which covers and protects examples of masonry which had been coined over many decades.

Ron Malcom advised me to practice blowing bubbles with my eyes open in our bathroom sink full of warm water. I can still remember the initial feeling of suffocation when I started practicing doing this. In October 1958 I started practicing blowing bubbles with my head down in the water of the Tepid Baths while holding grimly onto the side of the pool and allowing my feet to float up behind me. I still refused to do the same while holding onto the hands of my older brothers. Ron Malcom demanded that I let go of the poolside, expecting me to obey. He was standing on the poolside at the time and the only way I was going to let go of the edge of the pool was if he were standing in the water physically pulling me away like my brothers tried to do.  Several months later I edged my way around the entire perimeter of the pool with my head down blowing bubbles, legs floating behind me, while holding onto the edge of the pool. I had still yet to gain confidence to let go of the pool edge.

In the summer of 1958-1959, the Malcom family made a visit to Outram Glen where there was a river with pools of shallow water at the shoreline. I tried floating in a pool of knee-deep water. This time there was nothing to hold onto. I immediately realised that I could float without holding onto anything. I just couldn't wait to get back to the Tepid Baths to do the same, which I did the very next day. A week later, I earned my 15 Yards Confidence sticker on the New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association Certificate followed by the Water Skills Sticker a month later. Les Winefield, a pool attendant at the Tepid Baths, supervised these stickers and subsequent stickers. I continued going to the Tepid Baths every day after school and by the end of 1959 I was able to swim a mile. I never got around to joining the archery club. I joined the Kiwi Swimming Club instead.

My experience of teaching myself to swim has stood me in good stead when I became a professional swimming coach and teacher in 1972. My own fear of drowning enabled me to understand and empathise with the fear of drowning that a number of children and adults have when learning to swim. I hold the firm belief that all beginners of swimming need to overcome the sensation of suffocation when their heads are underwater. It is pointless for beginners to learn how to float without putting their heads underwater and blowing bubbles. This can be practiced in the sink at home. My second firm belief is that that all beginners must first learn to relax and float before they focus on using their arms and legs to swim. Far too many beginners learn to swim before they have fully mastered floating with the result that they struggle swim. The acid test of whether beginners truly have confidence in floating is whether they can float on their back with their arms held together above and locked behind their head without gasping or moving their legs. Relaxed floating and swimming involves controlled and relaxed breathing.

As a professional swim teacher, I placed each beginner into a group of similar ability in accordance with their confidence and relaxation in floating. I placed kids who struggle swam into a floaters group even if they could swim 15 yards. My approach to teaching beginners to swim was essentially teaching them drownproofing - learning how to float first without effort before learning to swim. Males with slim legs and with shoulders tapering to a narrow waist and hips find it difficult, if not impossible, to float horizontally. Most males can float either horizontally or vertically without using their arms or legs. This is the key to drownproofing – conserving energy if a swimmer is left stranded in deep water for many hours. Continuous arm and leg actions are unnecessary to float either horizontally or vertically. Breathing while floating vertically can be achieved by gently pushing down on the water only when a breath is need. Loss of heat is best prevented by covering your head with any available clothing, even if that means being left naked. After teaching hundreds of kids and a handful of adults to swim, I have come across only one person who was unable to float horizontally or vertically with or without full lungs of air. That person was a mature male with a heavy bone structure. He needed to use a continuous sculling action to keep his head close to and above the surface of the water to breathe.


The FINA international rules of breaststroke in the 1960s stated that apart from the dive-start and turns, swimmers were required to always keep their heads above water. This rule was introduced before the 1956 Olympics to prevent competitors from swimming entire lengths of breaststroke underwater. It is possible to swim breaststroke faster underwater than on top. The rule was modified in 1987 to allow breaststrokers to completely submerge so long as their heads broke the surface of the water every stroke. Greater streamlining was enabled resulting in further reductions in world records. Another FINA rule was that breaststrokers were allowed only one arm stroke and one breaststroke kick before surfacing after the dive-start and at each turn. This rule was recently modified to allow an additional dolphin kick which once again enabled lowering of world records.

Dive starts in the 1960s consisted of flinging yourself out as far as you could from the starting blocks to land with a belly flop on top of the water which immediately resulted in a deceleration. By the 1980s a new dive start entry was employed which involved a half pike dive bending at the waist to spear through an imaginary circle on the surface of the water instead of belly flopping flat on top of the water. This much improved streamlining enabled further reductions in world records.

Modern swimmers undoubtedly have better stroke technique and conditioning than swimmers of the 1960s, but if they were to swim under the same rules that applied in the 1960s and use the same belly flop dive-starts, their swimming times would be slower.


Prior to the 1960s, many coaches taught breaststrokers to kick like a frog by kicking backwards and outwards before bringing their straightened legs and heels together in a streamlined position. Unnecessary drag was created each time breaststrokers kicked their legs outside of their shoulder line and the propulsion generated by each leg of the frog kick was directed away from the swimmer’s centre line and not directly backwards. Any backward propulsion as straightened legs came together was minimal because if you try to squeeze water, water is squeezed in all directions and not only just backwards. In the early 1960s James Councilman, a top coach in the United States, revolutionised the breaststroke kick by teaching his star breaststroker, Chester (Chet) Jastremski, to use a whip kick instead of a frog kick. This involved a pronounced dorsiflexion action of your drawn back ankle at the start of each kick, keeping your knees at a constant distance as much as possible from each other during the kick, and finishing your kick with an ankle flick to a full plantar flexion and streamlined position. Chet Jastremski lowered the world record for the 100 metres from 1:11.4 to 1:07.5 in August 1961 and the world record for the 200 metres from 2:36.5 to 2:28.2 in August 1964. The whip kick is still used in modern day breaststroke and is best seen in underwater videos of Olympic champions on YouTube.

A few years ago, I viewed for the first time a video of Chet Jastremski’s breaststroke in the 1964 Olympic 200 metres final. The style that Chet Jastremski swam in 1964 is not the same style as in James Counsilman’s 1968 book which shows a sequence of head-on and side-on drawings of his recommended breaststroke technique. In the 1964 Olympics, Chet Jastremski swam with an extremely high stroke rate enabled by a much-reduced arm action in front of his chest. As soon as I saw Chet Jastremski swim his first 50 metres in the Olympic final, I thought how exhausting it would be to maintain that stroke rate for an entire 200 metres. Chet Jastremski swam metres in front of the field in the first 50 metres, was quickly caught by 75 metres, and held his position to finish with a bronze medal in a time of 2:29.6. Ian O’Brien of Australia won the gold medal setting a new world record in 2:27.8 with Georgy Prokopenko of the Soviet Union winning the silver medal. Chet Jastremski’s stroke rate was substantially higher than that of Ian O’Brien and Georgy Prokopenko. Chet Jastremski didn’t pace himself as well as he should have by swimming the first 50 metres too fast. His high stroke rate for a 200 metres breaststroke compounded his subsequent tiring which hit him at 75 metres. Chet Jastremski’s stroke rate in 1964 is comparable to that of Adam Peaty, the current world recordholder in the 50 metres (25.95 seconds) and 100 metres breaststroke (56.88 seconds). Adam Peaty's stroke rate is among the highest among current international breaststrokers and he maintains his stroke rate better than his competitors.

Adam Peaty has a pronounced inward sweep of his elbows to his rib cage at the end of each arm stroke and he raises his shoulders high above the water and lunges his head and shoulders forwards while kicking to a fully streamlined position before starting his next arm stroke. Chet Jastremski’s shoulders remained near the surface of the water with his head held back which bobbed up and down with each stroke. James Councilman's drawings of a breaststroker show the swimmer's knees extending well outside his shoulder line. This causes unnecessary drag. In the modern version of the whip kick, a breaststroker’s knees should always stay within his shoulder line. The modern kick action is more streamlined with reduced drag during the kick action. Once again, this is best seen in underwater videos of Olympic champions on YouTube.

The timing of competitive breaststroke swum in the 1960s is very different from that of modern breaststroke. A 1960s breaststroker pulled to breathe without any pause or glide in front and kicked his head forward while making sure his head didn’t fully submerge. It was possible to transition from a full stroke to arms-only with a minimal dolphin kick followed by kicking-only (no kick board) and then back to the full stroke without any change in timing. A modern breaststroker pulls to reach and stretch forward as far as possible with his head down underwater and both arms and legs extended in a fully streamlined position. If he were to try swimming arms-only and raise his shoulders above the water, then there would be a severe loss of momentum between each arm stroke. Flippers or zoomers are necessary to retain momentum between each arms-only stroke in lieu of a breaststroke kick.

Many decades after Duncan Laing (Dunc) and I first met at the 1966 Nationals in Napier, Dunc made the comment that I wanted to be paid for every length that I swam. And yes, he was right. Apart from my warmup, I timed every effort in my training programmes and I recorded those times in a logbook or diary. Timing myself was integral to maintaining motivation to swim at my best whether that be in training or a race. Setting targets in training which challenged me and achieving those targets gave me great satisfaction, a reward or payment for the effort. I couldn’t bear to do mindless swimming length after length without the feedback on how well I was swimming. Timing myself also provided feedback on stroke technique which is especially necessary in breaststroke because breaststroke allows greater variation in stroke length and stroke rate than any other stroke. In breaststroke there is a sweet spot of stroke rate and stroke length for each distance swum. A different breaststroke is needed for 50 and 100 metre races compared to that for 200 metres. In addition to timing myself, I used to adjust my stroke to swim with the least effort while keeping up with an adjacent swimmer. I was never into counting strokes. For me, the proof of the pudding was in the eating - did I swim faster or not for the same effort.


In the early 1960s there were only a few professional swimming coaches in New Zealand. Competitive stroke technique was taught mainly by amateur coaches during weekly club sessions. Only a small number of enthusiastic amateur coaches looked daily after a squad of swimmers. Lyndon Olds was my allocated coach in the Kiwi Club and he taught me the basics of freestyle stroke technique during Kiwi Club sessions held on Tuesday nights. Lyndon Olds was an Otago Champion who held the Dunedin Tepid Baths record at 15.9 seconds for the 33⅓ yards freestyle. His own freestyle technique was superbly smooth in the era before freestyle catchup became the predominant stroke technique. His stroke technique had been taught by Arthur Thomas, the Otago Centre starter at swim meetings. Very few, if any, freestylers made use of bilateral breathing during races in the 1960s.

Lyndon Olds was frequently distracted during Kiwi Club sessions by his future wife-to-be, so most of the time I was left untutored on my own. My freestyle stroke technique deficiencies were not addressed at an early age. The result was a horrible stroke technique with my left arm swinging wide accompanied by a sharp twisting of my back. I established later that this was mainly due to a lack of equal flexibility across my shoulders. Flexibility exercises and bilateral breathing would have helped to straighten out my freestyle. My first competitive success in swimming with an inefficient stroke technique was a second place in the Boys Under 11 33⅓ yards freestyle behind Peter Smith at the Otago Primary Schools Swimming Sports Meeting held in April 1960.

Apart from breaststroke, I essentially learned the stroke techniques of freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, and belly flop dive-starts and turns by observing Otago Senior champions during carnivals and then imitating their stroke technique. I was also influenced by Allison Bell’s tenacity to break 60 seconds for the 100 yards Senior freestyle which she achieved on her 3rd time trial attempt. My brother Keith trained with Allison Bell when she was preparing for her record attempt. Allison Bell later on married Graeme Leach who competed against John McGuiness in butterfly. Graeme and Allison Leach joined Masters swimming in the 1980s setting National Masters records in their respective age groups.

Ian Burrows was Otago’s top senior backstroke swimmer and I imitated his backstroke as best I could. My family used to laugh at my backstroke. It was not until I first saw videos of my backstroke in 2000 that I understood why. There are serious handicaps to teaching yourself stroke technique because a swimmer is unable to observe what he is doing when his arms and legs are beyond his cone of vision. All swimmers need feedback either by way of an experienced and competent coach or video. Although one would expect an amateur swimming club to be the place where young kids are taught the basics of good stroke technique, this was not the case for me in the 1960s. I came across a recent example a few years ago where a promising 10 year-old member of a Christchurch amateur swimming club had been allowed to continue swimming backstroke pulling and pushing with a straight arm, an outmoded technique of backstroke used at the 1936 Olympics.  It is essential for young swimmers to be taught good basic stroke technique from the outset.

I imitated the double dolphin kick butterfly used by John McGuiness, but a photograph of my butterfly at the age of 14 in early 1964 shows that I had yet to learn to get my head down before my arms came over. I am sure my butterfly was later on influenced by Dave Gerrard, Gold medallist in the 200 metres butterfly at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. David Gerrard trained for selection for the 1964 Olympic Games in Dunedin while undertaking studies towards a diploma in physiotherapy. I definitely became aware of the keyhole arm action used by Kevin Berry, Gold medallist in the 200 metres butterfly at the 1964 Olympic Games and the need for a strong second kick. I have never been able to fully master a double-dolphin kick butterfly. As both a Junior and Senior swimmer, my second kick was a minor kick with the defect of my legs separating at the end of my kick.

As a Masters swimmer and now a social swimmer, I have tried hard to incorporate a strong second kick without success. In addition to practicing dolphin kick holding onto a board, I frequently practice dolphin kicking holding my arms in front of me (no kick board) with the timing of kicking my head down and hips up and kicking my head up for a breath.  I am sure a specialist butterfly swimmer would benefit doing as much dolphin kicking as I have done breaststroke kicking only. My Masters training mate, Barry Young (more of later) did all his dolphin kicking only on his back with his arms above his head while wearing zoomers. I can vouch that this is an excellent way to strengthen your back and stomach muscles, especially when doing so completely submerged. There are videos on YouTube of backstrokers doing upside down dolphin kicking underwater for a complete 50 metres without zoomers in a time of 23.0 seconds, Dolphin kicking upside down is very much the 5th stroke.

I can swim one-arm butterfly with equally pronounced first and second kicks, but I lack flexibility in my back to do the same with a full stroke. With limited conditioning compared to when I swam as a Junior and Senior, I have found it more exhausting to do a double-dolphin kick than a single-dolphin kick.

Top swimmers who use a single-dolphin kick are in the minority. Exceptions include Summers Sanders who won the gold medal in the 200 metres butterfly at the 1992 Olympic Games. I am unaware of any current world ranking swimmer who uses a single-dolphin kick over 50 or 100 metres. As a Junior and Senior swimmer, I used a keyhole action to fit in my second dolphin kick. As a Masters swimmer and now a social swimmer, my arm action is straight back like Michael Phelps with only a single pronounced dolphin kick. I am not tempted like many older swimmers to do what I call a gallomping butterfly where the arms are paused in front to allow time to incorporate a second strong kick. It is possible to swim longer distances on limited conditioning using gallomping butterfly because it is less demanding on strength and endurance. A downside is that this form of butterfly is slower than a single-dolphin kick butterfly over shorter distances.

No one in the Kiwi Club took me under their wing to teach me breaststroke. This turned out to be an advantage. In the 1960s, breaststroke was swum sedately with your head held still. Vivian Haddon, a silver medallist at the 1962 Commonwealth Games and bronze medallist at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in breaststroke used to practice her breaststroke with a teacup and saucer held steady on her head. I didn't know this at the time, and I saw no reason to swim breaststroke any less vigorously than I swam freestyle - flat out as fast as I could, boots and all. I broke Peter Smith's Otago record for Boys under 12 and breaststroke became my number one stroke. From then onwards I swam only very occasionally in any freestyle race. Later on, Rosemary Dunlop, an Otago senior breaststroke champion showed me how to do breaststroke turns which I later on modified by adopting a pronounced keyhole arm action which I also used in my belly flop dive-starts.

I have never used a kick board while breaststroke kicking only because doing so changed the pitch of my kick to be different from that when swimming full breaststroke. Instead of holding onto a kickboard, I used to hold my arms in front of me and I kicked to stretch my arms and head forwards. When I was a Junior and Senior swimmer, I used a kickboard for mainly freestyle kicking and occasionally dolphin kicking while keeping my chin on the surface of the water.

In the summer of 1962-1963, our family holidayed in Blenheim where I came to the attention of George Ashton, an amateur coach of a squad of swimmers including Terry Wooster, the local Senior breaststroke champion. George Ashton had observed me swimming continuous breaststroke for 2 hours in the 55-yard Blenheim pool. He subsequently invited my brother Keith and me to join his squad for several weeks during the following 1963-1964 summer holidays. When Keith and I joined the squad a year later, George Ashton immediately persuaded me to adopt the same timing as used by Chet Jastremski. For that input alone, I am forever grateful. He didn’t see any need to modify my arm stroke or leg kick. Unlike the amateur coaches in Dunedin, George Ashton was up to date with changes in breaststroke technique. It took quite some mental effort and several training sessions for me to change my breaststroke timing.

When I started to train seriously for the 1965 Nationals held in Dunedin, I included series of arms only breaststroke in my training programmes. By doing this, my arm stroke developed into drawing my elbows sharply into my ribs at the end of each arm stroke with limited raising of my shoulders above the water. This arm action became my distinctive trade mark.

George Ashton’s input into my stroke technique was the last and final input and influence on my stroke technique as a Junior and Senior swimmer. When I became a Masters swimmer in 1982 in Auckland, a local amateur coach used to be constantly on my back to raise myself higher out of the water. I tried this new evolution of stroke technique, but I found it was too exhausting to maintain over 100 and 200 metres – I was unable to swim any faster. I concluded that with my limited 40 minutes of swimming each day, six days a week, I simply didn’t have the necessary conditioning to take advantage of a high lift at the end of each arm stroke. That arm action was outside my torque range. I did raise my shoulders more so over 50 metre races, but not over 200 metres.

When FINA rules permitted complete submersion of breaststrokers in 1987, I continued using the same timing and style that I had used in 1984 at the 1st International Masters Swimming Championships held in Christchurch. In 1994 I discontinued competing as a Masters swimmer when I started to daily alternate running and swimming. I really do love running and even more so when I shifted back from Auckland to Dunedin in 2008 where I can run on the beach and into the sand dunes. In recent years I have adopted the Cameron van der Berg and Adam Peaty timing of breaststroke, but not the high shoulder lift which I find to be too exhausting on only 7 km swimming per week and with ongoing aging and subsequent loss in muscle mass. I am not into heavy weight training at my age to compensate for loss in muscle mass - I am more concerned about maintaining a high level of cardiovascular fitness for my age.

I note Glen Snyders, our current national recordholder of the 50, 100, and 200 metres breaststroke in 27.06, 59.78, and 2:10.55 respectively swam a flat breaststroke compared to Cameron van der Burg and Adam Peaty. Perhaps a high lift versus a flat breaststroke makes the difference between a semi-finalist and a gold medallist at the Olympics. I now simply swim the style of breaststroke that I feel comfortable with. Competition is no longer my primary aim and reason for swimming. 


In the 1960s and early 1970s, swimmers competed in the National Championships as a Junior under 16 or as a Senior. These were the only age categories recognised for National titles and records. A swimmer was deemed to be a Junior under 16 for the swimming season ending on 30th September the following year if that swimmer was 15 years old on the 1st October at the start of the season. This gave an advantage to those who had a lucky birthday. A swimmer with a 16th year birthday on 2nd October could compete as Junior under 16 for the entire season and by the end of the season be almost a year older than a fellow Junior swimmer with an unlucky birthday whose birthday fell on 1st October. My birthday was 11 August 1949. When I set additional New Zealand Junior under 16 records in September 1965, I was 16 years 50 days old. I had a relatively unlucky birthday.

A difference of 364 days makes a big difference for young swimmers and Masters swimmers over the age of 60 when the slowdown with age accelerates. Natural improvements in swimming with age for Junior and Senior swimmers over the age of 16 are substantial until a swimmer has fully matured. The average male is not fully mature until the age of 25. Ian O’Brien who won the 200 metres breaststroke at the 1964 Olympics at the age of 17 years 7 months was an exception. I met Ian O’Brien at the 1965 Australian Nationals in Hobart five months later when he was 18 years old. Ian O’Brien was fully mature at the age of 18 with a height of 185 cm (6 ft 1 inch) and a heavily muscled weight of 89 kg (14 stone 3 oz). Ian O’Brien was carrying excessive weight in Hobart and he swam his 200 metres breaststroke 10 seconds slower than the World record he set at the 1964 Olympics five months earlier.

The following exceptional swimmers won Senior titles in their first year of swimming as a Senior in the 1960s:

David Gerrard: 220 yards butterfly 2:39.5 Auckland 1960 (age 14 years 11 months). David Gerrard won 10 consecutive Senior titles in the same event. At the age of 16 he swam 2:26.4 at Naenae in 1962 followed by a 2:16.5 at Auckland in 1963, a big reduction over one year.

Robert Walker: 220 yards freestyle 2:10.2, 440 yards freestyle 4:37.9, and 1650 yards freestyle 18:31.6 Blenheim 1964.

Gjocko Ruzio-Saban: 110 yards breaststroke 1:12.9, 220 yards breaststroke 2:46.1 Blenheim 1964. Gjocko Ruzio-Saban retired from swimming after an unsuccessful bid for selection to the 1966 Commonwealth Games held in Kingston, Jamaica.

Alan Seagar: 266-2/3 yards medley 3:10.0 Tauranga 1961 followed by the 440 yards medley 5:34.6 Naenae 1962. Alan Seagar won 6 more consecutive Senior titles in 440 yards medley. 

Tui Shipston: 220 yards medley 2:40.2 and 440 yards medley 5.40.2 Christchurch 1967.

Tony Graham might have won a Senior National title in his first year as a Senior, but I have been unable to track down his date of birth. Tony Graham won the Senior 220 yards breaststroke in 2:48.4 at the 1961 Tauranga Nationals.

Many competitive swimmers would have been lost to the sport when they became senior swimmers. Not all male swimmers would wait five years to reach full maturity to win medals or make the finals at the National Senior Championships. Many retired from swimming long before they had realised their full potential. The NZASA increased the number of National competition age categories in the late 1960s to help retain the numbers of competitive swimmers who were leaving the sport too early. The National competition age categories currently include the age groups of 12 years and under, under 13, etc. up to the age of under 18, followed by an open age group for swimmers 18 years old and older. National titles can be won and Nationals records can be set under each age group.

The increases in the number of age groups over the age of 16 would undoubtedly have helped to retain older swimmers who would have otherwise left the sport. However, inclusion of younger age groups for National competitions and records might have resulted in younger swimmers leaving the sport by the time they reached the age of 16 because there is greater incentive and pressure for 12 year-olds and even younger swimmers to swim more than once per day. Swimming twice a day for many years is a serious commitment for any athlete. In my opinion, young children should be encouraged to be involved in a variety of activities outside of a single sport before making a commitment to swimming twice per day.

There is plenty of time remaining after the age of 16 to make a serious commitment to the sport, bearing in mind that although all teenagers mature with age, they do so at different rates. Differences in the rate of maturity evens out with greater age so that a swimmer who is struggling to make the National finals in his age group at the age of 16 might well be among the medallists by the age of 18. Swimmers can be swimming at their peak in their late 20s. Current world records are held by swimmers in their late 20s now that top class swimmers are financially supported to continue swimming after completing their tertiary education.

When I swam Masters during the 1980s and early 1990s, the age groups started at 25-29 years, 30-34 years, etc. through to 85-89 years ending with 90 years plus. The age group that you swam in any competition was based on the age you were on the day that you competed. Masters swimming age groups are now based on the actual attained age of the competitor as of 31 December of the year of the meet. Once again, the lucky birthday applies. In the extreme, every 5 years a Masters swimmer can swim in an older age group for 365 days if their birthday falls on 31 December. The older the Master swimmer, the more they age from year to year and the more they slow down. When it comes to both competitions and records, I am firmly of the opinion that the age group that any one swims under should be based on the age the swimmer is on the day of the competition. 


Moray Place Tepid Baths

The Tepid Baths in lower Moray Place, Dunedin, was a 33-1/3 yards pool with a one metre and three metre diving board at the deep end. During swimming competitions, the pool was divided into six lanes using ropes with cork floats. Each lane was much narrower than the current standard of 2.5 metres for competition. The level of the pool was below the pool surrounds with no overflow like modern pools. Waves created by swimmers in each lane were minimally dampened by the lane ropes unlike modern lane dividers. These waves build up higher for those swimmers in lanes one and six. I have swum in some pre 1960 pools where the calm water level is 600 mm below the pool surrounds. With build-up of waves and nowhere to go, swimmers in the outside lanes are literally swamped during races. On one occasion I raced breaststroke in such a swimming pool in lane one and I chose to swim through the waves rather than always keep my head above water. The waves went over my head, but in my own mind I swam within the rules because my head was above the average level of the water. I was disqualified by the judge who I happened to be billeted with. The race wasn’t a major competition and I was simply amused by his decision. This is the only time I have been disqualified in a race in New Zealand. I have been disqualified in a breaststroke race only two times. The second time was in Australia. More of that story later.

The Tepid Baths were constructed in 1914 and the design layout was inefficient. There is a swimming pool in Melbourne of similar vintage and brick masonry construction which still serves well for the community. The Tepid Baths was well past it’s use-by-date after 50 years. Moana Pool replaced the deteriorating and over-crowded Tepid Baths in November 1964. Some 50 years later, Moana Pool still functions well for the community with the only criticism that the shallow end of the main pool should perhaps have been designed deeper for international competitions. Over the last 60 years I have swum in many indoor pools in New Zealand and overseas in Melbourne, Sydney, Tokyo, London, Paris, Karlsruhe, Vancouver, and Gothenburg.  Moana Pool in 2020 still ranks for me as one of the best designed swimming pools I have had the pleasure to swim in.

Gordon David was the Manager of the Tepid Baths and Les Winefield and Noel Chambers were pool attendants who also taught beginners to swim. Teaching to swim rights became part of the Professional Coach’s contract with the Dunedin City Council when Moana Pool opened. All three Tepid Baths staff members transferred over to Moana Pool when it opened. Gordon David as Manager was also in charge of all school pools in Dunedin. When Gordon David semi-retired, he became Manager of the Whangarei outdoor swimming pool where I met up with him again in the 1980s.                             

Swimming lanes during public sessions

In the 1960s, the Moray Place Tepid Baths didn't have any lane swimming during public sessions. Each public session was crowded, so I resorted to swimming widths hustling other swimmers to handicap races of up to 4 widths. It was not until Moana Pool opened on 14th November 1964 that a lengthwise training section in the 55-yard pool was separated from the general public using a single lane rope. According to folklore, Lincoln Hurring, a 1952 Olympic Games representative and silver medallist at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in the 110 yards backstroke, swam lengths during public sessions at the Dunedin Tepid baths during the 1950s and woe betide anyone who got in his way. Jean Stewart, a bronze medallist in backstroke at the 1952 Olympics and 1954 Commonwealth Games used to train behind in his cleared wake. Lincoln and Jean married a few years later and their son, Gary Hurring, became a gold medallist in backstroke at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and a silver medallist at the 1978 World Aquatics Championships. Gary Hurring was a contender for a medal at the 1980 Olympic Games, but was denied the opportunity to compete due to the boycott by the majority of New Zealand Olympic sports associations, including the New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association (NZASA).

Training clock

Lack of lane swimming during public sessions at the Tepid Baths was a severe handicap for competitive swimmers. The lack of a training clock at the Tepid Baths was an additional handicap unless a swimmer had a coach on the poolside to time him. Moana Pool had a large training clock at the shallow end of the main pool from the outset. It was not until 1980 that I bought my first Casio waterproof watch. From then onwards I was able to use a digital function of the watch to accumulate a series of efforts such as 8 x 25 metres butterfly leaving every 30 seconds using the poolside clock to know when to start each length. In the early 1960s, our family acquired a Seiko stop watch which we used at carnivals to time ourselves and other swimmers and to time splits. Keith and I took great delight in being able to start and stop the watch on 0.1 of a second.

Swimming pool temperature

FINA currently mandates a water temperature of between 25 to 28 degrees C (77.0 to 82.4 degrees F) for standard competition and the Olympics. The Moray Place Tepid Baths had only one main pool with a temperature set for the general public. When Moana Pool first opened on 14th November 1964, there was originally a 55-yard main pool and a diving well. The main pool was maintained at 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C) during the 1960s and early 1970s, a temperature ideal for training and competitions, though you had to keep moving to keep warm. A shallow learner’s pool was constructed soon after and this pool was maintained at a higher temperature.

The current policy of Moana Pool is to maintain the temperature of the main pool at 28 degrees C even though there are now five separate pools. I have used a watch with a thermometer daily over a month and have found that the temperature of the main pool can vary by as much as 2 degrees C. This makes a big difference when training. When the pool temperature is high, I get into heat stress just swimming a warmup and I flag away doing longer distance interval training because I need more frequent rests to cool down between efforts. Moana Pool staff turn the main pool temperature down whenever there are any major championships held in the pool. I take opportunity on the following day to swim longer distances such as 400 metres breaststroke and medleys or 8 x 100 metres continuous medleys with no rest. Five years ago, I used to swim 1500 metres breaststroke and continuous medleys in the heated St Clair open-air pool on cold days. Swimming outdoors in the rain or even hail with an air temperature below 10 degrees C is a great sensation, but only if the pool is heated. 

Too low a pool temperature has the opposite effect of heat stress on any swimmer. The lower the temperature, the more a swimmer seizes up. In the 1960s, Moana Pool was the only indoor 55-yard pool in New Zealand. All New Zealand long course championships in the 1960s were held in either Moana Pool or an outdoor pool. Some of the outdoor pools were semi-heated to remove the chill, but the temperatures of these pools sometimes fell well below 25 degrees C on a cold day. Ron Smith, Team Manager at the 1964 Blenheim Nationals reported to the Otago Centre as follows:

“The Blenheim (and in fact any) outdoor pool which is not heated, is not satisfactory for a National Championship. The swimmers were forced to contend with the conditions as well as competitors. The water temperature varied from 75 to 64 degrees [Fahrenheit] and two nights were very cold and one night it rained heavily all night and the March Past was postponed. These conditions are not conducive to good performances and in fact many events had a lower overall standard than last year. Pleasant, relaxing, and warm conditions are essential for good performances and we trust we will be able to provide this at Moana.”

In the 1960s, I swam 1 to 2 seconds slower in a cold pool over 110 yards breaststroke and up to 5 seconds slower over 220 yards. The same applied when I swam as a Masters swimmer in the 1980s and 1990s.


Swimming clubs

There were several swimming clubs in Dunedin in the 1960s – Dunedin, Kaikorai, Kiwi, Neptune, St Clair, Taieri, University, and Wakari. Some clubs focused on learn to swim and the rivalry between competitive swimming clubs was intense. Kiwi and Kaikorai were the two dominant competitive swimming clubs and they vied each other for honours at each swimming carnival.

The Kiwi Club officials I got to know the best include Gladys Marks (secretary), Arthur Thomas (Otago Centre starter), Ron Smith (Peter Smith’s Father), Ian Chadwick (treasurer and my accountant when I became a professional swimming coach at Balclutha Pool in 1972-1973), David Pickard, and Teddy Isaacs (sports reporter at the Otago Daily Times). Officials from other clubs I got to know well include Mrs Sydney (Mother of the artist Graeme Sydney), Keith Leckie, Hugh Morrison, and Keith Bentley. A list of the officials attending the opening of Moana Pool in November 1964 can be viewed in the accompanying photographs. Many of these officials were parents or grandparents of swimmers. The sport of swimming would not have been possible without their support and unstinting dedication. Two swimming personalities from the early 1960s stand out for me. One was Jack Stewart, Jean Stewart’s brother, who won a bronze medal in springboard diving at the 1954 Commonwealth Games held in Vancouver. The other was Punch Tremaine who coached water polo. He owned a butcher shop at the bottom of Stuart Street, the best shop in the city to buy your meat for the week. Punch Tremaine was still active as an amateur coach in swimming at Moana Pool until he passed away a few years ago.

Swimming carnivals

Swimming carnivals were held on a frequent and regular basis. Both Keith and I swam in several events at each carnival aiming to set personal bests in each event. Before we got a stopwatch, we used to run up to the timekeeper of our lane after our swim to get our time. As my swimming career progressed, I swam in fewer events at each carnival so that I could have more rest to be able to set personal bests. I was essentially swimming against the clock. Some carnivals included handicap races which were the most exciting races because no one knew in advance who was going to win. Swimmers who left their starting blocks before their called-out handicap were disqualified. Many swimmers excelled in handicap races with personal best times in their efforts to catch up and pass slower swimmers.

I can remember only one handicap race held at Moana Pool in the 1960s and early 1970s. That race was a 110 yards freestyle in which I swam as a Senior. I swam my best time ever – close to breaking 60 seconds – and Peter Laing, a Junior National recordholder, expressed surprise how I managed to touch the end before him when we were swimming neck and neck over the last 15 metres. I explained to him that I did an enormous dolphin kick as I lunged for the end. It is a shame that handicap races are not held more frequently nowadays.

Training once per day

All my swimming at the Tepid Baths in Dunedin until it closed in March 1964 [to be confirmed] comprised of mainly breaststroke sprints over widths during public sessions. This type of training was hardly conducive for top swimming. Nonetheless, my brother Keith and I were relatively cardiovascular fit. We lived at 13 Ardmore Drive by the Oval near Andersons Bay Road and our family had its main meal at mid-day instead of in the evening. When Keith and I attended Macandrew Intermediate in 1961 and 1962, we used to run from school to home for a quick dinner followed by a run back to school. The distance each way was about 2.0 km, so there was little time for walking. During summer months, the school set up hurdles for practice on Bathgate Park, but Keith and I arrived back at school too late to get in any decent practice. Stewart Melville was the gun hurdler and we didn’t get a chance to pit ourselves against him. The practice I did manage to get in on the hurdles came in good stead at Bayfield High School when I won the junior high jump, long jump, and hurdles at the school’s track and field championships.

Stewart Melville also led a school race around Tonga Park. I started at the back of the field - I could never bring myself to start a running race at a faster pace than I could maintain – and I was able to gradually pick up the field and perhaps come second or third. It was hard to tell because so many of the other kids were cutting corners. I didn’t regard myself as a runner – swimming was my main sport. Running became Stuart Melville’s main sport and he ended his running career in 1977 as a national class track and cross-country runner having represented New Zealand in the 800 metres at the 1974 Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch.

My classmates from Kensington Primary School near the Oval joined me at Macandrew Intermediate. Kensington Primary School being a small school, we didn’t have enough pupils to field a full rugby team. We played soccer instead. My classmates and I used to play spontaneous games of soccer after school on one of the Oval’s soccer fields with goals at each end. Mr Notman, the Headmaster of Macandrew Intermediate, was a keen rugby supporter. When winter came around, Mr Notman told Keith and me that we were too heavy for our age group to play inter-school soccer. I don’t know to this day whether there was any inter-school soccer or not at the time. Our only choice was to either join a rugby team or organise our own games of soccer during school hours. Most of the soccer players didn’t want to play rugby, so we organised our own games of soccer and we did so successfully. The soccer players who lacked ball skills or fitness gradually drifted off to a rugby team where their lack of skill and fitness was less obvious.

At Bayfield High School I played Right Winger or Right Fullback. When the opposing team kicked the ball out of play behind our own goal, I took on the role of the goalkeeper to kick the ball back into play from the goal box because I could kick the ball well beyond the middle of the field. The only time I ever scored a goal was when I intercepted the ball while playing as Right Fullback and booted the ball as hard as I could towards the opposition goal. The ball fell metres short in front of the goalkeeper, bounced over his head, and into the goal net behind him, an ignominious goal scored against the goalkeeper. I got no pleasure from that goal.

In summer, I initially played cricket from the age of seven until ten. My classmates and I played with a hard cricket ball. It really hurt if you didn’t catch the ball just right. I spent many hours practicing bowling at a single wicket on a full 22-yards cricket pitch with my friends on the oval. Doing so was a bit futile when I was short sighted. It was not until I was 12 years old that I was prescribed spectacles. I got so bored playing schoolboy cricket to the extent that I amused myself by practicing handstands while fielding.

Before going to Macandrew Intermediate, I learned to play tennis by practicing mainly against the brick wall of the dental nurse’s room located on the Kensington Primary School site. The main entrance to the school fronted onto a busy road directly behind where I practiced and there was no gate. I soon learned the merit of not hitting wild shots and returning each shot against the wall. Ron Malcolm taught me the basics of how to hold my racquet and how to serve. Learning to play tennis was a new lease of life for me. I loved and still love the technical and strategic challenges of tennis and the constant physical action. Tennis is chess on legs. One redeeming grace of Mr Notman was that he was keen on tennis. In summer he supervised a small number of us kids who could play well enough not to hit the balls at the windows of the classrooms a few metres away from the tennis court. When the Malcolm family shifted to 7 Meadow Street, Mornington, in mid-1964, I joined the Mornington Tennis Club which is located two doors up the street. I played B grade tennis in a team on Saturdays.

Running between home by the Oval and Macandrew Intermediate school, playing soccer and tennis, and biking between the Oval and Bayfield High School and then between Mornington and Bayfield High School all helped to maintain an adequate level of cardiovascular fitness to complement an inadequate level of swimming training.


Within a few years of joining the Kiwi Club, I was selected to represent Otago at the Otago-Southland Championships. This was followed by the South Island Championships and then the National Junior and Senior Championships. Swimming pools in New Zealand typically opened in October and open-air pools closed for winter in March or April. The swimming season for indoor swimming pools was longer, but they also closed for a few months during winter. Otago, Otago-Southland, and South Island Championships were held earlier in the season with the National Junior and Senior Championships culminating in February-March of each year. Most competitive swimmers in New Zealand had access to a swimming pool with only 5 to 6 months of preparation for the Nationals.

Dunedin competitive breaststrokers the same age as me included Alan McKerrow, Alan McKinnon, and Gary Marks. Peter Bentley, Greg French, and Michael Fox were older swimmers. Michael Fox was the Otago Junior under 16 champion. Russel McLean was a promising younger swimmer and Pat Tracey was a Senior swimmer. The first time I swam against Michael Fox was at the opening carnival on 14 November 1964 when Moana Pool opened. The only time I was beaten by an Otago swimmer was by Alan McKinnon over 66-2/3 yards breaststroke in a time of about 56 seconds. A few weeks later I bettered this time by 4 seconds. By way of comparison, I swam the same distance in 43.8 seconds as a 34 year-old Masters swimmer during a training session with a push-off start.


Keith and I were selected to represent Otago at the combined Junior and Senior Nationals held in Auckland in 1963. We were billeted with a relative of Mrs Sydney (the team’s chaperone) because Ron Malcom didn’t want us staying in a hotel. He refused to go into the bar of any hotel and was strongly opposed to drinking alcohol. The rest of the Otago team stayed at The Peoples Palace hotel at the top of Queen Street, one of the main streets in Auckland City. The Peoples Palace turned out to be an accommodation hotel with no public bar and was run by a religious organisation.

Each morning Keith and I waited outside The Peoples Palace for the Otago team to finish getting ready for departure to the open-air Centennial Pool located a few miles away in Newmarket. The 1950 British Empire Games had been held in this pool. While waiting for the team to come outside to join us, I tried to do a one-leg squat with my arms stretched out from my sides for balance and one leg held out straight in front of me. It was tricky to maintain balance, but I managed to do a one leg squat OK. A one leg squat is equivalent to doing a two-leg squat holding a bar across your shoulders with your own weight on the bar. For many years later I have frequently done one-leg squats as a challenge, but I have never been into doing a series of one leg squats because it is a strain on your knee joints.

Young children and teenagers have a higher strength-to-weight ratio than fully mature adults. Well-conditioned adult swimmers might be able to bench press and clean-and-jerk much greater weights than younger swimmers, but younger swimmers are able to handle their own body weight with greater ease. I have been able to do one-leg squats until about five years ago. It was then I realised that advanced age had crept up on me. After the age of 60 it is possible to lose up to 50% of muscle mass unless you do some form of strengthening exercise to slow down the process of loss in muscle mass. Building up muscle mass when you are younger involves using high weights and low repetitions to the point of failure. Doing this destroys muscle and the body responds by building back more muscle. As an older swimmer now in my 70s, continuing swimming butterfly as much I can is enough for me. Sometimes I use my Total Gym, a sliding inclined platform which I lie on and simulate butterfly by pulling on the cables attached to the platform to pull myself forwards and up the incline. At my age I am not into doing heavy weights with the attendant risks of injury. Older people take much longer to recover from injuries and muscle strains. It is simply not sensible for an older person to undertake heavy-weight training, especially when not supervised in a gym.

As a 13 year-old competing in the Junior under 16 age group, I swam 1:30 for the 110 yards breaststroke. Although I didn’t make the finals, I was pleased with my personal best time. Gjocko Ruzio-Saban won the 110 yards and 220 yards breaststroke Junior National Titles. Tony Graham won the Senior Titles swimming 1:15.6 and 2:45.2 over the same distances.

Highlights of my trip to Auckland included my first selection to a National Championships, my first flight in an aeroplane (a Friendship), visiting a city much larger than Dunedin, the atmosphere of the competition at the Nationals, and Gordon David shouting the Otago team tickets to the Cinerama screening of the movie How the West Was Won.

Bayfield High School held its annual Cross-Country Championships in the winter months of 1963. I hadn’t done any running since December 1962 when I ran between home by the Oval and Macandrew Intermediate at lunchtime. When I enrolled as a third former at Bayfield High School, I biked from home to school, a distance of 2.6 kilometres. After school, I walked to the Moray Place Tepid Baths, a distance of 1.6 kilometres. The 3.0 kilometre cross country race was held on the Chisholm Golf Links starting and finishing by the changing rooms at Hancock Park near the Saint Kilda Surf Life Saving Club. I couldn’t bring myself to run hard from the start. By the end of the first 400 metres, I was at the back of the field. When we got into the undulating section of the course, I picked up the stragglers who were by then flagging. On the home straight, I picked up my pace to finish 3rd behind a classmate who came first in the Junior section. It would not be until the winter months of 1965 that I included running as winter cross-training to swimming. 


After the 1963 Junior Nationals, I had become complacent having won both local and Otago-Southland Championships breaststroke races. I expected to continue winning these races. In the following 1963-1964 season I was in for a surprise at the next Otago-Southland Championships held in Invercargill. The Treffers family had shifted to Invercargill and Bert Treffers who was the same age as me did a burglar on me in the 100 yards breaststroke after I had led the race until the last 10 yards. That loss put my nose out of joint. I decided then and there to get more serious with my training within the limits of swimming widths in public sessions at the Tepid Baths. Bert Treffers and I became good friends when I was billeted at his home the next time the Otago-Southland Championships were held in Invercargill.

A few weeks later Bill Brown who was based in Greymouth beat me into second place and Bert Treffers into third place at the South Island Championships in the outdoor pool in Greymouth. Bill Brown subsequently represented New Zealand at the Australian Junior Championships a few weeks before the 1964 National Championships held in Blenheim. I didn’t get to know Bill Brown as he lived in Greymouth far away from Dunedin. Bill Brown later on shifted to Christchurch where the 1964-1965 South Island Championships were held.

In the summer of 1963-1964, Keith and I travelled by train to Blenheim to join George Ashton’s training squad. A local Child Welfare officer met us at the train station and took us back to his office where he gave us pocket money for the duration of our stay in Blenheim. The Child Welfare Department provided foster parents with pocket money to be given to each Ward of the State under their care. Ron Malcom paid us pocket money based on threepence per year of age. We had been short-changed. In August 1964, Ron Malcolm stopped paying us pocket money when we shifted from the rental property at Ardmore Drive to the purchased property at Meadow Street, Mornington. The seller provided a second mortgage. When we shifted into 7 Meadow Street, Ron Malcom had six Wards of the State under his care.

The Child Welfare Officer took us to a clothing shop to purchase summer clothing. We had arrived in Blenheim wearing grey school shorts, shirts, and jerseys (see accompanying photographs) with only spare underwear and socks in our suitcases. Keith chose a brown matching pair of shorts and shirt and I chose a blue outfit. We were next taken to Eric and Gladys Cole’s home which was a 15-minute walk from the Blenheim 55-yard swimming pool. The Coles were an elderly couple who looked after short-term foster kids for the Child Welfare Department. Keith and I walked to the Blenheim Swimming Pool the same day where we met up with Terry Wooster again. George Ashton was still at work, so Terry Wooster told us what time the training squad started each morning.

We arrived at the Blenheim swimming pool a few minutes late after 6.00 am the following morning. The front door of the pool was locked. A concrete block wall surrounded the pool and we couldn’t see the poolside through the front foyer. Keith and I thought that we had arrived too late. With great difficulty, we managed to climb over the wall to drop down on the other side. There was no one there. We had been duped. We tried to climb back over the wall, but couldn’t reach the top of wall. Instead of getting into our swimming togs and starting to swim, we decided to wait for the training squad to arrive. The pool manager was the first person to unlock the front door to find us waiting on the poolside. Oops, that was embarrassing. We explained who we were and why we had climbed over the wall. The pool manager asked us whether it was Terry Wooster who had told us the starting time for training squad. Keith and I looked at each other, and he laughed at our reaction. Terry Wooster was well known to be a prankster. The training squad and George Ashton arrived soon after and introductions to the training squad were made. There were about 15 swimmers in the training squad the same age as ourselves and older.

George Ashton persuaded me to change the timing of my breaststroke. Before this change in timing, I swam slow breaststroke by gliding with my arms in front of me with my head still above the water to abide by FINA regulations for breaststroke. Continuing with this timing would have slowed me down, especially over 220 yards, hence the change in timing. It took a few days for me to get used to the change in timing of my breaststroke. As I described earlier, with my new timing I pulled to breathe without pausing to glide with my arms in front me. As the years rolled by, my breathing pattern became naturally explosive breathing due to many lengths of swimming arms only with a minor dolphin kick. Karate experts exhale sharply as they chop through a block and so too do weightlifters as they lift heavy weights. Holding onto one’s breath during extreme exertion leads to strain. Breathing in rather than out during extreme exertion is unnatural. My huffing rather than gasping breathing pattern became so ingrained that I have the same breathing pattern when I am running. I am sure this was disconcerting to my companion runners. In the final kilometre of my last Marathon when I was running a negative split, I was huffing so hard that one runner I passed by called out to me to slow down or else I would bust my boiler.

My first introduction to interval training was a bit of a shock. In Blenheim, we swam one 90-minute training session each day, six days a week. These training sessions were longer and much more demanding than any swimming session I had swum in Dunedin. Interval training was exhausting compared to anything I had done before.

There are essentially two different forms of training in both running and swimming - aerobic training and anaerobic training with variations in intensity, duration, and rest. Aerobic training involves pay-as-you-go oxygen intake, whereas anaerobic training involves building up an oxygen debt with a corresponding increase in lactic acid. Your heart rate is maintained at a lower rate during aerobic training, whereas anaerobic training leads to a maximum heart rate by the end of an effort. Aerobic training could be said to be about 60% to 70% effort compared to 80% to 90% effort for anaerobic training. A race or time trial would be a 100% effort where a high heart rate is maintained throughout the entire effort.

Aerobic training sessions consist of long slow distance (LSD), an approach favoured by Arthur Lydiard as an early season build-up before tapering which involves a series of faster efforts and more rest over distances much shorter than the race distance. Anaerobic training sessions consist of repetitive series of fast efforts over shorter distances with a set rest period in between each effort.

In late 1964, I attended a lecture on LSD training delivered by Arthur Lydiard held in the committee room on the second floor of the Moray Place Tepid Baths. I absorbed what he had to say, but I found him to be dogmatic in his responses to the audience. His method of training was the only way as far as he was concerned. There are alternative successful methods of training which involve a higher proportion of quality training throughout the season than LSD training - Sebastian Coe’s world records and Olympic medals are an example of the results of such training.

I am so pleased that my best event wasn’t the 1500 metres freestyle. I could simply not have stomached LSD training over a substantial part of the swimming season followed by a short tapering period before the main event. My training approach to swimming evolved into a Sebastian Coe approach of higher quality training throughout the season. Many swimmers who have suffered an LSD approach in their younger years no longer swim as adults due to the sheer monotony of gazing at the bottom of a swimming pool for hours on end. I have never got bored going for long runs, but swimming, especially with your head down in a swimming pool, is claustrophobic for me by way of comparison. I needed the challenge of interval training rather than endure mindless and endless lengths of swimming.

A rule-of-thumb maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute (bpm) less the athlete’s age. For example, the maximum expected heart rate of a 15 year-old immediately after hard effort would be 205 bpm compared to 150 bpm for a 70 year-old. It is during the first 10 seconds of rest after a peak heart rate that your heart beats the hardest in terms of stroke volume. Heart rates substantially higher than the maximum heart rate would be life-threatening inefficient fibrillation.

The rest period is an equally important component of the conditioning benefits that interval training provides. From my point of view, a swimmer who takes less than 10 seconds rest between efforts such as 8 x 50 metres may as well swim a straight 400 metres and get the same conditioning benefits. The longer the rest between each effort, the faster the pace can be maintained. There is a limit on how much rest between efforts should be taken.

Endurance and tolerance to lactic acid build-up is more quickly attained using anaerobic interval training than aerobic LSD training, but is also more quickly lost when the frequency and intensity of training sessions diminish. The maximum distance of 4 widths sprints I swam in the Tepid Baths in Dunedin was 60 yards and I was fully rested before each sprint. I had been swimming tapering sessions without having first built up endurance and tolerance to lactic acid build-up.

My training sessions in Blenheim consisted of mainly breaststroke. Most members of the training squad were freestylers. There was a female in the squad who was the squad’s top breaststroker. I swam breaststroke in her lane and I initially found it difficult to keep up with her. At the end of 4 weeks of training, we both swam in a time trial over 220 yards breaststroke, I was surprised by how much I finished in front of her. Keith and I also swam in a Carnival held in Nelson. I swam breaststroke in the same race as an old codger in his 70s. Even though he finished well behind the rest of us younger swimmers young enough to be his grand-children, I admired his enthusiasm for swimming. At the same carnival I beat my brother in the 133-1/3 yards medley.

A highlight of our visit to Blenheim was the Coles taking us for a three-day journey at Christmas through the many islands in the Marlborough Sounds on a converted rowing boat with cabin and diesel engine. The only fish I have ever caught was on that boat. We were hauling up fish after fish. At one stage I thought I had discovered a new species of fish which had wings.

During our journey through the Marlborough Sounds, we had our first campfire dinner on the beach under the stars. The following day we moored close to the shoreline and Keith set out to swim across the bay to the opposite shoreline. Gladys Cole became very concerned when his figure receded into the distance. I reassured her that both Keith and I could easily handle swimming a mile. Keith eventually returned to the boat by walking back along the shoreline. Being mindful that even the best of swimmers can get debilitating cramp while swimming, there is no way that I would ever swim by myself in the open ocean more than 100 metres from shore. The worst cramp I have ever got was during a 220 yards butterfly time trial in the Invercargill Tepid Baths. I was fortunate that I could climb onto the poolside to straighten my legs with assisted force to relieve the agony. Getting cramp in open water is a serious problem. Being able to swim to shore reasonably quickly with cramp would be a life saver.

Before leaving Blenheim for Dunedin, George Ashton wrote out several training programmes for me to follow in the next few weeks before the Nationals. I followed these programmes as best I could in public sessions.


The Otago team selected to compete at the Junior and Senior National Swimming Championships in Blenheim included Eddy Hore (backstroke and brother of John Hore, a celebrity singer with the stage name of John Grenell), Robyn Johnston (backstroke), David Gerrard (butterfly), Jan McLeod (breaststroke), Ivan Johnstone (breaststroke and medley), Claire Bennie (breaststroke), and Bill Robertson (backstroke), Bottom row: Elaine Johnson (backstroke), Alan McKerrow (breaststroke), Gladys Marks (chaperone), Ron Smith (manager), Caroline Mitchell (backstroke), and Peter Smith (freestyle and medley). (See accompanying photographs).

The Otago team was the only team that fronted up at the Nationals in matching uniforms. The shorts were all tailormade by swimming parents. At the following 1965 Nationals held in Dunedin, the Dunedin officials wore matching blazers and white trousers or skirts. Other centres followed suit at subsequent Nationals.

The male members of the Otago team stayed at the RNZAF Base in Woodbourne where we slept in a multi-bed dormitory. This was not a new experience for me. I had spent two years from the age of 3 to 5 sleeping in a dormitory with my two elder brothers and other young Wards of the State at the Elliot Street Girls Home in Dunedin.

Meals were provided in a self-serve canteen. I always like to finish off a main meal with dessert, so I loaded up my dessert plate with bread pudding and ice-cream. When I started on my dessert, I commented to my team mates that the bread pudding wasn’t very sweet. They just laughed. What I had mistaken for bread pudding had been provided for the main meal.

David Gerrard, a physiotherapist at the time, gave a shoulder massage to all team members. That was the first and only time I have had a massage. Alan McKerrow and Peter Smith had a Beatles hairstyle as shown in the photographs. Before returning home to Dunedin, my tousled “hairstyle” with the help of my team mates finished up in a similar style within the limitations of my shorter hair. I wore my new hairstyle to Bayfield High School with pride. In the 1960s, short back and sides was the hairstyle of our parents and grandparents. Young teenagers weren’t cool wearing the same hairstyle. Hairstyle fashions now have completely flipped.

The atmosphere at the Blenheim Nationals was electric and it would be easy for younger swimmers to be over-awed and intimidated by the prowess of similar age and older swimmers. This is one good reason why younger promising swimmers should be given early opportunity to compete at major international events.

I was most impressed by how Gjocko Ruzio-Saban was able to win a national title in both the 110 yards and 220 yards breaststroke in his first year as a senior. He became one of my heroes along with Peter Snell and Murray Halberg who had won gold medals in running at the 1960 Rome Olympics. A few decades ago, I contacted Gjocko by email and I told him this. I was also impressed by the Junior swimmers who swam under 2:40 for the 220 yards medley. I managed to swim only 2:48.9 in the heats which wasn’t fast enough to get into the finals.

I made the finals in two of my junior events winning a bronze medal in the 110 yards breaststroke in a time of 1:23.2 and I came 4th in the 220 yards breaststroke in a time of 3:04.7. My Bronze medal was the only medal the Otago team took home from the Blenheim Nationals. This was to change dramatically for several Otago team members at the Nationals held a year later in Dunedin due to the opening of Moana Pool with access to lane swimming and coaching by a professional coach. 

Apart from Bill Brown, Bert Treffers, and Alan McKerrow, I cannot recall the names of any other breaststrokers in the Junior breaststroke events or who won the medals. I don’t have easy access to newspaper clippings to confirm the results. After the 1965 Nationals were held in Dunedin, the Christchurch based brothers Michael and John Hay bemoaned to me about how quickly good fortune arrives and disappears. I assume one or both brothers won medals in the Junior breaststroke at the Auckland or Blenheim Nationals in 1963 and 1964.

A week or so before the Blenheim Nationals, I had set a Junior Otago record of 2:57.8 for the 220 yards breaststroke in the 33-1/3 yards Tepid Baths in Dunedin. I was disappointed with my Blenheim time which was 6.9 seconds slower than my Dunedin time.

Swimming in a longer 55-yard pool was very different from swimming in a 33-1/3 yards pool. Each length felt much so much longer and it was more difficult to gauge what pace to swim at over 220 yards. The shorter 110 yard race was more straight forward. You just swam as fast as you could making sure you didn’t swim the first length too fast. Later on, I realised the extent that an additional turn in a shorter pool can make. Over a 220-yards race, a 33-1/3 yards short course (SC) pool requires 6 turns whereas a 55-yard long course (LC) pool requires only 3 turns. Assuming that I swam at the same pace in Blenheim as I did in Dunedin, each additional turn in the Dunedin pool gave me a 2.3 second advantage.

The NZASA currently converts short course times to long course times and vice versa using the website  The website converter is based on short course times set in a 25 metre pool in which 200 metre races requires 7 turns as opposed to 3 turns in a 50 metre pool. According to the website converter, each additional turn in a short course pool provides an advantage of exactly one second for a breaststroker. On this basis, I should have swum 3:00.8 in Blenheim to match the time I did a few weeks earlier in Dunedin.

Some breaststroke swimmers can take greater advantage than other swimmers with each turn. The one second advantage for each additional turn is not cast in stone. My Internet searches on this topic confirms that each additional turn in breaststroke generally provides at least one second advantage, but some top breaststroke swimmers can gain substantially more than one second for each additional turn. For example, Cameron van der Burg and Daniel Gyuart both held short course and long course World Records for the 100 metres and 200 metres breaststroke respectively. Cameron van der Burgh gained a 1.43 second advantage for each additional turn over 100 metres in a short course pool while Daniel Gyuart gained a 1.73 second advantage for each additional turn over 200 metres. The difference in the above advantages can be partially attributed to the speed that a swimmer can attain coming out of a turn. This speed is much greater than the average speed in a 200 metres breaststroke than the average speed in a 100 metres breaststroke.

To establish your own advantage of each additional turn in a short course pool, you need to compare your best times for each short course and long course event ideally within the same week.  As a Masters swimmer, I gained an advantage of 1.0 second and 1.3 second per additional turn over 100 metres and 200 metres breaststroke respectively. There is no way I can estimate the same advantages for when I was a junior swimmer because I didn’t have regular access to both a long course and short course pool. During the interval between swims in a long course and a short course pool, my best times improved substantially with age and especially when I started swimming twice per day.


The Kiwi Amateur Swimming Club staged a series of Aquacade Shows between 1943 and 1960 with eight shows in Dunedin. The Aquacade was born in the mind of Teddy Isaacs when he and David Forsyth met after an Esther Williams water show film held at the Empire Theatre. Teddy Isaacs was the chief sports reporter at the Otago Daily Times during the 1960s and he was one of my keenest supporters. David Forsyth wrote the script for the show with Winnie Lawrence and Arthur Thomas taking charge of the rehearsals followed by David Forsyth polishing the production at the final rehearsals. The Aquacade included water ballet routines, acrobatic diving (Tiny Isaacs), clown diving (Punch Tremaine and Fred Ladd etc.), and what was called The Shadow.

As a ten year-old seeing my first and last Aquacade, I was absolutely fascinated by The Shadow. Jean Stewart swam breaststroke in white togs while Hazel Forsyth in black togs swam directly underneath using what I call upside-down-underwater breaststroke in mirror image fashion as a shadow. From memory, they both swam two lengths of the 33-1/3 yard pool. According to An Historical Survey published by the Kiwi Club on its 50th Anniversary, the shadow managed to swim almost 55 yards in a 55-yard pool, coming up short by a yard or so due only to the shallow depth of the pool. For me, The Shadow was awe inspiring.

Prior to seeing The Shadow, my brother Keith and I used to swim a 33-1/3 yards length underwater using only a flutter freestyle kick. I found that to be quite challenging. Swimming breaststroke on my front underwater using a normal breaststroke kick and pulling down past my hips on each arm stroke was a lot easier. I managed to swim 50 yards doing that, but ever since I have never tried to go for distance underwater. As a youngster, I knew instinctively the inherent risks of doing so. As an adult, I have since learned that no swimmer should hyperventilate before swimming for distance underwater. Hyperventilating removes the natural level of CO2 from the bottom of your lungs and it is the accumulation of CO2 above that natural level which indicates to your brain that your lungs are running out of sufficient oxygen. Hyperventilating can result in running out of oxygen without sufficient warning of carbon dioxide build-up. A sudden blackout can easily result.

I have now swum upside-down-underwater breaststroke for over 60 years on a regular basis as light relief from training. Until a few months ago, I used to swim 8 x 25 metres upside-down-underwater breaststroke each Saturday with 25 metres sculling back to the start while getting my breath back. Moana Pool now requires all underwater swimmers to have a spotter and restrict the distance of underwater swimming to 25 metres. I fully support the distance restriction, but this recent rule has severely constrained what has been a most pleasurable activity for me. Sometimes I meet a fellow enthusiast for underwater swimming and we alternate being spotters for each other. So far, no one has wanted to do 8 x 25 metres.

Swimming 25 metres upside-down-underwater breaststroke is a challenge to master even for competitive swimmers. Over the years I have challenged several promising Junior breaststrokers to complete a full 25 metres. All but one has so far failed to do so. I demonstrate first and then give some pointers of what to do and not to do. Many swimmers get confused swimming upside-down and swim to the surface or to the bottom, or simply run out of air. I swim my upside-down-underwater breaststroke exactly as if I were swimming on the surface. This includes bringing my head back as if for a breath. Doing so helps to keep me at the same depth underwater. Apart from swimming upside-down-underwater breaststroke for my own enjoyment and pleasure, this type of breaststroke helps me to be more aware of water resistance and drag and the need for streamlining. The new perspective provided by upside-down-underwater breaststroke is like drawing a portrait which is a bit distorted. Viewing the portrait in a mirror provide a new perspective and immediate feedback on what needs to be done to correct the deficiencies.

Far too many young competitive breaststrokers kick with their knees spreading out well outside their shoulders. At the start of each season after a pool closure, I used to practice kicking only with a band (section of inner tube for a tyre) above my knees to hold my knees together. I also practiced kicking only with my knees together without a band. I would do two kicks per breath when doing this while stretching my arms out in front and head forward without a kickboard.

To achieve an effective pace of kick requires a full dorsiflexion action of your ankles. Over the first two weeks of each season, the strain of achieving a full dorsiflexion on my outer shin muscles was painful. Cameron van der Burgh’s video series on breaststroke technique emphasises the need for dryland stretching to attain a full range of movement. As a junior swimmer I could sit on my ankles, turn my natural plantar flexion ankle position around to a full dorsiflexion position and then, keeping my knees on the floor, lean backwards to rest the back of my head on the floor behind me. There is no way I can do that now. At the end of each swimming session, I now do leg and ankle stretching with an emphasis on stretching my hamstrings and calf muscles which are shortened by my running on the beach every second day. I would need to be far more diligent with my stretching exercises to achieve the same level of flexibility that I had as a junior swimmer. It is not as if the elderly cannot retain a high level of flexibility. I have been put to shame by an 84 year-old grandmother who demonstrated to me that she could stand up straight, hold her arm out at shoulder level and lift her absolutely straight leg up to touch her hand. This Grandmother practiced Pilates daily. I have tried to convey the need for flexibility to older Masters swimmers without success. They continue to compete with a limited range of movement of their limbs.

As a junior and senior swimmer, I used to breaststroke kick without a board to maintain the same pitch of kick as when swimming full breaststroke. As a Masters and now social swimmer, I alternate 25 metres breaststroke kicking with my arms by my side and on my back with my arms held above my head at the end of my 800 metres warmup. This type of kicking is excellent practice for breaststrokers of any age. Kicking on your back provides immediate feedback on whether you can kick while keeping your knees inside of your shoulder line and whether you can kick without your knees popping up above the surface of the water.


Otago Boys High School Pool & Calisthenics

George Ashton sent me several training programmes by post after the 1964 Nationals, but it soon became clear to both of us that coaching from a distance wasn’t going to work. I needed to develop my own training programmes. George Ashton was well versed with the latest training methods used by the Australian swimming coaches Harry Gallagher, Forbes Carlile, and Don Talbot. Olympic Gold Medallists under the charge of these coaches included Dawn Fraser (freestyle), Ian O'Brien (breaststroke), Bob Windle (freestyle), Kevin Berry (butterfly), Beverley Whitfield (breaststroke), Terry Gathercole (breaststroke), and Gail Neal (medley). I followed up George Ashton’s advice to visit the Dunedin City Library, borrow whatever books that were available on swimming, read up on training methods, and devise my own training programmes. My training programmes evolved over time.

Barry Young, my Masters training mate in the 1980s, often said that all swimming is good swimming. I agree to a certain extent, so long as swimming is done at a high intensity. Breaststroke needs to be practiced more than other strokes for timing in addition to conditioning, and butterfly and breaststroke swimmers need to condition their legs for endurance more so than freestylers and backstrokers. Barry Young was initially a backstroker. Over several years, he added World Masters records in the 200 metre and 400 metre medleys in addition to his collection of World Masters records in backstroke. By then, all swimming was good swimming for Barry Young, but not necessarily for a breaststroke specialist.  Swimming a lot of freestyle which I have never particularly enjoyed doing anyway, apart from freestyle paddles by myself or swimming freestyle for companionship, wasn’t going to do much good for my progress as a breaststroker.

My foster parent, Ron Malcolm, had been a teacher at Otago Boys High School (OBHS) in 1963 where he met and befriended Bill Hammond, the caretaker who lived onsite in a cottage by the front entrance. Bill Hammond’s youngest daughter, Jill, was also a Kiwi Club member, so he had a keen interest in swimming. The Moray Place Tepid Baths closed for a few months in the winter of 1963 and Bill Hammond offered my brother Keith and me access to the OBHS 20-yard indoor swimming pool. We rode our bikes from Ardmore Drive by the Oval to arrive at Bill Hammond’s cottage by 6.00 am to collect the key to the pool. Bill Hammond had his breakfast while we swam in the dark in winter with no lights on until 7.15 am. Bill Hammond then entered the pool through the back door to collect the front door key, Keith and I had a quick warm shower, and we rode back home for our breakfast of porridge and then school.

Like all teenagers, I preferred to stay in bed on dark and cold winter mornings instead of going to bed early and getting up at 5.30 am. After a few morning swims with Keith, I stopped getting up early for a swim at the OBHS pool. The Moray Place Tepid Baths was going to open again within a few months. There would be plenty of time for training for the 1964 Nationals in the afternoon sessions in the Tepid Baths. This, however, was not the case in 1964. The Moray Place Tepid Baths closed permanently in April [to be confirmed] and the new Moana Pool wasn’t due to open until November. I therefore seized the opportunity of access to the OBHS pool when the Tepid Baths closed. On 31 August 1964, the Malcom family shifted from 13 Ardmore Drive by the Oval to 7 Meadow Street, Mornington. This made the bike trip from home to the OBHS pool so much easier. I no longer had to push my bike with its limited 3-speed Sturmey-Archer gears up the steep hill of Stuart Street and the distance I had to travel from home to Moana Pool more than halved.

In 1964, Keith no longer joined me in my swims in the OBHS pool due to a shoulder injury. He had frequently suffered dislocation of his right shoulder during swimming which required an operation in November. I therefore swam solo in the dark of winter, barely able to see the other end of the pool, and I had no idea of how fast I was swimming without a training clock. Needless to say, I didn’t swim any backstroke. What I am able to recall is swimming as fast I could for each series of intervals and incorporating a lot of butterfly and arms only breaststroke in my training. The maximum distance that I swam for each repeat in the OBHS pool was 200 yards following a 400 yards warmup.

Bill Hammond used to time me for a 100 yards breaststroke at the end of my solo training sessions. By November 1964, I had frequently swum under 1:10. Being a 20-yard pool, there were 4 turns for every 100 yards compared to 2 turns in a 33-1/3 yard pool. My 1:10 training swims in November were the equivalent of 1:12 in the longer pool. I was swimming more or less the same time at the end of a training session as my Otago record of 1:12.4 that I had set in a race in March. A few weeks before Moana Pool opened in November, Keith joined me for a swim in the OBHS pool where I demonstrated to him my new level of conditioning by swimming 10 x 200 yards butterfly on one swimming session per day. My conditioning had improved substantially over the 7 months since March due to continued access to a swimming pool and interval training instead of sprints across widths of the Tepid Baths during public sessions. I would have, of course, swum faster with age on my previous regime of training, but that improvement would have been limited.

When I now look back on that period of swimming in the OBHS pool, I am struck by the level of motivation that I had. This motivation was largely due to the setting up goals and raising my expectations. When I was labouring on a construction site in 1969-1970, I compared myself against the steel fixer who had a more interesting job and a few cents more pay per hour. I didn’t compare my job to that of the main contractor or the engineer or architect who visited the site and I didn’t aspire back then to be doing their job (I later on became an architect). Likewise, when I competed in running races as an average social club runner in Auckland during the late 1970s and early 1980s, I didn’t compare myself against the top 20 Auckland runners in a field of 300 runners. I instead compared myself and competed against fellow runners who were close to me in the previous race. This common syndrome is described and explained by the Leon Festinger Social Comparison Theory which I learned about in Psychology 101 in 1974. At the end of the 1964 Nationals held in March, I dared to compare myself against the best swimmers in New Zealand. I aspired to break Gjocko Ruzio-Saban’s Junior Under 16 New Zealand records for the 110 yards breaststroke (1:16.4) and 220 yards breaststroke (2:52.2) when my best times over the same distances were 1:23.2 and 3:04.7. Breaking Gjocko Ruzio-Saban’s New Zealand Junior records was my target. Action follows belief, and my belief that I could break those records formed the basis of my motivation and action to do so.

Robert Walker had set a Junior Under 16 New Zealand record of 2:28.3 for the 220 yards medley in 1963. My time in the medley as a 14 year-old was 2:48.9, over 20 seconds slower. I didn’t make a target of breaking this record. Moana Pool was a 55-yard pool and it was not until the late 1960s that a floatable bulkhead at the shallow end reduced the pool length to the Olympic standard of 50 metres. Robert Walker’s Junior Under 16 220 yards record was broken by John McConnochie in March 1970 at the age of 16 years 2 months in a shorter 50-metre pool. John McConnochie set a new record of 2:27.1 in the heats of the 1970 Nationals held in Dunedin. In the finals he bettered his own New Zealand Junior record with a time of 2:25.7. John McConnochie later on represented New Zealand at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics.

Keith Bentley, an Otago Swimming Centre official, was the convenor of a calisthenics programme for Dunedin swimmers during the winter months of 1964. Each swimmer attended a weekly group session and was provided with a cyclostyled set of instructions on calisthenic exercises for use at home. The exercises were devised by a staff member at the Otago University School of Physical Education and included multiples sets of sit-ups, press-ups, squats, isometric exercises, etc. which took at least one hour to complete. The daily programme continued for at least 3 months. Keith and I diligently adhered to the entire programme, but doing these exercises every day for several months was one of the most boring physical activities I have ever endured. I wouldn’t have completed the programme without Keith to keep me company.

Each swimmer was tested for strength at the end of the programme. We should have been tested at the start, but we were not, and we were promised a copy of the results which we never received. What I can remember is that I scored much lower on hand grip strength compared to my brother Keith and John Herron who became a class mate of mine at Bayfield High School the following year. Both Keith and John Herron were muscular in their forearms. I was better developed in the pectoral and latissimus muscles due to swimming breaststroke arms only and butterfly. I managed to do 70 press-ups with a completely straight back including my neck and head, nose down almost to the floor, and arms completely extended at the end of each press-up. In other words, no cheating. My arms were shaking during my last 10 press-ups. Another test in 1964 was how many chin-ups each swimmer could do. I managed to do 17 with my hands facing away from my body. I never tried to do a one-arm chin-up as a teenager when my strength to body weight ratio was the highest and I was never able to do one as an adult.

A week before Moana Pool opened on 14th November 1964, a group of Otago swimmers had an evening training session at the OBHS pool. The swimmers, parents, and officials were introduced to Robbie Robinson, the new professional coach at Moana Pool. Keith and I swam at our usual intensity and some parents commented that we would soon burn ourselves out. This reminds me of a similar scenario when Bert Pater and I joined the Cameron Masters Swimming Club in Auckland in 1982. The Club Captain took offence when Bert and I swam in adjacent lanes. She claimed that we were racing during a club session. Our reply was no, we were not racing, we were simply training. Not even fellow swimmers necessarily appreciate the intensity of training required for top level competitive swimming.

Robbie Robinson observed the Otago swimmers in action and made a comment about my breaststroke to officials which trickled down to me that evening. He was critical that my ankles didn’t connect with each other at the end of my breaststroke kick. He was right - they didn’t. With the old style of breaststroke with a glide in front, there was ample time for a breaststroker’s ankles to connect. With my new timing of pull-to-breathe, I developed a degree of overlap where my arms started to pull before my legs had fully completed kicking back. Doing this was an advantage over the old style of breaststroke back then because with each glide there was loss of momentum. I have viewed Cameron van der Burgh’s 2013 Smart Trainer series of videos on breaststroke technique. Cameron’s ankles do not connect at the end of his kick and only his large toes connect as he draws his legs up for another kick. The main power of his kick is applied before his legs are fully extended to a planter flexion ankle position.

I have always regarded myself as an arms-dominant breaststroker rather than a legs-dominant breaststroker like Tony Graham and Gjocko Ruzio-Saban. The leg kick has been important to me, of course, to the extent that I never kicked back slowly when swimming breaststroke at a slower pace over a longer distance. I slowed down the recovery phase of my breaststroke kick, but not the propulsion phase. My line of thinking was that I wanted to mentally ingrain a continued strong kick even when I was tiring in a race. I gave equal time to arms-only and kick-only in interval training. At the 1967 World University Games in Tokyo, I was breaststroke kicking-only alongside the British Team. Dianna Harris, Gold medallist in the 110 yards breaststroke at the 1966 Commonwealth Games, made a comment to me that I had a strong kick for a male.

I used my breaststroke kick to advantage in the 440 yards medley. Freestyle was one of my weaker strokes, so I used less arm pull than usual in my breaststroke to semi-recover from the butterfly and backstroke before swimming the final freestyle leg. Doing so slowed down my breaststroke by only a few seconds. Not dying excessively in the freestyle leg was more than ample compensation. In the 220 yards medley I swam all strokes as fast as I could. Many years later after comparing my splits against medley specialists, I now realise that I went out too fast in the butterfly legs of my 220 yards and 440 yards medleys. Proper pacing is the name of the game. As a Masters swimmer, one of my favourite training routines was a 1500 metres continuous medley consisting of 15 x 100 metres medleys without rest. If I went out too fast, I was dying by 1200 metres. Pacing the butterfly was essential. In the season that I started this routine as a 35 year-old, my first 1500 metre continuous medley took me 23 minutes to complete. The challenge for me was to break 22:30 averaging 1:30 for each medley leg. I manged to do a solo swim of 22:29 after a few months. Later on, John Fisher, a fellow Master swimmer, paced me for the first 800 metres with me following 5 seconds behind. I took over the lead for the final 700 metres to finish in 22:08. There is a tow effect when following another swimmer. I reckon the tow effect is worth 5 seconds per 200 metres when following three swimmers in front of me. When I entered my training times in a diary, I added the note 1F, 2F, etc. to indicate how many swimmers I was following.

When I was introduced to Robbie Robinson at the OBHS pool, I didn’t warm to him like I did with George Ashton. Even if I did, I doubt whether my foster parent, Ron Malcom, would have approved my joining Robbie Robinson’s training squad. Ron Malcolm would certainly not have paid any professional fees for coaching out of his own pocket. All costs of fostering were carried by the Child Welfare Department and Ron Malcolm’s policy was to minimise those costs. I continued coaching myself when Moana Pool opened and I swam in public sessions.

Opening of Moana Pool 14 November 1964

Moana Pool opened with fanfare and pomp and circumstance provided by the Roslyn Mills - Kaikorai Band. The Band played Punchinello when marching onto the poolside. Keith Leckie, President of the NZASA Otago Centre, made his formal introduction and Ron Smith was the compere for the following proceedings. A list of all officials can be seen in the photographs.

First up was Interprovincial Invitation Swimming. A highlight was Vivien Haddon, Commonwealth Games medallist, swimming in the 110 yards Ladies breaststroke. Other visitors included Hugh Millar from Southland and Mark Hindle from Canterbury swimming in the 110 yards Boys Freestyle

Lilian French and Elaine Joyce put on a demonstration of the water skills required for the higher awards of the Royal Life Saving Society. Lilian French had coached and examined me for the Bronze Medallion award at the Moray Place Tepid Baths. My eldest brother was one of very few males who managed to gain the highest award in New Zealand. He claimed to Keith and me that he was able to do the high-level floating exercises because he gulped down air into his stomach for additional floatation. This might have helped, but he did have massive tree trunk thighs which would have assisted him to float horizontally rather than vertically. Bayfield and Kaikorai High Schools put on a display of life saving – see the photograph of my Bayfield High School team.

A demonstration of Water Polo in the main pool followed under the charge of Punch Tremaine. Water Polo was played in a much deeper 25-metre training pool - diving well when this addition was constructed decades later adjacent to the shallow end of the main pool.

Next up was more International Invitation Swimming. I won the 110 yards Boys Breaststroke race in a time of 1:20.3, my best time to date. The other swimmers in my race included Peter Burns (Southland), Alan McKerrow, Alan Casey, Bert Treffers (Southland), Alan McKinnon, and Michael Fox. This was the first and the last time that Michael Fox and I swam in the same race. I had been looking forward to continued competition against him and I was disappointed when he retired from competition. A highlight of the swimming competition that night was David Gerrard breaking his own New Zealand Senior Record in the 110 yards butterfly. Lyndon Olds who taught me the basics of freestyle technique swam in the same race.

A diving demonstration was given by Gay Morley, Len Hodge, Helen Hutton, and Jack Stewart, all New Zealand Champions in their day. This was followed by demonstrations by the Otago Surf Association, the Otago Centre Diving School, and members of Otago squad who had participated in the Keith Bentley’s programme of calisthenics.

The final section of Interprovincial Invitation Swimming included two heats of the 110 yards Men’s Freestyle. Peter Smith and once again David Gerrard and Lyndon Olds swam in the faster second heat. I cannot remember who won. Very likely it was David Gerrard. More diving followed, concluded by a rendition of 76 Trombones by the Roslyn Mills – Kaikorai Band finishing with God Save the Queen.

Under the 1967 decimal system, two dollars was equivalent to one pound, one dollar was equal to 10 shillings, and 10 cents was one shilling. My Souvenir Programme of the above proceedings cost me two shillings and sixpence which converts to 25 cents. In 2020, I could expect to pay at least $5 for a similar programme when going to the theatre. Staying in decimal dollar terms, Pool Admission for adults, children under 15 or in uniform, and spectators cost 20 cents, 10 cents, and 5 cents respectively. Summer and winter combined season tickets for adults, senior children (15-17), children under 15, and club officials cost $20, $12, $9, and $3 respectively.

Moana Pool no longer charges spectators during public sessions. In the 1960s, spectators were not allowed on the poolside and officials were not allowed to wear street shoes on the poolside. Now that this ban no longer applies, cleaning of the stairs from the changing rooms to the poolside and the poolside itself has become a constant daily, if not multi-daily maintenance operation. Swimmers were originally required to wade through a disinfected foot bath at the top of the stairs before stepping onto the poolside. These footbaths were filled in when many patrons circumvented wading through the murky water.

Training twice per day for the first time

Moana Pool opened at 7.00 am to the public, so there was limited time to have a decent training session and go home for breakfast before setting off for school. When the Malcom family shifted to Mornington on 31 August 1964, I asked Ron Malcom to be transferred to Otago Boys High School which was directly opposite Moana Pool. Kaikorai Valley High School was also closer to Mornington than Bayfield High School. Our shift to Mornington made it more difficult to maintain contact with my friends at Bayfield. I would have made new local friends if I had transferred to Otago Boys High School or Kaikorai Valley High School.

Ron Malcom refused to let me transfer on the basis that doing so would interrupt my education too much. I was in the 4th Form at the time with the 5th Form New Zealand School Certificate examination to be held at the end of the following year. Jack Herron, the Rector of Bayfield High School who lived near the school, allowed his son, John Herron, to transfer from Otago Boys High School to Bayfield High School at the start of his 5th Form year. As a result of Ron Malcolm’s refusal, I finished up having my breakfast of porridge before my morning training sessions from 7.00 am to 8.15 am. My breakfast lay undigested in my stomach during my training sessions. By 8.30 am I was riding my bike to Bayfield High School across the harbour from Moana Pool. Assembly time was 8.45. Jack Herron gave me dispensation from attending assembly if and when I got to school later than 8.45 am.

With regards to Ron Malcolm’s support of my education, he strongly opposed schools setting homework and would not allow me to do homework or study for school exams or School Certificate at home. He had high principles for which others carried the consequences. I was fortunate that Bayfield High School allowed a 30-minute period at the end of each school day for students to make a start on their homework. I made the most of that time. During morning and afternoon breaks I took the opportunity to memorise my Latin and French vocabulary instead of having a break and socialising. 

At the start of the Moana Pool season, I bought a swimming log book off Robbie Robinson and I kept a record of all the times I swam for each swim within a set. This was an excellent memory exercise. I have a good memory for numbers, but not for names of people or labels. At the age of eight I was taken to task by Ron Malcolm for not knowing the local street names. He sent me out on a mission to learn their names. My friends used to stand at a corner of the oval and name the model of each car that came around the corner. I found all this to be boring and a bit of a drag.

When Moana Pool opened in November 1964, I started to train twice a day for the first time. I swam at least 11 sessions per week - a 7.00 am to 8.15 am session each school morning, a 4.00 pm to 5.00 pm session after school, and a one-hour session on Saturdays. My total distance for the week ranged from 16 miles to 20 miles (25 km to 32 km). Even though I didn’t consider cycling to be exercise at the time, riding my bike from Meadow Street in Mornington to Moana Pool, to Bayfield High School, back to Moana Pool, then back home to Meadow Street was excellent cardiovascular conditioning and exercise for my legs. I also played tennis in summer and soccer in winter on Saturday afternoons.

In the early 1970s, the NZASA stipulated that swimmers must be training a minimum of 30 miles per week (48 km per week) before they would be considered for selection to compete at international meets. A top middle-distance runner can train at 6:00 minute mile pace (3:45 per km) or 10 miles per hour (16 km per hour). A top swimmer when training can complete 4.0 to 5.0 km per hour of continuous swimming depending on what stroke is being swum. The current world record for the 800 metres track is 1:40.91 held by David Rudisha and the current world record for the 200 metres freestyle is 1:42.00 held by Paul Biederman. It is safe to say that a top runner when training can cover four times the distance of a top freestyler over the same period.

It is well established that a middle-distance runner can achieve Olympic success on 100 miles per week (160 km per week). A freestyler who trains 25 miles per week (40 km per week) therefore has a greater time commitment than an Olympic ranked runner when the rest periods of interval training is included. I suggest that a breaststroker who swims 20 miles per week (32 km per week) at a slower pace than freestyle also has a greater time commitment. When it comes to maintained intensity of training, top swimmers also require a greater commitment than top runners. A large proportion of a middle-distance running is run at 70% effort whereas most swimming training is swum at 80% to 90% effort.

The structure of my training programmes consisted of a warmup, a minor series that formed part of the warmup, a main series, an arms-only series, a kicking-only series, and finished with a loosen down. I have retained this structure throughout my swimming career making modifications only when time constraints prohibited a full programme. The longer morning sessions allowed time for a more complete programme and I preferred to swim longer distances for each series. I am not a morning person when it comes to exercise, and now that I am retired, I swim at lunch times rather than in the morning. My shorter afternoon sessions in 1965 and 1966 as a Junior then Senior swimmer included faster work over shorter distances.

I swam a 440 yards warmup starting with 220 yards freestyle. I didn’t swim breaststroke until I was properly warmed up because I always used a vigorous kick no matter what speed I swam.

All the following times for efforts in a series are from a push-off start unless stated otherwise. I used the timing clock at the shallow end of Moana Pool to time myself and, apart from 55-yard efforts from the deep end, I started my efforts from the shallow end and rested at the shallow end because I was short-sighted. There was no cribbing when I timed myself. I started each effort dead on the 60 seconds at the top of the clock. I have seen several swimmers over the years who start on 58 or 59 seconds on the clock and kid themselves that they swam faster than they actually did.

Robbie Robinson’s squad started and rested at the deep end of the pool, so there was minimal social interaction between myself and the squad during rests between efforts. I must have been a thorn in Robbie Robinson’s side by swimming independently without a swimming coach. Robbie Robinson’s parting words to me when he left Dunedin a year after starting at Moana Pool was that I wouldn’t have fitted into his squad because I was too much of an individual. I didn’t choose to swim by myself. Whenever possible, I sought company to swim with. As an adult I enjoyed and fully appreciated the camaraderie of belonging to a group of runners on a pack run and swimming with a group of like-minded swimmers at lunch times in Auckland. I missed out on that in Dunedin as a junior swimmer. A breaststroker cannot keep up with a freestyler of the same age and there was no one of my own age or older in Dunedin who was swimming breaststroke at the same speed as me. The choice would have been to swim in a group of younger freestylers. Young teenagers generally don’t socialise with someone who is two or three years younger. I didn’t have that option and if I did, I wouldn’t have taken it. I simply got used to training by myself, enjoyed swimming and running with other athletes as an adult, and I am now back to running and swimming by myself because there are very few runners of my age and I am now too slow to join a group of younger runners or swimmers.

My minor series in the morning after my warmup usually consisted of 4 x 220 yards medley on four minutes aiming for 2:55, a pace that was not pushing it. In the afternoon I started immediately on my main series.

My main series in the morning included up to 8 x 220 yards breaststroke on five minutes aiming for 3:00. When I swam a series of 440 yards, I swam them on nine minutes aiming for 6:10 or faster. Sometimes I would include 4 x 220 yards butterfly on 5 minutes aiming for 2:45 or a series of 220 yards breaststroke swimming butterfly on the 3rd length aiming for 2:52. I realised later that more than one minute rest was excessive, but there again, my 3:00 time in training for 220 yards breaststroke was only 10 seconds slower than my then racing time. In later years I would give myself one minute rest between 220-yard efforts and sometimes 30 seconds rest.

My main series in the afternoon included 8 to 12 x 110 yards breaststroke on two minutes aiming for 1:25 and 8 x 55 yards breaststroke on one minute aiming for 40.0 seconds. I included 8 x 55 yards butterfly on one minute aiming for 35.0 seconds. In training, I have always found 110-yard efforts to be a dead spot. I wanted to swim my 110 yards breaststroke series in 1:22, but lactic acid build-up prevented that.

My kicking and pulling series in the morning included 4 x 220 yards arms-only breaststroke on five minutes aiming for 3:10 and 4 x 220 yards kicking-only breaststroke on five minutes aiming for 3:15. Sometimes I included a 440 yards arms-only breaststroke aiming for 6:15 and a 440 yards kicking-only breaststroke aiming for 6:30.

My kicking and pulling series in the afternoon included 8 x 110 yards arms-only breaststroke on two minutes aiming for 1:30 and 8 x 110 yards kicking-only breaststroke on two minutes aiming for 1:32. I also included 8 x 50 arms-only breaststroke on one minute aiming for 42.0 seconds and 8 x 50 kicking-only breaststroke on one minute aiming for 43.0 seconds. When fully rested at the end of a training session, I was able to swim a 36.0 breaststroke, a 38.0 arms-only breaststroke, and a 41.0 kicking-only breaststroke all from a push-off. During my rests, I found it easier to recover from kicking-only than arms-only breaststroke.

When tapering, I would do 16 x 27.5 yards (half of Moana Pool) with a dive start and walk back. I didn’t know what times I was doing. In later years when I had someone to time me, I was doing 25 metres sprints under 16.0 seconds. There were then and are now no NZASA races over 25 metres. As a 34 year-old Masters swimmer, I set a New Zealand Masters record of 14.9 seconds for the 25 metres. 

My loosen down at the end of my training sessions consisted of a 220-yard easy swim to flush away any build-up of lactic acid. In 1982 when I started training with Barry Young for the 1st International Masters Swimming Championships to be held in Christchurch two years later, we were swimming in the Fanshawe Tepid Baths in lunchtime public sessions with no lane ropes. Fortunately, there were very few swimmers in the pool, so we swam adjacent to each other over an imaginary line on the bottom of the swimming pool and we occupied our “lane” during rests by swimming a length or two lengths on our backs using a double arm backstroke sculling action with a breaststroke kick. Ever since then, I have sculled on my back instead of taking a 30 seconds or a one minute rest in a 25-metre pool and I have loosened down after a training session the same way.

First New Zealand Junior Record in Christchurch

A few weeks before Christmas, Bill Hammond drove me to Alexandra in Central Otago for a swim meet. His car was a brand-new turbo-charged Holden imported from Australia. In the 1960s, New Zealand had tight restrictions on how much money could be taken or sent overseas. Bill Hammond circumvented these restrictions by using his British Army pension fund. He had been a Sergeant in the British army during WWII and continued service in Germany until 1950 before emigrating to New Zealand. We both took delight and thrill in the acceleration enabled by the turbo-charger on some long straights. Being pressed back in our seats was like being a Friendship plane taking off. I was disappointed with my time of 1:20.5 in the cold water short-course pool. I expected to swim well under 1:20.

Shortly after Christmas, Bill Hammond timed me over a 220 yards breaststroke with a dive start after a warmup during a training session. I swam 2:52.4 which was 0.2 seconds off Gjocko Ruzio-Saban’s New Zealand Junior record. Bill Hammond was more excited than me. I was just relieved that the fruits of training twice a day were starting to pay off.

On 30 January 1965, I set my first New Zealand Junior Record of 2:49.1 in the 220 yards breaststroke at the South Island Championships held in Christchurch. The Centennial Swimming Pool was a 55-yard outdoor pool located in the City Centre. Bill Hammond wasn’t able to attend the swim meet, so Ron Smith timed my splits at 1:20 for the 110 yards with a final lap of 43.1seconds after a slow 3rd lap. My brother Keith was ecstatic. He had told nearby spectators that I was about to break the New Zealand Junior Record while I was swimming. No one believed him. My next target was Gjocko Ruzio-Saban’s 110-yard record of 1:16.4. That record proved to be more elusive.

1965 Australian Senior Swimming Championships held in Hobart

As a result of my New Zealand Junior record, I was selected by the NZASA to represent New Zealand at the Australian Senior Swimming Championships held in Hobart. Other members of the team included Tony Graham (breaststroke), Alan Seagar (medley), David Gerrard (butterfly), all three coached by Morry Doidge in Auckland, and Susan Woonton (freestyle). I was tacked onto the team at the last minute because entry to swim at the separate Australian Junior Championships closed before Christmas. The Australian Senior Championships were held a week or so before the New Zealand Junior and Senior Championships held in Dunedin. I was selected to swim in only the 220 yards breaststroke in Hobart. I was disappointed that I was excluded from swimming in the 110 yards breaststroke. My reaction was to ask the Otago Centre to include me in the senior 110 yards race at the National Championships in addition to my junior races.

The Otago Centre presented me with a reefer jacket complete with an NZASA badge on the breast pocket. The internal pocket of my jacket contained a leather wallet in which was a generous sum of spending money. I am grateful to those Otago officials who were aware of my family circumstances. A few days later, I flew up to Auckland to join the team before we flew over to Melbourne. For some reason, the plane returned to Auckland after a few hours of flight. We set off again for Melbourne and then Hobart where I was billeted with a family whose names I forget. The family included a boy a few years younger than me and a younger sister. I enjoyed my stay, and a highlight was when the father took me to his printing shop and described and demonstrated the process of commercial printing. I was fascinated. Hobart struck me as being a very young and modern city. The weather was great and the 55-yard swimming pool was open-air.

In my heat of the 220 yards breaststroke, I was hopelessly outclassed. I finished well back in a time of 2:50.9, a time that was good enough to have won a bronze medal at the Australian Junior Championships held a few weeks earlier. Tony Graham beat Ian O’Brien over the 220 yards breaststroke by 0.2 seconds in a thrilling race with a time of 2:38.7. David Gerrard won the 110 yards butterfly in 1:01.5, a Tasmanian record with Susan Woonton finishing 6th in the finals of the 220 yards freestyle in a time of 2:24.7. I don’t have any results at hand for Alan Seagar.

The New Zealand team for the 4 x 110 yards Senior medley relay fronted up to the starting blocks with Alan Seagar swimming backstroke, Tony Graham swimming breaststroke, David Gerrard swimming butterfly, and me swimming freestyle. When David Gerrard handed over to me to swim my freestyle leg, we were positioned for a medal placing. That was to evaporate soon after I started swimming. I finished trailing behind the field. That was embarrassing and I felt I had let the team down. I doubt whether I had swum faster than 1:04. Within one year I was swimming a freestyle 110 yards close to one minute, my strength and conditioning compensating for a lack in technique. The New Zealand record at the time was 57.6 seconds. In the 220 yards Senior medley race at the 1966 Nationals held in Napier, I was swimming in the adjacent lane to Graeme Campbell, a butterfly and freestyle specialist. Graeme Campbell won the 1967 Nationals title in the 220 yards freestyle with a time of 2:10.8 and the 1969, 1970, and 1971 Nationals titles in the 110 yards butterfly after David Gerrard had retired. We were neck and neck at the end of the butterfly leg, Graeme Campbell forged ahead in the backstroke which was my weakest stroke, and I caught him again in the breaststroke. We both turned together for the freestyle leg and quickly eyeballed each other as we turned. I knew what he was thinking – he’s a breaststroker, I’m a freestyler, the Silver is mine - but that didn’t happen. I narrowly beat him into 3rd place with Alan Seagar winning in a time of 2:24.7. A few weeks later I swam my best ever time for the 220 yards medley in 2:26.0.

Our plane returned to Wellington where I stayed overnight before my flight to Dunedin. That same night I swam in a carnival held in the Freyberg Swimming Pool located on the shorefront. The pool was a six-lane wide, 33-1/3 metre pool and I swam in a 200 metres breaststroke race. I felt tired after my long plane trip from Melbourne, so I couldn’t be bothered doing full breaststroke turns. I became aware of a fellow swimmer behind me who took advantage of my lack of full turns and the response of the crowd sensing the possibility of an upset. I put in a burst of speed over the last two lengths and finished in a time of 2:50+. The second swimmer finished in 2:56.

A highlight of the evening for me was being introduced to Sir Walter Nash, a former Prime Minister of New Zealand. I found him to be quite courtly with a twinkle in his eye and a keen interest in the proceeding of the swim meet. We shared the back seat of a taxi to the city centre. It might have been an official government issued car given his status. Another New Zealand celebrity I can claim sharing a taxi ride with is Witi Ihimaera, the first Maori novelist to publish both a novel and a book of short stories. It is not every day that you meet a celebrity in the flesh who you have read about in the newspapers or seen on TV.


On the day before the Nationals started, I rode my bike to Moana Pool while wearing Jandals also known as flip-flops or thongs. My right foot slipped off the pedals and I badly bruised my big toe. I arrived at Moana Pool in severe pain thinking that I had put paid to my chances at the Nationals. That same night Hazel Malcolm took me over to Mrs Tighe, our next-door neighbour, who was a faith healer. I was neutral as to the benefits that faith healing claimed to provide. All I know is that when Mrs Tighe hovered her hands above my head for a minute or so, the pain in my toe subsided to the extent that any residual pain no longer troubled me. A few weeks later my toenail started lifting and it was painful when my toenail fluttered while swimming. My toenail was still too firmly attached for me to remove, so I went to the hospital where the nurse injected a local painkiller before extracting it. With my big toe wrapped in bandages, I boarded a bus and sat down at the back. The bus drove off and the bus conductor lurched drunken-like towards me from the front to click my bus pass. When he got to me, he stood on my toe! Would you believe it! Just as well the pain killer was still doing its job or I would have been in agony. Many years later I learned that whenever you bruise a toenail, you should immediately heat the end of a large sewing needle red hot and release the blood pressure under your toenail by carefully melting a hole through it.

At local carnivals and even at the South Island Championships, there was friendly rivalry. You would be billeted with your competitors and you would return the favour by billeting them and become good friends. This was not the case at the Nationals where one-upmanship was frequently deployed as a tactic to unsettle and unnerve a fellow competitor. The Auckland team was the worst – they seemed to regard Otago and smaller centre swimmers as being country bumpkins. Before any race I deliberately keyed myself up to get a flow of adrenalin flowing ready for flight from the blocks. Any attempts to unsettle me were misguided. I wanted to be nervous before a race.

When I arrived at Moana Pool soon after bruising my big toe, several visiting team members were sitting around in a group in the foyer. I joined the group to say Hi and Welcome when a member of the group made a snide remark about my teenage acne. My response was to studiously look at all their faces and reply with “I think the pot is calling the kettle black”. I immediately regretted my retort when those in the group more afflicted than me with acne squirmed.

The 1965 Nationals in Dunedin was my best ever and the results of my fellow Otago team mates, Bill Robertson, Carolyn Mitchell, and Peter Smith, all three coached by Robbie Robinson, signalled the ascendancy of Otago swimming. I finished up with three gold medals in the junior under 16 section, a bronze medal in the senior 110 yards breaststroke, and I broke my own New Zealand junior record in the 220 yards breaststroke in a time of 2:48.4. Both Bill Robertson and Carolyn Mitchell won gold medals in the junior backstroke and set New Zealand junior records. Earlier in the season Peter Smith had been chasing the 60 second barrier in the Junior 110 yards freestyle without success. He was concerned that he would have to break 60 seconds to be in for a medal. A year later he set an Otago senior record of 1:00.4. Peter Smith approached me for my advice as to what he should do to get a medal at the Junior nationals. I suggested he swim the 110 yards butterfly and he won a silver medal in that event in 1:10.1 behind John Whately who swam 1:08.1. Kelvin Barfoot held the New Zealand junior record of 1:06.8.

Robert Walker won the Senior 110 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards and 1650 yards freestyle, a clean sweep. At the end of the nationals, he was presented with the Baxter O’Neil Trophy. According to Sporting Records of New Zealand compiled by Sydney Todd, “This trophy is awarded to the swimmer of the year chosen by the national selectors, not only on the basis of swimming ability and performance, but also having regard to service to the sport, character and the probability that the chosen swimmer will continue to serve the NZASA after his or her competitive career”. David Gerrard won this trophy in 1960 and 1967. In 2018 his service to swimming culminated in his becoming President of Swimming New Zealand, formerly known as the NZASA.

Tony Graham won both the Senior 110 yards and 220 yards breaststroke setting New Zealand records of 1:12.0 and 2:38.4 in both events while beating an out of condition Ian O’Brien into second place. Some 18 months later, Ian O’Brien returned to his former 1964 Olympics condition at the 1966 Commonwealth Games where he won both breaststroke events swimming 1:08.2 and 2.29.3.

As the Malcolm family was leaving Moana Pool on the final session of the Nationals, Ron Malcom told me that someone in Dunedin had offered to coach me. I never found out who made that offer. Ron Malcolm scoffed at and dismissed this offer – who needed a coach when I had won three Gold Medals at the Junior Nationals and held a National Junior Record. My butterfly and medley potential would have benefitted by having stroke technique correction.


Swimming Targets for 1965-1966 Season

At the end of the 1965 Nationals, the NZASA announced the qualifications times to be matched or bettered to be considered for selection for the 1966 Commonwealth Games. The qualification times for the 110 yards and 220 yards breaststroke were set at 1:12.0 and 2:38.4 respectively. My understanding at the time was that all swimmers had to match or better the qualification times in the following season of 1966 to be considered for selection. Those qualification times became my new target. I knew that Ian O’Brien, the Olympic gold medallist and world recordholder, would be competing at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in August the next year. My aim was to win the silver medals. I had a full year to prepare for selection at the 1966 Nationals to be held in Napier in February.

Moana Pool closed for winter maintenance at the end of 1964-65 swimming season. I swam 1:16.5 for the 110 yards breaststroke in the final carnival, 0.1 second short of Gjocko Ruzio-Saban’s record. I was disappointed. So close, and yet so far.

Bill Hammond had become a pool attendant at Moana Pool, so I no longer had access to the OBHS pool in the mornings during winter. I decided to take up running as cross-training while Moana Pool was closed by joining the Mornington Running Club which my brother Keith had joined the previous season. The club held pack runs on Saturday afternoons with Alistair McMurran, the club coach, choosing the various courses over back roads, farmland, and beaches. We would start at a different club member’s home each week and finish back there for afternoon tea. Each run took about two hours. We would all start together in groups of different abilities and pace and keep together in our group until a mile or so from home when the fitter runners took off. I found these runs to be exhausting. During the week I ran a daily circuit from Meadow Street heading South along Kenmure Road down to Kaikorai Valley Road, along Kaikorai Valley Road to Stone Street, and up the hill to home, a distance of 3 miles. While running up Stone Street I visualised following a silver medal dangling in front of me like a carrot leading a donkey. Back then I thought running up Stone Street was tough. In 1975 my family and I shifted to Auckland where I joined a local running club and ran 10 marathons. In Auckland I ran up many much steeper and longer hills than Stone Street in Dunedin.

Early in the cross-country season the Mornington Running Club held races at Forbury Park, the horse racing track near St Clair beach. Ian Scarfe and I were on a handicap and I struggled to keep up with him over a two-mile circuit to finish in just under 12 minutes. Sixteen years later as a 32 year-old, I ran my best ever time of 59:12 over a 16 km (10 mile) circuit in the Auckland Road Championship. My best time as a 16 year-old over 440 yards on the Caledonian Ground running track was 1:05. As a 32 year-old, my best ever time was 59 seconds. I simply didn’t have the leg speed to ever make a top runner. I have continued running because I simply enjoy running. 

Near the end of Ian Scarfe’s and my two-runner struggle on the Forbury Park circuit, John Campbell and then a group of other faster runners passed us by like a whirlwind. John Campbell was a highly talented world class Junior runner (six months older than me) who didn’t realise his full potential as a Senior. He returned to running marathons in his late thirties and represented New Zealand at the 1988 Olympics finishing 12th. He set a Masters World Record of 2:11:04 at the 1990 Boston Marathon. My best time for a marathon at the age of 32 was 3:04:26. My average running training back then was 45 miles per week peaking at 65 miles per week for 16 weeks before each marathon. I can’t claim to have ever raced a marathon. Just finishing a marathon was the challenge.

A few weeks later, the Mornington Running Club held a running camp over a long weekend. The long runs each day were once again exhausting. As the season progressed, I was able to handle the Saturday pack runs much better to the extent that I tried to keep up with the faster runners on the final scurry for home. The season for me finished with the Otago Cross Country Championships held at Wingatui. I started off as usual at the back of the field. When we came to the hill section, I was slipping and sliding without spikes, but I was starting to rope in the stragglers at the back of the field. On the homeward journey I had a long tussle with another runner as we hurdled a series of fences. I managed to clear away from him in the back straight to finish 11th, one place short of qualifying for the Junior cross-country Nationals. On our way home after the race, our car passed the runner I had beaten into 12th place. He was running back home after having run a race. I then realised that I had manged to beat a dedicated runner. It also made me realise that in running, I competed against fellow runners, whereas in swimming, I primarily competed against the clock. If I was beaten by a fellow swimmer and I did a personal best, then I was pleased with my time determined to do better on my next swim.

When Moana Pool opened again, I continued my previous programmes of swimming twice per day. In early September, I caught the flu and stayed in bed for a few days. That was in the days when Doctors made house calls. Two weeks later, the Otago Centre held a series of time trials set up to provide the opportunity for Junior swimmers to set new Otago or New Zealand records before turning Senior swimmers on 1st October. In my first time trial, I swam the 110 yards breaststroke in 1:14.3, breaking Gjocko Ruzio-Saban’s New Zealand Junior record of 1:16.4 by 2.1 seconds. In the second time trial, I swam the 220 yards breaststroke in 2:44.8 breaking my own Junior record of 2:48.4 by 3.6 seconds. I thought why not give the Junior 110 yards butterfly record of 1:06.8 a go. In the third and final time trial I went out too fast and died badly over the last 15 yards or so finishing with a time of 1:08.1, the same time as John Whately, the gold medallist, swam at the 1965 Nationals. I wanted to have a second attempt at the record, but time was up. Five months later I was swimming 1:07.5 in the butterfly leg of my 440 yards medleys.

In 1969, I represented Southland at the Nationals held in Auckland, and that was where I met up Gjocko Ruzio-Saban when he visited our team at our hotel. I had swum against him at the 1966 Nationals and met him briefly at the 1967 University Winter Tournament, but we didn’t have much of an opportunity to have a conversation. Gjocko told me that, as a Junior, he had swum much faster short-course times than his long-course New Zealand Junior Records. He also told me that he had swum under 2:40 for the 220 yards breaststroke when vying for selection to represent New Zealand at the 1964 Olympics. According to Gjocko, his sub 2:40 time was dismissed by the selectors because he had a freestyler to pace him. Don Bidwell, a top New Zealand Masters swimmer now in his 80s, confirmed this story a few years ago. Gjocko tried to gain selection for the 1966 Commonwealth Games, but was unsuccessful, even though his best 110-yard time for the season was faster than the bronze medallist at the Games. He retired from swimming in 1966, an example of one of many New Zealand swimmers who did not realise their full potential as a Senior swimmer.

A few weeks ago, I came across verification of Gjocko Ruzio-Saban’s New Zealand Junior short-course records. These times were 1:13.2 for the 110 yards breaststroke set on 25 September 1963 and 2:41.2 for the 220 yards breaststroke set on 30 September 1963. These times are comparable to the long-course records that I set after taking into account the advantage of additional turns. If we had swum in the same races at the same age, we would have been a match for each other. The main difference between us is that Gjocko had regular competition against Tony Graham and Aland Seagar in Auckland. He also had a swimming coach to guide him. Both Gjocko and I made substantial improvements over six months since the Nationals in 1963 and 1965 respectively which adds fuel to my argument that age groups should be based on the age of swimmers on the day that they compete.

At the Otago-Southland Championships a few months later, I swam my best time ever over 100 yards breaststroke in 1:05.6. Tony Graham held the Senior National Record at 1:04.4.  Eighteen years later as a 34 year-old, I swam 1:05.8 over the same distance at the Fanshaw Street Tepid Baths in Auckland.  At the time, I was swimming 40-minute sessions once per day at lunchtimes. I wasn’t to know in 1965 and 1966 that I would never better my personal best times as a 16 year-old when I was swimming twice per day. A swimmer training only once per day, even with the advantage of full maturity, cannot expect to swim faster than a swimmer who trains twice per day. My Masters training mate, Barry Young, worked as a lecturer for the Maritime School during the 1980s. When he started the same job under contract, he also started swimming 4 km sessions each morning at the Takapuna Swimming Pool and sometimes joined in with our 2 km swims at lunch time or swam in the ocean at Long Bay. His conditioning as a 55 year-old and from then onwards helped to decelerate the inevitable slowing down process with age that all Masters swimmers have to contend with.

Shortly before Christmas, I swam against Tony Graham in the 55-yard Centennial outdoor pool in Christchurch. I managed to beat Tony Graham in the 110 yards breaststroke in a time of 1:13.8 and he beat me in the 220 yards breaststroke in a time of 2:42.1. My time was 2:43.7. During the third length of the race, my concentration faltered because I was fascinated by the difference in our stroke rates and how easily I could keep up with him. I should have swum harder over the third length to bridge the gap between us before we turned for the final length. It was only after running cross-country races as an adult that I became more race hardened to swim my third length of a 200 metres breaststroke faster and swim home the best I could. Up until then, the only 220 yards swimming event that I swam as fast as I could over every length was the 220 yards medley. The change in muscle groups with each change in stroke enabled that. There again, I did go out too fast in the butterfly leg. Good pacing is the key, and a noticeably slower third length in a 220 yards race is not the way to swim to one’s full potential. This is once again where a coach is invaluable for providing guidance on better pacing.

1966 Victoria State Swimming Championships in Melbourne

In January 1966, the Otago Daily Times reported that I had been selected to represent New Zealand at the Victoria State Swimming championships in Melbourne and that I would be competing in the 110 and 220 yards breaststroke and the 220 and 440 yards medley (see photo). I didn’t want to swim in the medley races as I wanted to focus on qualifying for selection for the 1966 Commonwealth Games in breaststroke. I had never raced in a 440 yards medley before and my best 220 yards medley time of 2: 32.6 was four seconds short of Robert Walker’s New Zealand Junior record. This is where I am a bit hazy - I might have communicated my wishes to the NZASA before leaving for Melbourne or to the Team Manager upon arrival.

Paddy O’Carroll and Hilton Brown, both backstrokers, were the other team members who travelled from New Zealand. When I arrived in Melbourne, I met up with Gjocko Ruzio-Saban at the indoor Melbourne 50-metre pool where the 1956 Olympics had been held. The Melbourne Olympic Pool was located in the City Centre within walking distance from the railway station. Gjocko had been training in Melbourne for several weeks and, from memory, I think he had trained in Melbourne on previous summers. At the end of the competitions, Gjocko joined us as the fourth member of the New Zealand Medley Relay team. He might have been an official team member. Mr Braithwaite was the team manager.

I was initially billeted with a young family located many miles away from the Melbourne Olympic Pool. That arrangement was not ideal as there was no local swimming pool to train in before the State championships started. Their 13year-old daughter also competed at the State championships, so I was able to share a car ride to the Melbourne Olympic Pool when the competitions started.

My first race was the heats of the 200 metres breaststroke. I made the finals and I was given a brief warning by a touch judge about my illegal turns. No explanation was given. Peter Tonkin who represented Australia at the 1964 Olympics and Gjocko Ruzio-Saban beat me to 3rd place in the finals. At the end of the 200 metres breaststroke finals, I got a second warning by a touch judge who told me my turns were illegal because I had used two arm strokes underwater at the start and each turn before surfacing. I was puzzled by this. I hadn’t used two arm strokes underwater, and I had used the same starts and turns that I had swum at Otago, Otago-Southland, South Island, New Zealand, and Australian championships in Hobart the year before without being disqualified.

My next race was the 100 metres breaststroke. I swam a 1:14.2 with plenty in reserve for the final. I had swum the second fastest qualifying time. At the end of my race, I was brought before the head judge who told me that I had been already been given two warnings for doing illegal turns and that I was disqualified. I asked the head judge what I had done wrong. He replied that I had used two arm strokes underwater before surfacing. Only one was allowed. I then demonstrated my pronounced keyhole arm action while standing and pretending that I was swimming to the ceiling. I slowly pulled my arms apart and down to my shoulder level, kept pulling my arms down but sweeping into my hips, and then pushed down past my hips to finish with a flick of my wrists. I repeated that action while telling the head judge that at no stage were my arms backtracking on themselves. I then asked the head judge how could my arm stroke action therefore be regarded as being two strokes. The head judge’s reply was that he had a duty to make sure that no swimmer took an unfair advantage over other swimmers. I was disqualified, and that was his final decision. Mr Braithwaite was present during this exchange and did not intervene on my behalf. That was it. My overseas trip to Melbourne was a wasted trip with an ignominious conclusion.

In 2002, Alistair McMurran, the sports reporter for the Otago Daily Times, wrote an almost one-page article on my bid to compete at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. I told him the story of the following events in Melbourne subsequent to my disqualification and he decided this story muddied an already murky story. He covered my Melbourne competition by writing ”… he performed badly as a New Zealand representative at the Victorian State championships at Melbourne.” He made no mention of my disqualification and his summary of my performance was contrary to what was reported in the Otago Daily Times in 1968 (see photo).

I had promised Ron Malcolm that I would visit his long-term friend and family who lived in Melbourne. I contacted this friend and was invited to stay the night. The following day was a day of rest for the State championships, so I informed Mr Braithwaite and my billet host that I would be staying overnight with Ron Malcolm’s friend and that I would meet up with the team again when competitions recommenced.

The following day I swam at a local outdoor swimming pool. After a warmup, I tried swimming a 400 metres medley. Over the summers months I had included several 4 x 440 yards medleys aiming for 5:55 in my training programmes. I had been swimming the butterfly first leg in 1:15. To my surprise, I swam 5:30 comfortably which gave me the idea of how to salvage my lack of results at the State championships by competing in the medleys. The next day I asked Mr Braithwaite to be included in the medleys and this request was approved by the officials. My name might have been already listed in the printed programme.

In the heats of the 400 metres medley, I swam 5:20 which was the fastest qualifying time for the finals. In the finals I swam 5:15.5 to win the gold medal and set a new Victoria State Record, swimming the first 100 metres butterfly leg in 1:07.5. While swimming both medleys, I had three turn judges congregated at the end of my lane peering intently at my turns. There were two breaststroke turns in the 400 metres medley. At each turn I immediately swam breaststroke on the surface of the water instead of my normal underwater turn. I was determined not to give the turn judges any opportunity to disqualify me. Later that day, my initial billet host arrived at the swimming pool with my suitcase and I was informed that I would be billeted with another family who also lived many miles away from the City Centre. I was told that was the plan all along - to share billeting. I used the train system to get to the Melbourne Olympic Pool from the home of my second billet. This family didn’t have any swimmers competing at the State championships.

My 200 metres medley the next day followed the same pattern as the 400 metres medley. I easily qualified for the finals in which I swam 2.26.0 to win the gold medal and set a new Victoria State Record.

The last event on the programme for the New Zealand team was the 4 x 100 metres Medley Relay. Hilton Brown swam the backstroke leg, Gjocko Ruzio-Saban swam the breaststroke leg, I swam the butterfly leg, and Paddy O’Carroll swam the freestyle leg. We won the gold medal and set a Victorian State Record. Paddy O’Carroll won the New Zealand 110 yards freestyle title at the 1968 Nationals in a time of 56.7 seconds. This time might have broken the previous New Zealand Record.

The New Zealand team returned to New Zealand a week before the National Championships. This was not ideal as the Victoria State Championships and travel interrupted a normal tapering period of two weeks before a major competition. I was happy with the times I was swimming over shorter distances with longer rests during this week before the Nationals.

A few weeks before I competed in Melbourne, Robbie Robinson resigned as coach and chief pool attendant. He had been a popular and successful coach, but the timing of his departure was disruptive for his squad of swimmers.  Duncan Laing became the new professional coach at Moana Pool shortly before the 1966 Nationals. In the meantime, Bill Hammond, a poolside attendant at Moana Pool, and several Otago Centre amateur coaches and parents looked after the Otago swimming squad until Duncan Laing arrived in Dunedin.


The 1966 Nationals was held in Napier’s outdoor 55-yard pool. I found the pool temperature to be very cold and I was unable to swim sprints in my usual times the day before competitions. I started to fret that my Nationals would be a repeat of the South Island Championships held in Greymouth in the 1963-1964 season under similar conditions. Back then I performed well below my best. Duncan Laing accompanied the Otago team to the nationals and he provided a calming influence not only for me, but also for the rest of the team. He didn’t press himself on us, but he was there quietly providing support where needed. I warmed to Duncan Laing’s personality and approach to coaching in the same way that I had warmed to George Ashton based in Blenheim.

My 1966 Nationals was a disaster. I swam both my 110 yards and 220 yards breaststroke slower than my New Zealand Junior Records I had set at the end of September 5 months earlier [times to be confirmed]. Tony Graham (Gold medallist), Gjocko Ruzio-Saban, and Alan Seagar beat me in 4th position in the 220 yards breaststroke. In the 110 yards breaststroke, I had to settle for a bronze medal behind Tony Graham (Gold medallist) and Gjocko Ruzio-Saban. Tony Graham swam 1:13.1 and 2:39.0 to win the 110 yards and 220 yards breaststroke. A minor consolation – I won two silver medals in the 220 and 440 yard medleys behind Alan Seagar who swam 2:24.7 and 5:08.1 respectively. I have no records of the times I swam.

At the end of the Nationals, the NZASA announced the team of swimmers selected to compete at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. Tony Graham, Alan Seagar, Hilton Brown, Paddy O’Carroll, and David Gerrard were included in the team. The Olympic and Empire Games Association would later on endorse these NZASA selections.

In the weeks following the 1966 Nationals, the Otago Centre provided a series of time trials for swimmers to qualify for selection. On two occasions I swam the 110 yards breaststroke in 1:13.9 which demonstrated that I was back to form. On the third occasion I swam the 220 yards medley against Alan Seagar and Robert Walker. There was a possibility that the 220 yards medley might be included in the Commonwealth Games. Alan Seagar won the medley time trial and I came third behind Robert Walker in my best ever time of 2:26.0. Keith Bentley, the Otago Selector, told me that I had failed to qualify for selection. I assumed that this was because I hadn’t matched or bettered the qualifying times of 1:12.0 and 2:38.4 for the 110 yards and 220 yards breaststroke. I accepted the decision and resolved to be better prepared at the 1967 Nationals to be held in Christchurch. My plan was to stay with my mother in Christchurch and train in the Centennial Pool for several weeks before the Nationals to get used to swimming in colder water.

When I told Ron Malcolm of my plans, he gave me an ultimatum to stop swimming as a competitor because training twice a day was absorbing too much of my time and attention. Many decades later, I certainly agree that swimmers younger than 16 should not train twice per day. I didn’t encourage my daughter or son to take up competitive swimming. They both chose their own sports and they were involved in several different activities which is healthy for any developing child or young teenager. In my case, I was a member of a dysfunctional family and my swimming gave me respite outside of the family and a sense of self-worth when I was daily subjected to a critical atmosphere within the household.

A younger sibling of mine had joined the Malcom family in 1962. In 1965, this sibling requested the Child Welfare Department to be transferred to the care of another foster parent. The Child Welfare granted this request, but didn’t follow up on the reasons for the request by interviewing the remaining siblings under the care of Ron and Hazel Malcolm. An investigation by the Child Welfare at the time would have revealed the extent of dysfunctionality in the Malcolm family. I opposed Ron Malcolm’s ultimatum by making a similar request to the Child Welfare Department. I was fobbed off with the argument that changing foster parents and high school would be too disruptive to my education and that I should hang in there as I had only one more year of High School to go before my discharge from the guardianship of the Child Welfare at the age of 18. Ron Malcolm backed off his ultimatum on the condition that I look after a local boy the same age as me once per week after school to give his mother some respite. Noel Smail had been in another class from me at Kensington Primary School 8 years earlier while confined to a wheel chair. When I met up with Noel again, his condition of muscular dystrophy had deteriorated to the extent that he was totally dependent on his mother’s care being unable to walk and with limited control over his arms. Noel was highly intelligent and was able to turn pages on a book only by licking the pages over with a movement of his head. I continued visiting Noel until I shifted to Invercargill in June 1968. In 1969 I received word from his mother that Noel had passed away while I was on a course in Wellington. I was unable to attend his funeral.

Ron Malcolm’s requirement to visit Noel Smail now seems to me to have been a form of saving face when the Child Welfare Department over-rode his ultimatum. I continued training in the mornings and it was now getting to winter. I can’t remember whether I was still swimming twice a day. 


Several athletes in other sports continued making late bids for selection to compete at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. A week before June, Ron Malcom told me that Otago Centre officials wanted me to also make a late bid. The officials had made arrangements with Duncan Laing to be my coach during a four-week tapering period before undergoing time trials. An arrangement had also been made with Jack Herron, Rector of Bayfield High School, for me to study at home during this period so that I could focus on my training.

I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and I had confidence in Duncan Laing after getting to know him better after the 1966 Nationals. I accepted the offer and meticulously followed Duncan Laing’s tapering programme to the letter. I trained twice a day and, as a measure of my progress, Duncan Laing periodically timed me in the middle of a training session over a 4 x 55-yards breaststroke push-off with only 10 seconds rest in-between. With other swimmers under his charge, Duncan Laing had found that the accumulated time was a good indicator of how fast a swimmer could swim the full 220 yards in a race. I was swimming an accumulated time of 2:40.

In my first time trial on 27 June, I swam 110 yards breaststroke in 1:13.2. This time was 0.1 second slower than Tony Graham’s winning time at the Nationals. My previous best time was 1:13.7 which I swam seven months earlier to beat Tony Graham in Christchurch. In my second time trial on 29 June, I swam 220 yards breaststroke in 2:40.5. This was my best time by 3.2 seconds. The national selectors were interested in this time and word came back to the Otago Centre from the national Selectors for me to swim another time trial to see if I could break 2:40. On 1 July I swam the 220 yards breaststroke in 2:38.9 which was 0.1 second faster than Tony Graham’s winning time at the Nationals. Kathy Taylor, a member of Duncan Laing’s squad when he was an amateur coach in New Plymouth, swam butterfly in an adjacent lane in a late bid to also gain selection. There was no pacing advantage. I swam against the clock well in front of Kathy with 55 yard and 110 yard splits of 36.0 and 1:16.0 respectively. My time was recognised as an Otago record.

The New Zealand Olympic and British Empire Games Association rejected my late nomination by the National selectors (see photo of the 5 July 1966 Otago Daily Times report). I was naturally disappointed by the decision when I had satisfied the selectors’ request to break 2:40 for the 200 metres breaststroke. On 9th July the official Commonwealth Games swimming team took part in a carnival at Moana Pool as preparations for the Commonwealth Game held two weeks later. In a swim against Tony Graham, we both recorded the same times for the 110 yards breaststroke (1:13.3) and 220 yards breaststroke (2:39.6). Tony was judged first place in the 110 yards and I was judged first place in the 220 yards.

I wanted to swim a time trial on the same days as the 110 yards and 220 yards breaststroke finals at the Commonwealth Game held in Kingston, Jamaica, but Duncan Laing and Bill Hammond persuaded me not to on the basis that I had everything to lose by doing so and nothing to gain. I had not been selected and there was nothing I could do to reverse that. At the Commonwealth Games, Ian O’Brien of Australia won the gold medal in 110 yards breaststroke in 1:08.2, Tony Graham won the silver medal in1:12.9, and Malcolm Tucker of England won the bronze medal in1:13.9. Ian O’Brien won the gold medal in the 220 yards breaststroke in 2:29.3, Tony Graham won the silver medal in 2:36.9 breaking his New Zealand record of 2:38.4, and William, Mahony of Canada won the bronze medal in 2:38.9 (see the accompanying photos).

To add burning coals to my disappointment, Keith Hancox, the first New Zealander to swim the English Channel and the second person to swim Cook Strait, wrote an article in the New Zealand Sports Digest that the Otago Swimming Centre’s issue with my non-selection was a “storm in a teacup”, that I had unfairly trained during winter to specifically beat Tony Graham just before the Commonwealth Games, and that time would tell whether I had been worthy of selection.


In 1966 I was in the lower 6th form studying for a University Entrance Certificate which was awarded by either sitting external national exams at the end of the year or by completing studies to a satisfactory standard throughout the year including internal school exams. The following upper 6th form year in 1967 would have culminated in sitting external University Scholarship exams at the end of the year. I was awarded a University Entrance Certificate without sitting external national exams.

Ron Malcolm persuaded me to leave Bayfield High School a year early and start at Otago University in 1967 on the basis that a first year at university would be a repeat of an upper 6th form year. I am unsure to this day what his underlying motivation had been behind his persuasion.

The value of a University Scholarship didn’t seem to me to be a sufficient remuneration for delaying completion of a Bachelor of Science by one year. I therefore borrowed lecture notes from first year Otago University students to check out whether the course contents were indeed a natural progression of my 1966 year. The algebra content of mathematics was certainly a repeat because Bayfield High School had been one of five high schools in New Zealand teaching a pilot version of new mathematics. I felt that I could handle the first year coursework at Otago University.

There was another reason why I agreed to leave Bayfield High School a year early. In 1966, my classmates John Herron (the Rector’s son), Stephen Bagley, and I were appointed school prefects. One of us would be appointed head boy prefect in 1967. Although John Herron was the captain of the Bayfield High School 1st fifteen rugby team and the 1st eleven cricket team, I felt that his Father would not appoint his own son as head boy prefect which would leave a choice between Stephen Bagley and me. I didn’t want to risk being appointed head boy prefect because in 1966 I had been undergoing efforts to correct a life-long speech defect.

From an early age I had called my brother “Keef” instead of “Keith” and I said “free” instead of “three”. This articulation disorder of not forming the sound “th” and always using “f” instead is commonly due to parental neglect. A Child Welfare speech therapist had written in a report that I had no speech defect at the age of five. This was incorrect. Ron Malcolm briefly tried to correct my speech defect when I first came under his care at the age of seven. I was not sent to a speech therapist and I was subsequently unaware of any need or reason to correct my speech defect until I was 15 when my speech was mimicked as a form of one-upmanship and put-down by rival swimmers. As a school prefect, I was required to read out passages from the bible at school assembly, a duty which was a stressful ordeal for me. My classmates were aware of my efforts to correct my speech defect to the extent that Stephen Bagley offered me the tongue twister “hither and thither” to practice. With perseverance over a number of years, I eventually corrected my speech defect without conscious effort. I didn’t want to take on the role of head boy prefect in 1967 which would have involved public speaking when I had yet to master my speech defect. Stephen Bagley was appointed head boy prefect in 1967. 


My preparations for the 1967 Nationals to be held in Christchurch were the same as for the 1966 Nationals with a difference while undergoing tapering two weeks before the nationals. I stayed with my mother in Christchurch for two weeks during the summer holidays before the nationals to get used to swimming in colder water. The Christchurch centennial swimming pool was open-air and although I had set my first junior national record in this pool, I didn’t want to once again risk seizing up in cold water like I had at the 1966 Nationals.

I took a train trip up to Christchurch with my bike in the weekend. Upon arriving in Christchurch, I went to the luggage department to collect my bike, but the attendant behind the counter refused to release my bike which was in full in view behind him. According to the attendant, it wasn’t railway policy to release items in the weekend. I had the prospect of walking a long distance from the railway station to my mother’s home and back again the following day. Mr Johnston who had billeted me twice for the South Island Championships overheard our conversation while passing by and intervened on my behalf. The attendant released my bike from his custody.

My cold water training didn’t go well. I simply seized up when swimming for longer than 800 metres. I swam only once per day because that was all I could tolerate and I swam at lunchtimes to give the pool time to heat up during the morning. Late afternoon sessions were not a goer as there was no lane swimming and afternoon sessions were more crowded. Swimming only once per day while tapering was not a major handicap because a swimming workload is reduced during tapering sessions with faster efforts and longer rests. Nonetheless, my final preparations for the 1967 nationals would have been better if I had stayed in Dunedin tapering in a heated pool and actually swam faster than I could in a cold water pool.

There was frequently only two swimmers training in the centennial pool at lunchtimes. Tui Shipston who represented New Zealand as a 15-year-old junior at the 1966 Commonwealth Games swam next to the side of the pool with her coach pacing up and down the pool while she swam. I swam at the centre of the pool and I didn’t get a chance to even say a brief hi to Tui as her elderly coach kept a watchful and protective eye on her. No one was going to interrupt her training session.

Tui Shipston swam in the 440 yards medley and the 110 and 220 yards backstroke at the 1966 Commonwealth Games finishing 8th in the finals of the 440 yards medley in a time of 5:49.3. The gold medallist, Elaine Tanner of Canada, swam 5:26.3. Tui swam as a senior at the 1967 nationals and won 14 national titles at 3 nationals setting New Zealand records in the 220 and 440 yards medleys, 440 yards freestyle (the first female in New Zealand to break 5:00), 880 yards freestyle, and the 110 and 220 yards butterfly. Tui also represented New Zealand at the 1968 Olympics and was awarded the swimmer of the year Baxter O’Neil Trophy in 1968 and 1969, the Harold Pettit Trophy for most individual points at a national championship in 1967, 1968, and 1969, and the International Award for returning a performance closest to the current world record in 1968 and 1969.

Back again with regards to seizing up in cold water. Bruce Smith who won a national bronze medal in the 1650 yards freestyle in 1969, Keith Stevens who was an arch rival of David Gerrard in the 110 yards butterfly, and I swam a series of eight 66-2/3 yards butterfly on the minute in a cold water 33-1/3 yard pool while on a university team touring the North Island in the summer of 1968. Both Bruce and Keith swam the series in 40 seconds. In a heated pool I could also swim this series easily in 40 seconds, but I was struggling to break 42 seconds in the cold water pool. When I turned 50 in 1999, I started undergoing annual blood tests as an early warning signal for prostate cancer. My blood tests included that for my thyroid glands which had been found to be enlarged by Dr Buckley in Dunedin when I was 10 years old. I was diagnosed as having hypothyroidism, a condition which can slow down metabolism leading to a drop in core body temperature. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include a low tolerance to cold temperatures. In 2003 I carried out an experiment at the unheated open-air Parnell Swimming Pool in Auckland late in the season when the temperature of the pool had dropped to 22° C. I first swam 600 metres freestyle at a steady pace and timed myself. I then swam 600 metres wearing a hired wetsuit at the same pace. During this swim I thought my time for the distance would be slower due to the unnatural encumbrance of my wetsuit. To my surprise, my time was more or less the same. I removed my hired wetsuit and swam a third 600 metres freestyle. After 200 metres I started to seize up at the same pace and I would have had to swim much faster to generate enough body heat to stay warm.


I joined the Otago swimming team which stayed at an unlicensed hotel in Christchurch the day before the nationals. My lasting memories of this stay was the concern of the Otago officials as to the inadequate diet provided by the hotel – the team manager purchased additional meat for the team to eat with their main dinner – and the hilarious “Calling the dining room, calling the dining room” coming from the intercom speaker in the dining room on a regular basis during meals.

Tony Graham won the gold medals in the 110 and 220 yards breaststroke in 1:12.9 and 2:42.4 respectively. I won both silver medals behind Tony, but I have no record of what times I swam. From memory, my 110 yards time was slower than my Junior New Zealand record of 1:14.3 and my 220 yard time was much slower than my Junior New Zealand record of 2:44.8. I have strong memories of the 440 yards medley in which Aland Seagar won the gold medal in 5:10.4. I swam in the lane next to Alan well behind him at the end of the backstroke leg, my worst stroke. When I started the breaststroke leg, I realised I had a problem. I was starting to seize up. Lyndon Warbrick in the other lane next to me was behind me after the backstroke to breaststroke turn. I eased back on the breaststroke to make sure I could better handle the freestyle leg. Lyndon started to close the gap between us in the breaststroke leg and I became aware of the noise of the watching crowd sensing an upset for the silver medal. I didn’t panic and allowed Lyndon to almost catch up to me. With great difficulty, I managed to stay in front of Lyndon to win the silver medal in 5:30+, a time 15 seconds slower than my best a year earlier. Our Otago team won a bronze medal in the 440 yards medley relay in which I swam the breaststroke leg.

I was disappointed with my performance at the 1967 nationals, but this was soon forgotten when a few weeks later I started my first year at Otago University. My first contact with the university was a visit to the university secondhand bookshop. I paid 50 shillings for the “University Physics” textbook by Sear and Zemansky 3rd edition published in 1964. 1967 was the year that dollar currency was introduced in New Zealand by Robert Muldoon, the then National Party Minister of Finance. Fifty shillings equated to $5. Ron Malcolm gave me the money to purchase textbooks and asked me to get receipts. I have a copy of that receipt in my Child Welfare Department records which, on my recent 3rd request, I was finally able to obtain an almost complete though heavily redacted file record. I still have my Sears and Zemansky textbook which has been a useful reference book over the years, but I cannot help comparing this textbook against “College Physics” 2nd edition by Paul Urone published in 2001 which is a far superior textbook for first-year university students. I paid $5 for this secondhand textbook in April 2014. Textbooks have improved so much over the intervening decades. I so wish I had access to this textbook in 1967.

Professor Dodds and Professor Dowden shared lecturing the first-year students in a tiered lecture theatre seating 300 students. Both professors were excellent lecturers. Incidentally, Professor Dodds was a keen swimmer who swam on a regular basis at Moana Pool during lunchtime. The first-year algebra component of mathematics was taught by a recent PhD graduate who had yet to adjust to the level of abstraction that first-year students could absorb. The students subsequently lost focus. Dart throwing and private conversations during lectures was rife to the extent that a mature student in his 40s stood up and requested the students to give him a chance to hear the lecturer. The students’ response was a stamping of feet and a flood of jeers. I wasn’t overly sympathetic at the time, but later on appreciated this mature student’s request.

I continued swimming only once each day in the mornings to keep fit for competing at the Easter Tournament hosted by Victoria University in Wellington. Accommodation of visiting competitors was by way of billeting with households which had a tenuous connection with the university. This was a strong contrast with my previous experience of billeting with families of fellow swimmers which had an interest in swimming.  The swimming competitions were held at the Naenae swimming pool, an open-air 55-yard pool and venue for the 1962 nationals. Getting to the swimming pool from our billet by the airport to the city centre and then by train to Lower Hutt was an experience in itself in a much larger city than Dunedin. Easter in late March is near the end of summer and the temperature of the Naenae pool was well down by then. I won the 220 yards breaststroke unchallenged in 2:50+. When we were about to leave the pool at the end of the competitions, Gjocko Ruzio-Saban arrived and requested the opportunity to break the Easter Tournament record for the 220 yards breaststroke. His request was granted and he swam solo bettering the record in a time of 2:49+. I am not sure who would have won the 220 yards breaststroke if Gjocko had fronted up to the starting blocks on time. A few months ago, I came across an article in which I learned that Ggocko’s time for the 220 yards breaststroke had been disallowed because he didn’t actually compete in the tournament.


On my return to Dunedin, I became absorbed in my university studies and I was considering retiring from competitive swimming. Moana Pool back then was the only indoor heated swimming pool in New Zealand and I was sick and tired of competing at nationals in cold water pools in which I had been unable to perform at my best. Several weeks rolled by and I was then notified that I had been selected by the New Zealand Universities Sports Association (NZUSA) to compete at the second World University Games (Universiade) to be held in Tokyo in late August. I understand that Ron Smith with connections to the Otago University branch of the NZUSA had strongly supported my selection. My selection was pivotal in encouraging me to continue competing at swimming. If Gjocko Ruzio-Saban had competed at the 1967 Nationals and had not turned up late at the Easter Tournament, then perhaps he would have been selected to compete at the 1967 World University Games instead. The 1966 nationals was Gjocko’s last nationals. If I had stayed on at Bayfield High School for the upper 6th year, I would have missed out on selection. There have been many pivotal moments and events in my life. 

At the time of the notification, I was relatively unfit swimming nowhere near my best six months earlier and I was unable to swim twice daily due to my full lecture load of four courses with laboratory tutorials held in the afternoon for physics and chemistry. It would have been possible to train twice per day in running, but not in swimming. Was I going to turn down an opportunity of a free trip to Tokyo? Of course not. I knuckled down to train as hard as I could once per day. This included swimming a 440 yard butterfly grinder at the end of each morning session. I swam the first 220 yards breathing every second stroke so that the second 220 yards breathing every stroke seemed easier to complete. When Moana Pool closed for a few weeks, arrangements were made for me to train at lunchtime in the Dunedin Hospital physiotherapy pool which was near the university. This pool was maintained at 35° C. Training in this temperature was debilitating.

The selectors required me to swim a time trial a week before departing overseas. I swam my time trial at Moana Pool at lunchtime in a public session swimming in lane 8 roped off from the public. Lane 8 adjacent to the poolside was not my favourite lane. I nonetheless swam as fast as I could and the three timekeepers concurred that I had swum 1:12.6 which was 0.6 seconds from the national record of 1:12.0 held by Tony Graham. The selectors were pleased with my time and perhaps relieved that I had justified their selection.

I met up with my fellow teammates in Christchurch – Barry Jones who had won the 5,000 metres national title on the track in 1967 in a time of 13:46.0 and Helen Schwartz who had won the 1967 national women’s foil title in fencing. There was no team manager. Barry was a recent PhD graduate in chemistry who was accompanied by his wife he had married a few months earlier. They were to travel from Tokyo to London after the World University Games for Barry to take up a postgraduate position. Before leaving Christchurch for overseas, we were interviewed by video for television broadcast. When I was asked how my preparations had gone outside of the New Zealand swimming season, I replied that my training had gone exceedingly well beyond my expectations.

Our first stopover on our plane trip to Tokyo was for two nights in Hong Kong via Melbourne and Darwin. There was a blast of warm humid air each time the cabin doors of our Friendship plane opened, a portent of the climate we had to contend with over the next few weeks. We arrived in the late afternoon and stayed in a major hotel in the city on the 3rd floor level. I used the stairs instead of the lifts on arrival to go down to the ground floor foyer to meet up with Barry, his wife, and Helen to have a quick look around the city. On each landing there was bedding and cooking utensils which I assumed belonged to staff working in the hotel. When we exited the hotel, we were immediately waylaid by a Chinese gentleman waiting outside who offered to be our tour guide. I wasn’t too keen on this, but my team mates accepted his offer and I tagged along. I soon realised the tour guide worked on a commission basis, taking us to shops with an arrangement of his choice and not mine. Each city block was high-rise with small businesses and shops at ground level and residential apartments above with clothing hanging on lines and bikes etc. on almost every balcony.

There was an arrangement for us to visit the New Zealand Embassy the following day. A staff member took us from the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour by ferry to the opposite side of the city. What was striking to me was his attitude towards the Chinese native to Hong Kong, my first encounter of overt racism. Later on that day I went on a shopping expedition by myself. Bill Hammond had given me pre-signed traveller’s cheques to buy a Japanese battery-operated radio. In 1967 New Zealand had strict restrictions on how much cash could be taken out of New Zealand. Giving me cash to purchase his radio would have reduced how much cash I could take with me for my own expenses and purchases. Although traveller’s cheques required a second signature at time of purchase, the pre-signed traveller’s cheques were readily accepted. Bill Hammond was still using his radio 15 years ago when I visited him shortly before he emigrated to London to become a Chelsea Pensioner after his wife Nora passed away. Another eye opener on my visit to Hong Kong was being propositioned by a 12 year-old girl standing behind the counter of an electronics shop selling radios. Her response to my shocked reaction was to offer her older sister instead. I beat a hasty retreat and purchased Bill Hamond’s radio at another shop.

The scale of Tokyo’s high-rise buildings and motorways within the city was overwhelming. For example, a shop selling only shoes consisted of three floors of a building with a floor area the same as the largest general store in New Zealand. Each day the air temperature was 100° F (37.8° C) with heavy cloud cover and no visible sun. As a New Zealander, acclimatising to these conditions without air-conditioning would have been difficult.

Barry Jones and I stayed in the same university complex used as accommodation for sports teams at the 1964 Olympic Games. I am hazy about where Helen Schwartz and Barry’s wife stayed. Barry and I were located on the ground floor of one of the high-rise buildings with the male members of the British team and their team manager, Norman Sarsfield, on the 1st floor. Norman Sarsfield handled paperwork on behalf of the New Zealand team and he provided me with a copy of the results for each sport at the end of the World University Games.

Barry and I occupied a room with six beds and we were each assisted by an interpreter, two young university students who had volunteered to improve their English. Each day started in the large self-service dining room. In the 1960s, I had porridge for breakfast and I still do.  I am not sure what I had for breakfast in Tokyo. Maintaining the same diet is important for competitors. I do remember choosing to eat chicken for dinner every day. Chicken in New Zealand was a luxury and roast beef for Sunday dinner was the norm even for low-income families in 1967. The reverse is now the case. I didn’t see much of Barry after breakfast who was either running or sight-seeing the city with his wife. I chose to stay mainly in the games village with air-conditioning and, apart from my daily swimming sessions, I rested up for my competitions with the occasional games of 10 pin bowling in the games village. I did one tour of the city and shops with my interpreter, took a train ride into the countryside with a dazzling view of Mount Fuji in the background, and I was invited to my interpreter’s home where her mother played the Koto, a traditional Japanese string instrument. There was a visit to a tea house and a night function at the New Zealand embassy, the grounds of which included a beautiful Japanese garden with pond and bridge where I heard about the mind-boggling value of land in Tokyo. My interpreter gave me a bronze wall mounted sculpture as a memento of my visit to Tokyo which I still have hanging on my living room wall.

I met the British swimming team at the Yoyogi swimming pool where training sessions had been allocated for each country. I shared the British team’s allocation. The Yoyogi swimming pool built for the 1964 Olympics was an awe-inspiring structure with a suspension roof designed by the internationally acclaimed Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (see accompanying photos). My first impression of the British team was their deference towards Robert (Bobby) McGregor who had won a silver medal in the 100 metres freestyle at the 1964 Olympics. Two members of the team – S. Norman and R. Pontefract – were my competitors in the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke. At our first training session, Norman Sarsfield timed both breaststrokers for a series of 25 metre sprints with a dive start. He invited to also time me and I accepted swimming solo. The times he gave me for my 25 metres were slower than his team members and slower than what I thought I had really swum. I realised a bit of one-upmanship was in play, so I suggested we all start together, which we did. I repeatedly finished a metre in front. My faster sprint speed was later on confirmed by the results of our 100 metres breaststroke. The ensuing rivalry at subsequent training sessions resulted in no socialising between us at the games village even though our accommodation was only one floor away from each other.

In the 100 metre breaststroke heats I swam 1:13.9, not a good time for me and too slow to qualify for the finals. I had gone out too fast in the first 50 metres trying to keep up with the leader and I died over the last 15 metres. Norman and Pontefract swam 1:14.5 and 1:15.8 respectively in their heats. In the finals, Ken Merton of the USA won the gold medal in 1:08.1, Kenji Ishikawa won the silver in 1:08.7, and Osamu Tsurumine won the bronze in 1:09.4. In the 200 metres breaststroke heats, S. Norman swam in 2:41.7 and I swam 2:43.4 to scrape into the finals. In the finals I swam in lane 8 adjacent to Norman in lane 7 pacing myself much better than in the 100 metres and 200 metres heats swimming at a more even pace for both the first and second 100 metres. On the 3rd lap I caught up with Norman at the final turn and we swam neck and neck on the final lap to both finish in the same time of 2:41.2.

The standard of swimming at the World University Games in 1967 was much higher than that at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. In many events the times of the gold medallists at the 1966 Commonwealth Games would not have been fast enough to win any medals at the 1967 World University Games and the bronze medallists would not have made the finals. Good examples are the 100 and 200 metres butterfly. Doug Russel of the USA won the 100 metres butterfly in a new world record in a time of 56.3. The bronze medallist swam 59.7 compared to the gold medallist time of 1:00.3 at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. John Ferris of the USA won the 200 metres butterfly in 2:06.3 and the bronze medallist swam 2:11.5 compared to the gold medallist’s time of 2:12.7 at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. The standard of swimming is simply higher when all countries and not only just the commonwealth countries are represented.

I attended Barry Jones’ 5,000 and 10,000 metres races at the 1964 Olympic Stadium where Barry placed 9th in the 10,000 metres track race in a time of 31:12.4. The winning time was 29:00.0 with a temperature of 23.2° C and humidity of 68%. In his second 5,000 metres race, Barry placed 16th (no time was recorded). The winning time was 14:03.8. The temperature was 28.4° C with a humidity of 73%. I also attended Helen Schwartz’s ladies foil competition where she placed 8th out of a field of 9. The closing ceremony at the stadium was emotional when all competitors broke rank from a formal and orderly file of marching on to the track to end with a whirlwind of wild celebrations, hugs, and congratulations with each other.

The New Zealand team members were required to write a report of their trip for the NZUSA upon returning home to New Zealand. Norman Sarsfield provided each of us with a copy of the official results before leaving Tokyo. Ron Malcom, my foster parent, offered to help me write my report. I declined his offer, wrote my report, and posted my report to the NZUSA with a copy of the results. Ron Malcom borrowed my copy of the results to make his own copy. I never got my own copy back. A few years ago, I learned that the archives of NZUSA reports and minutes were held at the Wellington City Library. I applied for a copy of the reports related to the 1967 World University Games and I received 3 pages of a 4-page report. The first page was missing. The report included all results and made comments on each New Zealand competitor. The comments on me are as follows:

“Ivan Johnstone joined the British swimmers for training purposes. I believe it to be true when I say that he found the amount and intensity done by the British swimmer greater than he had been used to and certainly different. This would have been of considerable value to him in the future. However, he did reach the final of the 200m breast-stroke, no mean feat, and gave his all in the final as he had done earlier in the heats and in the 100m.”

The report was signed off by A.R. Malcolm (August Ronald Malcolm) Team Manager. How this came about I will never know. There was no New Zealand team manager. Ron Malcolm did not attend the 1967 World University Games. The above comments would be par for the course if written by Norman Sarsfield, the manager of the British swimming team. The sole benefit I gained by swimming with the British team for a few days of tapering before competitions was access to a swimming pool. The hard yacker of my training had been carried out back at home in New Zealand. Any comments by Norman Sarsfield as to the intensity of my training could only ever be but mere speculation.

A few weeks after arriving back home in Dunedin, I swam a 110 yards butterfly race in a local carnival at Moana Pool. Micael Toomey, a promising junior swimmer, swam in an adjacent lane. Before the race I felt I could be in for a good time. A reliable indicator for me was how easily I could walk up the stairs two steps at a time from the changing rooms to the swimming pool deck. I went out hard and turned first, but by how much I don’t know. I was focused on my own race against the clock. I had gone out too fast and started to fade badly over the last 15 metres. I was aware of Michael pulling up alongside me and he pipped me at the post to set a new national junior record of 1:03.1. My time was 1:03.3, my best ever official time for 110 yards butterfly. The senior national record at the time was 1:01.3 held by David Gerrard. Michael and I discussed our race later and he told me that he was also fading in the arms over the last 15 yards, but was able to make good use of his strong second dolphin kick to assist his arms. Michael won the 100 metres senior butterfly title at the 1972 and 1973 nationals and became the first New Zealander to break the one-minute barrier for this event.


By going to the World University Games for two weeks, I had a backlog of university studies to catch up on, so I continued swimming once per day in the mornings until after my exams. I managed to pass first year physics, mathematics, and applied mathematics, but I failed chemistry. Before starting university, I thought I might finish up majoring in chemistry, but I soon changed my mind. Chemistry requires a lot of rote learning at undergraduate level. Over the year, I had come to prefer physics and mathematics which involved an understanding and application of key principles with less reliance on memory. I continued swimming only once per day due to the following commitments.

Otago University in the 1960s allowed students who had failed exams to sit a special exam at the start of the following year. A pass or fail only of the special exam would be awarded. My summer break of 1967/1968 involved swotting for this special exam in first year chemistry which I managed to pass. I also worked at a summer job cleaning windows at the King Edward Technical College to earn cash for New Zealand Universities swimming team tour of the North Island in early 1968 (see accompanying photo). During this tour I swam 2:27.0 for the 220 yards medley which indicated that I was in good shape for the nationals which were held a few weeks later.

The Child Welfare Department liaised with the Department of Education to award me a university boarding allowance for 1968 given that I was no longer a Ward of the State with no accommodation support by my parents. I wanted to study electronic engineering at Canterbury University in Christchurch, but Ron Malcom vetoed that with the argument I should complete a general Bachelor of Science degree first and that I could always do an engineering degree later. The Child Welfare Department described Ron Malcolm’s relationship with his wife as being Victorian. The same applied to his relationship with those under his charge. My next year at university was going to be at Otago University. Ron Malcolm also insisted that I get a part-time job at night-time while studying in 1968 when I wanted to devote more time to my studies to get better grades. I applied for and got a part-time job at Crothalls which had the Dunedin hospital cleaning contract. This part-time job would start after my return from the 1968 nationals.


Two days before the Otago swimming team left for the 1968 nationals, Ron Malcom required me to shovel and shift cubic metres of compost offloaded at 7 Meadow Street. This was hard physical work and while shovelling, I thought to myself “what are doing to me, you are putting paid to my chances at the nationals”. Ron Malcom had planned to retire in 1970 at the age of 60 and set himself up with a business selling compost. There was no urgency to shift the compost. I could have shifted the compost on my return from the nationals.

The 1968 nationals were held in an open-air pool which was as cold as that at the 1966 nationals in Napier. In all my previous races against Tony Graham over the 110 yards breaststroke, I had been in front of him at the 55 yard turn. This time I felt I had nothing to lose by trying a different strategy. I deliberately held back to be a half a body length behind Tony at the turn. By holding back, I was able to storm over the last 55 yards to pip Tony at the finish winning my first senior national title in 1:14.0. It wasn’t my best time, but good enough to come first. Tony won the 220 yards breaststroke in 2:42.4 and I came third in about 2:48. I think Alan Seagar might have come second. Tony expressed his surprise to me that I swam so slow in the 220 yards breaststroke given that I had beat him over the 110 yards. For me, it was par for the course. I also got a bronze medal in the 220 yards medley. Alan Seagar won the medley in 2:23.3 and Barnett Bond, a backstroke specialist, came second. Barnett and I swam in adjacent lanes and he was in front of me in the backstroke leg. I caught him in the breaststroke leg and we turned together for a freestyle tussle to the finish. Unlike my 220 yard medley race at the 1966 nationals where I fought like fury to beat a butterfly/freestyle specialist in the final freestyle leg, this time I said to myself “stuff it” and was content take the bronze medal. This is the only race when I didn’t give a 100% effort. Barnett Bond took over the medley swimming mantle from Alan Seagar when Alan retired in 1968 winning the1969 and 1970 national titles for both the 220 and440 yards medley and he represented New Zealand at the 1970 Commonwealth Games.

Upon returning to Dunedin from the nationals, I collected my suitcase from the shuttle bus and started to carry it into 7 Meadow Street when Angus, my younger brother by four years, wanted to take over. I said no thanks, but Ron Malcolm ordered me to let Angus take my suitcase. I was feeling a bit tired after my trip and I wanted to avoid confrontation, so I handed my suitcase over to Angus.  Doing so was a pivotal moment of my life when I realised the full extent of the dominance and control that Ron Malcom had over me. I also realised that Ron Malcolm treated me the same way as Angus who was intellectually challenged. I decided to leave the Malcolm household to hold some self-respect. The following morning, I ordered a taxi after Ron Malcolm had departed for work and I left 7 Meadow Street with one small suitcase holding my few possessions. As I was leaving, my distraught aunt, Ron Malcolm’s wife, called out to me “You can’t do this, you can’t do this”. My reply was “Yes, I can. Just watch me”.  

I had finally left the Malcolm household. For a few years each time I passed by 7 Meadow Street, I could feel this overpowering influence of Ron Malcolm emanating from the house. I had been truly under Ron Malcolm’s authoritarian thumb for so many years. To this day I still have strong ambivalent feelings towards Ron Malcom. He had been a powerful influence over my early childhood for good and I am forever grateful to him for that, but he was unable to allow a child to grow up to be an independent adult. Shortly before Ron Malcolm passed away at the age of 84, I travelled from Auckland to Dunedin to say farewell and to thank him for looking after me.


A few weeks after the 1968 nationals, the New Zealand Swimming Association (NZSA) announced the members of the squad who would compete for selection to represent New Zealand at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. I was included in that squad, but this announcement was a bit of a joke for me. There was no way that I could train twice a day necessary to meet the qualifying times and also undertake full-time university studies while working part-time at night and the weekend. Even swimming once a day proved to be difficult.

I found board with a family in South Dunedin near the Carisbrook rugby grounds where I stayed in a shed shared with a toilet and laundry. Transport proved to be a problem because when I left 7 Meadow Street, I hadn’t taken the bike I had been using for five years with me. My brothers each had a bike, but the bike I used was Ron Malcolm’s bike and I felt that I was only borrowing it. Taking the bike with me would have felt like stealing. I used the bus instead and walked everywhere which was time consuming. I should have bought a bike as soon as possible, but I didn’t.

In my second year at university, I was enrolled in Advanced One Physics and Advanced One Mathematics, a full-time course. The physics class was down from 300 students in the first year to about 30 in the second.  The mathematics class was much larger. Lectures delivered by the physics lecturer were appalling. There was much stamping of feet during lectures in protest and I finished up getting better value by not attending lectures and doing independent studies using the course text books. Laboratory work in the afternoon involved using 100-year-old equipment with no support from tutors when equipment failed. The calculus lectures in the first of three semesters were superb.

My work as a cleaner for Crothall’s at night and on Saturday mornings included using an electric scrubber/polisher with a single disc. This machine could easily run away from you, but I was able to control the machine from the outset with one finger and thumb because I had used the same type of machine polishing classroom floors at Otago Boys High School. During the first semester break I also worked during the day at the Roslyn Woollen Mills cleaning male and female toilets.

There wasn’t much time for training at swimming, but nonetheless I joined the Otago University team to compete at the Easter tournament hosted by Massey University in Palmerston North. This involved a train trip to Christchurch, a ferry from Lyttelton to Wellington, and a bus trip to Palmerston North. The ferry hadn’t arrived back from Wellington, so our team took a bus ride to Picton at the top of the South Island to catch the Picton-Wellington ferry. We arrived at Picton late at night with no accommodation staying overnight in the ferry building. We took a ferry to Wellington the next day and a bus to Palmerston North arriving in the afternoon. This was the same weekend when our intended ferry floundered. The sinking of the Lyttelton–Wellington ferry Wahine on 10 April 1968 was New Zealand’s worst modern maritime disaster. Fifty-one people lost their lives that day, another died several weeks later, and a 53rd victim died in 1990 from injuries sustained during the sinking.

I got limited sleep during our journey from Dunedin to Palmerston North, the longest period I have ever gone without sleep. I have no recollection of our accommodation or our competitions in Palmerston North. What I do remember is tasting beer from a can for the first time – Leopard – when most beer was sold in a glass bottle or in a keg. Leopard to me tasted like cigarettes soaked in water. At a celebration party at the university after our competitions, our table of students was waylaid by a bible basher propounding the evils of drink. Needless to say, he was ignored. Getting back home was interesting as no transport had been arranged. Bruce Smith and I individually hitch-hiked back to Dunedin with a competition to see who would get back first. Bruce had a backpack and I carried a suitcase. Today I am amazed that I managed to hitch-hike the entire way back to Dunedin apart from my ferry ride. Perhaps drivers took pity on me and I was seen as being non-threatening (and naïve) carrying a suitcase. Bruce Smith wasn’t so fortunate.

Unemployment in New Zealand during the early 1960s was low but increasing. It was said that the Prime Minister knew the names of all those who were unemployed. How times have changed. In the 1960s a single income of fifteen pounds ($30) could support a family. Nowadays two incomes are needed to support a family and a mortgage or rent. That is progress for you. Halfway during the second semester, Crothalls told me it could no longer guarantee me regular work and that I would be put on a call basis for work as and when available. At the time I saw no other option but to seek full-time work. I had a job interview with the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) and was offered a position as a technician at the radio station in Invercargill which I accepted. By leaving university half way during the year, I lost my right to a boarding allowance should I return to my university studies in the future.

Before shifting from Dunedin to Invercargill, I had purchased my first car, a 1936 Austin, from a fellow student. I test drove the Austin down the steep hill of London Street and back. London Street has an “S” bend near the bottom of the hill and I had to struggle to steer around the bend because the sloppy steering box had been over-tightened. I also had to stomp on the brakes to slow down. The Austin returned OK back to the top of London Street, I fell in love with the car, and I paid the asking price, no haggling. Later that day I drove the car to Larnach’s Castle located on the high side of a hill overlooking the harbour and I started to return to South Dunedin down a minor road when the brakes didn’t respond enough to slow the car down. I had to drive the Austin at a shallow angle into the side of a clay bank (no damage) and drove home in first gear at a speed slow enough to be able to brake to a stop. Back home again, I adjusted the brake shoes and the handbrake cable and loosened the steering box. The tyres of the car were in good condition, but I soon found out that the battery couldn’t hold sufficient charge to reliably turn the starter motor. I adjusted the alternator so that I could crank start the engine even without a battery. I was now ready for my trip to Invercargill.

I made a start for Invercargill on a Saturday afternoon and stopped at Gore for a petrol re-fill to be on the safe side. The petrol station attendant topped up the oil. A few miles later I stopped at the side of the road when the sky darkened and snow started falling and became a blizzard. The polar blast in June of 1968 affected the whole of the South Island and Southland was blanketed in its deepest and most persistent snow dump in 50 years. I had no choice but to sleep overnight in my Austin. It was bitterly cold. Just as well I was wearing my obligatory duffel coat, the uniform of students in the 1960s. When I woke up early the next morning, the landscape was covered in snow. I thought to myself that if I couldn’t crank start the engine within three attempts, then I would most likely be stuck in the snow miles from Invercargill. I was lucky. The engine roared into life on my second attempt. Several trucks on route to Invercargill had left ruts in the snow behind them which I was able to drive through. When I was about 30 miles from Invercargill, the engine started to splutter as if it wasn’t running on all cylinders. I had a choice. Do I stop to have a look at the problem and risk not being able to start the engine again or do I continue. I chose to continue and my Austin conked out at the first traffic lights in Invercargill. Onlookers helped me to push the Austin from the intersection to a side street. When I opened the bonnet, there was oil splattered everywhere including the leads to the spark plugs. The petrol station attendant had either not tightened the oil cap to the rocker cover enough or had simply failed to screw the oil cap back on. Ever since then, I have never allowed anyone else to top up oil to my car.

I stayed Saturday and Sunday night with Bert Treffers’ family. Bert had retired from competitive swimming and was in Dunedin studying at the Teachers Training College. His younger brother Mark was a promising junior swimmer (see group photo). Like Tui Shipston in the late 1960s, Mark Treffers became the most accomplished New Zealand swimmer in the early 1970s representing New Zealand at the 1970 Commonwealth Games as a junior, the 1972 Olympics, and the 1974 Commonwealth Games where he won a gold medal in the 400 metres medley and a silver medal in the 1,500 metres freestyle. Mark was also awarded the Baxter O’Neil Trophy in 1971, 1973, and 1974, the Harold Petit Trophy in 1976, and the International Award in 1973 and 1976.

I started work as a technician at the NZBC Invercargill radio station on Monday where I was given the address of a local boarding house which I shifted into the same night. I left the NZBC to return to Dunedin a year later in June 1969. The title of “technician” was a misnomer. The job entailed being a “panel basher” flicking switches, turning dials, lining up records and tapes to start when required with the precision of one second, and knowing which sockets to connect cables to as a bypass to backup circuits when the main circuits failed. No knowledge of electronics was needed, but nonetheless technicians were required to study towards a New Zealand Certificate in Electronics in their own time interspersed with a 12-week course which I attended later on at the Wellington Polytechnic. Shift work involved either an early morning or a late evening session and weekend work on a rotating roster. This played havoc with any social life. Afternoon work usually involved a stint in the recording studio. Recording sessions were infrequent, so after polishing the equipment, many an afternoon was whiled away in boredom. I learned how an incompetent interviewer was able to make himself look good by recording his away-from-the-studio questions again in the studio and then with judicial editing, the interview was broadcast over the radio waves. The technicians were the low status staff members of the radio station on low wages. I couldn’t afford to run my Austin, so I sold it to a farmer. As an example of wage disparity, a 19-year-old trainee announcer earned the same as the senior technician. Some six months after I left the NZBC, I heard that technicians in the NZBC had been awarded a 40% pay increase. I celebrated my departure from the NZBC by cashing in my compulsory superannuation deductions to buy a stereo system when I returned to Dunedin.

I swam in the public sessions of the Invercargill 33-1/3 yard swimming pool in the mornings before work or in the afternoon if I had an early morning roster. Mr Treffers was an amateur coach on the poolside each morning looking after a squad of 10 to 15 swimmers. The swimming pool had a lane rope dividing length swimming from the general public. The 30° C water temperature of the swimming pool took some getting used to after swimming at Moana Pool. Not ideal for training. When the pool closed in winter, I joined Mr Treffers’ squad at the Invercargill borstal pool in the evening where we raced widths. The male toilet cubicles in the borstal had no doors.

My once per day training sessions were more or less the same as that at Moana Pool with some variations. I swam 400 and 266-2/3 yard medleys with a band around my ankles. That was hard work in the butterfly leg. There is no way I can float horizontally without moving my limbs. Swimming freestyle with a band created drag and required swimming at a pace fast enough for the flow of water to lift my legs nearer to the surface, otherwise I would be swimming uphill. At Moana Pool when I first started swimming freestyle with a band as a challenge, I was able to do a push-off 55 yards in 32 seconds and 110 yards in 1:09. On one occasion I swam a 220 yards freestyle with a band pushing hard for a good time. A split second after swimming 2:29, I decided to continue with swimming 440 yards as if that was my original intention. I swam 5:13 slowing down substantially in the second 220 yards. I took pleasure in setting myself challenges and meeting them.

During my 12-week course at the Wellington Polytechnic, I swam at the Freyberg indoor 33-1/3 metre swimming pool by the waterfront on my way home by train to Woburn. On many occasions I swam 8 x 200 metres freestyle with a band leaving on each 3 minutes swimming 2:38 for each 200 metres. In Invercargill I swam 2 x 400 yards butterfly in 4:38 and 4:48 with about 2 minutes rest in between. I later on heard that Cathy Whiting of Canterbury swam 800 metres butterfly on a regular basis. Cathy Whiting won two senior national titles in the 100 metres butterfly in 1970 and 1971 in 1:12,4 and 1:07.5 respectively, Cathy also won the 200 metres butterfly senior national title in 1971 with a time of 2:35.7. Before hearing about Cathy Whiting’s 800 metres butterfly swims, I had never tried swimming an 800 metres butterfly or even considered doing so. Swimming 400 metres butterfly was enough of a challenge in itself.

Bruce Smith returned to Invercargill from his studies at Otago University to train for the 1969 nationals. We had trained together in 1968 at Moana Pool where we swam 1500 metres freestyle on a regular basis. Freestyle was not my favourite stroke, but I swam these 1500 metres freestyle for the company. We completed our 1500 metres swims in about 20:30 with a race to the finish over the last 300 metres. At the end of one of our 1500 metre swims which were essentially aerobic swimming, I was curious as to how fast I could swim 100 metres butterfly within minutes after finishing. I gave it go with a push-off start and swam 1:08. That was the start of what I called my 100 metres butterfly grinder based on what is the last thing I would want to swim next. I wouldn’t want to swim a 100 butterfly. OK, so that is what I will swim. Bruce wanted to break the Southland 440 yards record in a time of under 4:45. He manged to do that before the 1969 nationals and won a bronze medal in the 1650 freestyle. Bruce and I had a training session in one of the local rivers which had a strong current. We timed each other to swim with the current for about 100 metres and then return. It was hard work to make progress against the current.

Before going to the 1969 nationals in Auckland, I swam in the Southland Swimming Championships swimming 1:06.8 in the 100 yards breaststroke, 1.2 seconds slower than my best ever time of 1:05.6 which I swam as a first-year senior. The opportunities to swim short course was few and far between after Moana Pool opened. Tony Graham held the New Zealand 100 yards breaststroke of 1:04.4. At the same championships, I also swam the 100 yards freestyle and backstroke, a rarity for me, timed at 54.5 seconds and 1:02.5 respectively. The New Zealand 100 yards freestyle record in 1969 was 49.5 seconds set by Glen Smith while Paddy O’Carroll set the New Zealand 100 yards backstroke record of 56.6 seconds in 1967. It was definitely my breaststroke and butterfly which enabled me to win any medals at the nationals.


The 1969 nationals were held in the open-air Centennial swimming pool in Newmarket. Tony Graham won both gold medals in the 110 and 220 yards breaststroke swimming 1:14.2 and 2:43.3 respectively. I was fast enough to win silver medals in both races, but have no recollection of what times I swam. All I can remember is that I swam slower than my New Zealand junior records of 1:14.3 and 2:44.8 when I was swimming twice per day. Barnett Bond won gold in the 440 yards medley in 5:15.7 and I won the silver medal.

Gjocko Ruzio-Saban visited the Southland team at our hotel where he told me about his unsuccessful bid to be selected for the 1964 Olympics. I don’t know what the qualifying time was, but according to Gjocko he had broken 2:40 in the 200 metres breaststroke. This time was disallowed because he had been paced by a freestyler swimming alongside him. We both failed to be selected for the 1966 Commonwealth Games even though we swam 100 metres breaststroke in faster times on several occasions than the bronze medallist in the same season as the games. I continued to compete in swimming at a national level whereas Gjocko retired after the 1966 Nationals. Being selected for the 1967 World University Games made a world of difference for me.

Evelyn Cook, an attendant at the pool, and I organised a 24-hour swimathon a few weeks before the Invercargill swimming pool closed for the season. We would start the swimathon on a Friday evening and finish the swimathon on Saturday followed by a novelty carnival with an entrance fee. I practiced staying awake overnight on two occasions before the swimathon to make sure I could handle being awake enough to both swim and organise other swimmers. The parents of swimmers provided comfort support overnight and Mark Treffers contributed a larger share of the relay swimming at a much faster pace than the younger swimmers. The swimathon was a success – our relay team completed just over 57 miles which equates to 2.38 miles per hour or an average of 1:26.4 for each 100 yards. Bert Treffers was the compere for the novelty carnival which soon became bedlam. The main thing is the kids enjoyed themselves. We should have organised sponsorship of each swimmer based on how far the relay team swam. Evelyn Cook became an Invercargill city councillor as of 2024.


I travelled back to Dunedin in June 1969 by train with my original suitcase of possessions plus the addition of an electric frying pan and a typewriter minus my Schaum series of text books which I had given to a flatmate in Invercargill not expecting to ever need to use them again. Upon arriving in Dunedin, I joined a flat in Albany Street opposite Scotts Commercial where Ron Malcolm was still working as a clerk. My flat mates included Trevor who paid the landlord our shares of the rent, John who was a year behind me at Bayfield High School, and Peter who had also just shifted to Dunedin. Trevor hoarded the telephone, TV, and fridge in his bedroom and we found out that he wasn’t paying any share towards the rent. Peter, John, and I soon afterwards shifted into a flat in Leith Street around the corner. Pam, my future wife, rented a ground floor flat at the corner of Albany Street and Leith Street sharing with her girlfriend Sandy. When I first shifted back from Auckland to Dunedin in 2006, I had a look at the exterior of my old flat in Leith Steet. It was in shabby condition. Students were in the process of shifting in and allowed me to have a look inside. There was no change in paint, wallpaper, or floor coverings – zero maintenance over 36 years. The washing machine in our Leith Street flat wouldn’t work and our landlord wouldn’t repair it. I washed my clothes by stomping on them in the bath as if I were stomping on grapes. The landlord’s son who was the same age as me collected our rent. I met him again in Auckland in 1994. He had become an accountant.

My first job in Dunedin was working at Dunedin Electroplaters behind the railway station. Being winter, we started work in the dark. My job was to dunk aluminium handles of electric stoves into a waist-high vat of nitric acid to etch them ready for electroplating. Nitrogen dioxide gas, a deep red-orange and poisonous gas fumed up from the surface of the nitric acid and was vented outside with a domestic xpelair fan. I wore two sets of plastic gloves up to my elbows which had be replaced on a regular basis. The workers had to clock in every morning and clock out for morning and afternoon tea breaks with a queue lined up during our 10 minutes break. I felt compelled to drink as many cups of tea as I could during tea breaks.

A degreasing chamber using carbon tetrachloride was located in the distant corner from where I was working. The roller door nearby was kept open, but there was no mechanical ventilation of the degreasing chamber which was open at the top. The person who handled items for the degreasing chamber seemed to me to be dopey. If he hadn’t been dopey before starting his job at Dunedin Electroplaters, then he would have certainly become dopey afterwards by long exposure and inhalation of carbon tetrachloride. According to Wiki, breathing in carbon tetrachloride may seriously damage your liver and kidneys and effects include headache or dizziness, and tiredness or lightheadedness. Some people breathing carbon tetrachloride seem to be dazed.

One of my other tasks was to use an overhead hoist to dunk items from one tank of chemicals to adjacent lines of tanks. I became quite adept at this and slowed down only when a fellow worker told me that one of the tanks contained an arsenic solution. He pointed to a small sign at the base of the tank which was barely readable due to years of chemical splashes. On my first day of work, one of the workers had the gall to bail me up to tell me he was the union representative and how much I was required to pay the union each week from my wages. The workers at Dunedin Electroplaters got minimal health protection from their fees and advocacy for safe working conditions by the union.

There were two supervisors on deck at all times with the sole purpose of making sure that no one was shirking and each Thursday morning the manager got one of his female office staff to clean his Jaguar. I was deemed to be a hard and reliable worker and I was able to train at Moana Pool in the mornings by being allowed to make a late start in the morning and finishing work unsupervised in the evening and locking up before leaving for home. I worked at Dunedin Electroplaters for a number of months under this arrangement until a job at the Dunedin Gasworks became available.

My flatmate John had just finished working at the Dunedin Gasworks and he told me there was a vacancy at the Dunedin Gasworks working as a labourer assisting bricklayers to replace the linings of one of the gas retorts, an oven in the form of a cylindrical chimney in which coal is baked to release coal gas. The job involved working a half day on Saturday, so I visited the gasworks on the next Saturday, was taken on board as a labourer, and started work on the Monday. My job involved using a single pulley system with rope and bucket to hoist up old facing bricks and to lower new bricks and mortar to two bricklayer who were then working two storeys below and to mix up cubic metres of mortar. Hauling up bricks and lowering bricks and mortar with a single pulley system and no brake was hard work and the lives of the two bricklayers below were in my hands. At no stage did the two bricklayers engage me in a conversation during work or smoko and lunch breaks. The boss and bricklayers kept to themselves. They were working on a contract basis and total focus was on completing the contract as soon as possible. I started off sharing the pulley work and mixing mortar with another labourer and finished up doing all the pulley work because I was fitter and stronger than the other labourer. The only swimming training I would have got in during this period would have been at the weekends, but the pulley work was similar to strengthening work in a gym. At the end of the contract, the boss told me to meet him at a local pub with the two bricklayers where he would hand over my final wages. It was only then at the pub that the two bricklayers finally acknowledged me as a member of the team and deigned to engage in conversation with me. I left as soon as the boss arrived with my wages. My brother later on told me that it was illegal for a workman to receive wages at a pub.

My next job was working as a labourer on a construction site a few blocks away from our flat in Leith Street. John and Peter had already been working there for a few months. On my first day of work, the foreman got me to dig a trench for the footings of the two-storey warehouse. It was standard practice in the construction industry to give a new labourer a physically demanding task as a test of whether they were capable of doing the job. Those who weren’t would soon leave voluntarily. Other tasks involved shifting heavy steel acrow props used as adjustable columns to support shutters as a base for a concrete floor above. The 2400mm x 1200mm shutters of particle board with edge framing were also heavy to shift about the site. John, being of slight build, was given lighter duties as tea boy for smoko and he set out early before lunch to purchase lunches on our behalf.

I learned that one could shift a mound of concrete dumped by crane and bucket by dragging the concrete using a vibrating spud at the end of a long flexible hose. The crane broke down when concrete was being poured into boxing for beams above the first-floor level. A conveyor belt was set up and I was given the task of shoveling concrete dumped at ground level by a procession of concrete trucks onto the conveyor belt which was handled by a team of workers on the first floor. That was the most demanding day of physical labour that I have ever endured. The crane was still out of operation and boxing for columns projecting from the ground floor level needed to be filled with concrete. This could be done by setting up a ladder against the boxing and carrying small buckets of concrete up the ladder or by using a pulley system as used at the Dunedin Gasworks. The foreman had the bright idea of setting up a bridge from the first floor to the top of the boxing for each column in the next adjacent bay using two scaffolding planks. The conveyor belt would be used to get concrete from ground level to the first-floor level and someone would wheelbarrow concrete over the bridge and tip the concrete down the top of the boxing for the columns. The foreman asked us labourers for volunteers. No way was I going to volunteer. The foreman’s solution was crazy and dangerous. Paul, a university student, volunteered as a display of machismo as if he had something to prove perhaps because he had told us at smoko that he was a national glider champion and we had ribbed him that his chosen sport was sedentary and hardly a sport compared to more physical sports. Paul started to wheelbarrow concrete along the 600mm wide bridge some 4 metres above the concrete floor below and was halfway across when his wheelbarrow got the wobbles. Paul started to wrestle with the wheelbarrow and we all shouted at him to let it go, which he did. Paul was so close to either killing himself or suffering serious injury. There were no further attempts to wheelbarrow concrete to the columns and the crane was soon put back in action again. Moana Pool was relatively nearby up the hill from the construction site. I chose not to work an extra hour of overtime at the end of each day and I managed to fit in three months of training after work at Moana Pool before the nationals while working as a labourer on a construction site. 


By the time the nationals were held again in Dunedin, Moana Pool had a bulkhead which was located at the shallow end to make up a 50 metre pool. This bulkhead could be shifted to the centre of the pool to divide each half into two 25 metre pools. A 50 metre pool is shorter than a 55 yard pool by 0.292 metres.  National records originally set in 55 yard pools could be more easily broken in 50 metre pools which was the standard length for subsequent long course pools constructed in New Zealand. My still standing 110 and 220 yard junior national records of 1:14.3 and 2:44.8 which I had set in a 55 yard pool in 1966 equated to 1:13.9 and 2:43.8 in a 50 metre pool. It was a number of years yet before both my national junior records were broken.

Tony Graham won both gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke at his last nationals in Dunedin swimming 1:14.3 and 2:42.9 respectively. I was still swimming fast enough to win the silver medals with a time of 1:15.3 in the 100 metres. I have no recollection of my time in the 200 metres. I think that Bert Pater of Auckland won the bronze medals. Bert Pater, a carpenter, was a late comer to competitive swimming, starting at the age of 17.

Our Otago relay team of John McConnochie swimming backstroke, Michael Toomey swimming butterfly, me swimming breaststroke, and Michael Borrie swimming freestyle won the team gold medals in the 400 metres medley relay in a time of 4:20.5. Michael Borries had won gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres freestyle in 55.6 and 2:01.6. respectively. Micael was selected to represented New Zealand at the1970 Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh later that year.  Michael was Duncan Laing’s first Commonwealth Games representative and at the games he became the first New Zealander to break the 2-minute barrier for the 200 metres freestyle.

My swims at the 1970 nationals after working as a labourer on a construction site gave me a greater appreciation and respect for what Alan Seagar had achieved while working as a brick and block layer. Most competitive swimmers who win medals at national and international level have sedentary jobs in an office or are students. Nowadays top swimmers are paid to train at swimming and that is their job and livelihood.


Construction of the warehouse in the city proceeded to a phase where a full gang of labourers were no longer needed. I was put to work bagging the internal walls of a water tank reservoir high up on a hill overlooking Kaikorai Valley Road. This job of plastering over bolt holes in the concrete with a rag was mind-stupefying. Working alongside me was one of the supervisors at Dunedin Electroplaters. The electroplating branch in Invercargill had closed down due to a fire and his brother, the manager of the branch, had taken over his job in Dunedin. He was concerned that I would hold a grudge against him and I assured him that I didn’t. I moved on to working at the Downers prestress yard in Stone Street up from Kaikorai Velley Road. Pam and I had married a few months after the 1970 nationals and we shifted into 192 Kenmure Road, Mornington, which was easy walking distance from the prestress yard. We would have liked to have purchased the house we were renting for $12 per week, but we had no deposit. A Bayfield High School mate of mine and his sister visited us and gave us two barnyard kittens which, unbeknownst to us at the time, were beyond the stage of house training. We finished up calling them poo and wease. We eventually had to get rid of them as they were a health risk for any baby crawling on the floor. 

Since leaving my job as a technician in Invercargill in June 1969 and until we married, I had been drifting with no plans for a future long-term career. In my last year at Bayfield, a classmate asked me what my future plans were for 1970 and onwards. My reply was to own a 500cc Triumph motorbike and to win gold medals at the next senior nationals. Completing a degree at university was an assumed natural course of events. My job at Downers prestress yard terminated a few months later when the contract to construct prestress beams for a city high-rise building was completed. The writing was on the wall when the small gang of labourers spent a day cleaning the work shed once and then again. We were out of work. I applied for an advertised job as a postie with the New Zealand Post Office delivering mail and while we were waiting for a reply, Ian Chadwick of the Otago Swimming Centre informed me there was a vacancy working as a bricklayer’s labourer. This was a pivotal moment for us. I crossed my fingers for the postie job because this job provided an opportunity to undertake extramural studies at Otago University to complete my Bachelor of Science degree. I got the postie job.

In the 1970s, a postie delivered letters and parcels for a run of a particular suburb six days a week including Saturday. The job officially started at 7.00 am and finished at 2.30 pm, though we were allowed to go home straight home if we finished our run earlier. Most posties started at 6.45 am. The sorters of mail for each run started much earlier. Each postie sorted their own mail at a table with overhead pigeon holes. You got to know well the posties who worked in the same bay as you. The streets for each run were set out in chronological order of delivery and there was a book available which listed the house number and occupant’s name for each house in all streets. We took a bundle of letters from the sorters and flicked each letter into a pigeonhole for that street. After sorting all letters, we then laid out the letters for each street on the table and then picked up the letters in the order of delivery which was not the same as the numerical order unless houses were in a cul-de-sac. Most deliveries required crisscrossing a street to reduce walking distance. Sorting of letters was followed by sorting of parcels which were bagged and delivered by van to designated houses in each run for collection by each postie. We would carry a bag of letters across our backs and parcels held on our elbows with one hand holding a bundle of letter and the other flicking letters into letter boxes. There was sometimes registered mail to be delivered and signed for. You soon developed a sense of whether someone was at home or not. A lot of registered mail for the day slowed down completion of the run.

Dorothy, a lady in her 50s, taught me my first run of Bishops Court by Roslyn. I later on learned the runs of Dunnottar by Maori Hill and Kaikorai Velley. All three runs involved walking up and down hills. Using a bike would have slowed us down. Dorothy moved on to deliver telegrams by car. Career posties included Davey Duncan who was in his 40s, a keen tennis player who drove a Triumph sports car and John Smith who was a keen runner and member of the Morning Harrier Club who also ran while delivering mail. Laurie Pope was another career postie. He was content to take his time and deliver mail at a leisurely pace as do many of the posties today who now have no incentive to finish early. There were a number of posties passing through like myself including Ian Wedde who became a celebrated author and Patrick Power who on occasion burst into a powerful baritone song at his desk. Patrick became an international opera star in Europe. I was in good company. Only the best have worked at being a postie. I remember delivering mail down Stuart Street and a car travelling up slowed down and the occupants gazed at me quizzically as they drove by. I recognised the occupants as being technicians I had worked alongside in Invercargill. I made the best of my opportunity to finish my run as soon as possible by walking briskly and with daily repetition was soon able to recognise incorrect addresses on letters and parcels. I seldom finished later than 12 noon except during the weeks before Christmas. I enjoyed the freedom of being a postie so long as it served a long-term purpose of completing my degree. The wages weren’t too good and it would have been difficult for a single bread-winner in the household to raise a family and save up a deposit for a home. My weekly wages as a postie after tax was $30 dollars per week.

When Pam became pregnant, her father offered to let us stay with him rent-free at his home at 20 Mills Street, Sawyers Bay near Port Chalmers some 11 kilometres from the city centre. We took up his offer and I purchased a metallic green 1956 Humber 80 for $275 on a loan basis to ensure reliable transport into the city. This arrangement didn’t work out, so we shifted a few months later into a two-bedroom house at 760 Cumberland Street near the university before Christmas 1970. Our rent was $5 per week and the house that we lived in was one in a row of houses owned by the university which were demolished decades later for expansion of the university. 

I had retired from competitive swimming, but in early 1971 the Otago Centre asked me to swim against a visiting Australian team at the Mosgiel open-air pool to provide a modicum of competition. I won the race in a time of about 1:09. I didn’t compete at the 1971 nationals held in Palmerston North, another open-air pool where Bert Pater won the 110 and 220 yards gold medals in 1:17.6 and 2:45.2 respectively. Vivian Haddon had won her last gold medals in the 110 and 220 yards breaststroke in 1:25.2 and 3:02.9 at the 1966 nationals in Dunedin. In 1971, Vivienne came out of retirement swimming as Vivienne Noble to win gold medals over the same events in 1:22.3 and 2:58.5. She had been coaching Jane Lowe who a year later won the same gold medals at the 1972 nationals in 1:21.1 and 2:57.7. I assume that Vivienne trained alongside Jane who set the national records of 1:17.7 and 2:43.3 for 100 and 200 metres breaststroke in 1974.

I enrolled in Advance One Mathematics as an extramural student. Lectures were held each morning and coursework closely followed the prescribed text books. Students were required to complete sets of problems on a weekly basis and I applied the same discipline to my studies that I had towards my swimming. Having worked as a labourer, I knew the consequences of staying on a low income for the rest of my working life. We got to know our neigbours who were fellow students with their own families and we exchanged babysitting services. As the year progressed, I started to swim again at Moana Pool as relief from hours of study in the afternoon. I used a bike to get to Moana Pool which I had to push up the steep hill of London Street, but which I rode down without effort after a hard training session. I soon realised that with the fitness of delivering mail at pace and one swim per day, I could still be competitive at the next nationals. I passed my university exams in Advanced One Mathematics at the end of 1971 and then focused on training for the 1972 nationals held in Dunedin.


After finishing my exams in 1971, I swam at lunchtimes immediately after I completing my postie run instead of swimming later in the afternoon. By doing so, I was able to swim longer sessions. One of my favourite main routines was to swim 4 x 400 metres breaststroke on 8 minutes swimming each 400 metres in 6:00. Another main routine was 12 x 100 metres on 2 minutes swimming the first 50 metres in butterfly and returning in breaststroke aiming for a time of 1:20. An occasional challenge was to swim a single 100 metres under 1:10 with a 30 second butterfly first 50 metres from a push-off start and returning in 40 seconds in breaststroke. Duncan Laing timed me at 1:02.6 for 100 metres butterfly with a dive start, my best unofficial time which was 1.3 seconds short of Dave Gerrard’s national record. In hindsight, I didn’t taper for the 1972 nationals, the benefits of which include a super adaptation from a reduced workload. I didn’t take a two week break from my postie run which was physically demanding in itself and I used part of my annual leave for the competitions only.


I won the gold medal in the 100 metres breaststroke in 1:13.4 after swimming the same time in the heats. Tony Graham sent me a telegram which said “Good luck oldie, Make it two wins”. After the heats of the 200 metres breaststroke which I swam in about 2:42+, Brent Lewis, a junior swimmer who swam in the senior heats of the 200 metres breaststroke, told me that he had swum close to my junior record. Officials had told him my junior record was 2:44.3. I told Brent my junior record was actually 2:44.8 and that by hanging on close to me in the finals, he had every chance of breaking my junior record. I won the gold medal in 2:40.7. and Brent won the silver medal setting a new junior national record of 2:42+. When I received my medal on the dais, I had a hollow feeling and loss of not swimming in the company of fellow swimmers who had already retired from competitive swimming. I felt that I was indeed an oldie. Current international swimmers continue competing well into their late 20s. Brent Lewis as a first-year senior won the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke gold medals at the 1973 nationals in 1:13.0 and 2:38.8 and represented New Zealand at the 1974 Commonwealth Games

The Auckland team won the gold medals in the 400 metre medley relay in 4:20.4 and the Otago team took the silver. Michael Borrie didn’t swim the freestyle leg of our medley relay. His last nationals had been in 1970 after which he devoted his time to studies as a medical student. I received a telephone call from Michael a few weeks after the nationals asking me to take part in a time trial to break the national 400 metres medley relay record. Our team of John McConnochie swimming backstroke, Michael Toomey swimming butterfly, me swimming breaststroke, and Michael Borrie swimming freestyle set a new national record of 4:16.5. Michael Borrie came out of retirement to take the gold medal in the 100 and 200 metres freestyle in 55.4 and 2:02.8 respectively at the 1973 nationals. Michael Borrie became a professor in gerontology and Michael Toomey became a solicitor.


On passing my second year Advanced One Mathematics paper with a C pass, I applied to the Department of Education to get my previous boarding allowance reinstated. I was informed by the department in writing that because I had failed my second-year course in 1968 by pulling out mid-year, I had to pass half a full-time course under my own steam with a minimum B pass grade before my boarding allowance would be reinstated. I could see no way that I could financially undertake full-time study at university and support a family with only part-time work at nights and the weekend. It was back to a second year of extramural study which would be Advanced One Applied Mathematics. I visited the lecturer taking this paper who told me there wasn’t a prescribed textbook for his paper and he wouldn’t help me out with lecture notes. His attitude was that if I couldn’t be bothered attending lectures, then why should he help me. I was left thinking another wasted year and delay in completing my BSc degree.

In the meantime, Pam was keen on us shifting into 766 Cumberland Street, a larger house which had become vacant. The rent was $9 per week, a prospect I wasn’t too happy with, but Pam pointed out that we could take on a boarder. We shifted into 766 Cumberland Street and took on a boarder who was a final year Asian student at Otago Boys High School. His family lived in Hong Kong. We gave him a 4 kilowatt heater for his room and our first power bill was $60, double my weekly wage as a postie. Ron had kept his heater on full blast from late afternoon until early morning. I doctored the heater to a maximum power of 2 kilowatts while Ron was at school. It was either that or ask him to leave.

As the weeks rolled by, I became unhappy working as a postie. I had enjoyed the job, but only while it served a purpose of enabling me to study extramurally. I got thinking that I had passed my first term exams of Advanced One Physics in 1968 and that perhaps I would be given credit for this and be allowed to start the same paper again in the second term and study full-time by taking on two more boarders and working part-time at night and in the weekends. I approached Professor Dodds of the physics department who agreed to my request. Before making the final decision to go for it, I went for a long walk at night worrying about all that could go wrong. I returned home in a more relaxed frame of mind. I had made my decision. We took on two more university student boarders and I got part-timework with Crothalls cleaning commercial building at night and the Dental School laboratories on Saturdays.

I passed my second term exams and laboratory work, worked full-time for a few weeks over the semester break, and became progressively stressed when I realised we couldn’t make ends meet financially. Duncan Laing told me that the Balclutha City Council had advertised a position as swimming pool manager with coaching rights at their new indoor swimming pool. I thought that being a swimming coach could be a career move for me and I applied for the position and got an interview. Pam and I hired a 1970 Vauxhall Viva for our trip to Balclutha – we had sold our Humber 80 to help makes ends meet – had a good interview, and accepted the offer of $3,800 starting salary. I would be working 6 days per week with my morning free for a training squad before school and 2 hours in the early evening free for teaching swimming. The new swimming pool was located in a cul-de-sac of new development which included a number of Balclutha City Council houses undergoing construction. Some of the houses had already been completed. We were offered one of the houses to rent which we accepted.

On our return from Balclutha, I observed from the Moana Learners Pool gallery how Duncan Laing taught his learn-to-swim classes over 10 half-hour sessions spread over 2 weeks. His method was very much aligned with my own approach, except I would use a stick only for the kids to duck their heads under the water or a no contact reaching out for when swimming freestyle.

In the 1970s, my taking up a position as a professional coach meant that my days as an amateur swimmer would be over. The Otago Centre organised a farewell swim-off for me and I fronted up to the starting blocks to swim 100 metres breaststroke. Roman Novak, a promising 14 year-old, got up on the blocks alongside me which was a fitting passing on the baton. I swam 1:15.3 after limited training since the nationals. Roman won both the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke senior titles in 1975 and 1976 and set New Zealand records of 1:11.1 for the 100 metres in 1976 and 2:33.0 for the 200 metres in 1975. At the same swim-off, I presented the Otago Centre with a cup to be awarded each year to the swimmer who had contributed the most to the sport. 

By the time I sat my first physics exam, I was feeling highly stressed out. I couldn’t focus on answering any of the exam paper questions and I left the 3-hour exam after the first hour. I immediately went to Professor Dodd’s office to thank him for the opportunity to complete my degree, but I had blown it. Professor Dodds advised me to hang in there and sit the second exam 10 days later. He told me that with my good grades for the second semester, I still had a chance of passing the paper. I had been looking forward to my new job as swimming manager/coach and I was starting to think who needs a degree anyway. I was tempted to flag away sitting the second exam and my decision whether to sit the exam or not was another pivotal moment for me. Swotting up for and sitting the second exam would take up only 10 days. If I didn’t sit the exam, then I might regret not doing so for the rest of my life. I knuckled down to swotting for the exam and sat the exam. I finished up passing the second-year physics paper with an overall C grade pass which was not good enough to get my boarding allowance reinstated. We took out a $1,000 loan with the BNZ, paid off all our debts, and bought a 1956 Morris Oxford for $345. We were ready to shift to Balclutha in December with our second child due in January of 1973.


We shifted to Balclutha in mid-November 1972 and our stay in Balclutha was fraught with problems from the outset. Instead of renting one of a number of new council houses by the swimming pool, we were allocated a new council house at 64 Gormack Street which was on the north side of the Balclutha Bridge three kilometres away from the swimming pool. I had to use our car to get to the swimming pool which left Pam isolated at home with our daughter. The house was new, but the rent of $18 per week was almost 50% over market rate rents in Dunedin for a 3-bedroom house. Paying $18 per week took a heavy chunk out of my wages. I found out later that the milk manager paid much less rent for a council house. When we arrived at 64 Gormack Street, we had to contend with walking over mud to the front door because a concrete path hadn’t been laid. It took weeks to get laid.

On my first day at work, the Town Clerk told me that another staff member would be handling the commissioning of the pool before it opened a few weeks later and I was to look over his shoulder. This staff member was a plumber by training who processed permit applications and he was a general jack-of-all trades for the council. I will refer to him from here onwards as the “plumber”. Swimming club officials invited me join them at a local pub a few days later. The president of the club took me aside and told me that if I wanted to get along and have friends in Balclutha, I would give the swimming club the keys to the new swimming pool. The swimming club had been using an open-air pool which was run by the swimming club. I replied that as manager of a council swimming pool, I couldn’t do that. I was off to a shaky start with swimming club officials, but I got good support from the parents of my training squad. At the first club session in the new swimming pool, the president of the club was starting races at the end of the club session with a “take your marks, get set, go”. I didn’t win a friend when I told the president that “take your marks, get set, go” was used for running races and not for swimming races which was “take your marks, go”. My training squad would have been left standing on the starting blocks at their next carnival if I hadn’t corrected him.

Even though my work week was supposed to be only 6 days with Monday off, technical problems with the swimming pool plant frequently resulted in my working 7 days a week. I coached a squad of 12 competitive swimmers each morning. Their ages ranged from 10 to 16 years old with Glenda Mann swimming as a mature senior. I told the Town Clerk that competitive swimmers needed a poolside clock to time themselves for each effort. A few weeks later, a kitchen clock with no second hand was fixed to the end of the pool. I replaced it with a more suitable clock with a large second hand and I ordered the same motor as used by the Moana Pool timing clock to construct a similar clock. The pool opened to the public at 12 noon and I taught learn-to-swim groups from 5.00 to 6.30 pm charging the same price as Duncan Laing at Moana Pool - $10 for ten half hour lesson over 2 weeks. A public session followed from 7.00 to 9.00 pm. It was a long day for me.

The design deficiencies of the swimming pool building were glaringly obvious. The pool included a concrete grandstand above the changing rooms. When seated, no one could see lanes one and two. Extendable bleachers on the poolside would have been a much cheaper option with full viewing of swimmers. The poolside surround of concrete had been Kelly floated to a highly polished finish which was especially slippery when wet. The son of the foreman who had been in charge of the construction of the building was walking towards me when he slipped, fell backwards, and was concussed when the back of his head struck the concrete. There was an immediate emergency ambulance ride to the nearby hospital. The concrete poolside along the sides of the pool included an overflow grating directly adjacent to the pool with a narrow and shallow trough in between the grating and pool with sharp jagged edges to the pool. In almost every swimming session someone cut their foot on the pool edge and some people required stitches. The edges of the pool should have been ground down to a smooth edge before the pool was filled. The changing rooms had no drainage and the level of the concrete floors were uneven. I asked the contractor why he didn’t put in drainage and his reply was that it wasn’t his job to point out omissions in the construction drawings to the architects. A few months later, drainage pipes were drilled under the changing room floors and grating over traps were installed at the high spots of the floors instead of the low spots. There were still ponds of water inches deep after each swimming session and this water had to be squeegeed over to the gratings each night by part-time cleaners. The surge tank of the pool wasn’t big enough. The overflow of water from swimmers jumping into the pool during a busy swimming session flowed from the already full surge tank to the drain along with pool treatment chemicals. Additional cold water flowed into the boilers during busy sessions to maintain the level of the pool. I reported this problem at a meeting with the council, architects, and engineers. The mechanical engineer dismissed that the surge tank was too small. My reply was that a simple removal of the lid to the surge tank during a busy swimming session would verify there was indeed a problem.

A major problem was the chlorination plant and boiler. The oil-fired boiler was designed and constructed by a Blenheim engineering firm. The Balclutha boiler was the biggest the firm had built and the blades of the boiler tended to jam when the boiler over heated. Two trips from Blenheim were required to fix the problem. The swimming pool went unheated during the days of travel and modifications to the boiler. The Balclutha Swimming Club put on a carnival and invited swimmers from local towns and Dunedin city to compete. The carnival was a success, but there were complaints about the water treatment which stung the eyes of any swimmers not wearing goggles. The plumber had been looking after the pool treatment using a titration process to measure the level of chlorination which was supposed to be 1.5 parts per million. That evening when everyone had gone home, I had my first swim in the pool to determine the extent of the problem. I immediately realised the swimming pool water was poisonous. There was no doubt in my mind. I went to the Town Clerk’s home to tell him that the swimming pool had to be closed immediately. The Town Clerk wasn’t at home and his wife was upset that closing the pool so soon after opening would reflect badly on her husband. I told her that if the pool wasn’t closed, then I would immediately resign.

The next morning the plumber claimed that I was wrong. According to him, titration measurements showed that the chlorination level of the pool was OK. I insisted that the water be tested by a chemist and a sample was sent to the laboratories of the local freezing works. The results came back that the chlorination level was 150 parts per million, high enough for anyone to be violently sick if they had drunk a cup of the pool water and also high enough to bleach chemicals used in a titration process to establish chlorine levels. The chlorination controller had been behaving like a sticky accelerator and had stuck on a high setting even though set at 1.5 parts per million. The pool was immediately emptied to reveal that paint on the bottom of the pool had started to lift. When the pool was opened again, I was invited to a council meeting where the councilors expressed their gratitude. My salary was raised to $4,100 and I was offered a council loan of $2,000 to put down as a deposit to purchase a house as the councilors were aware that I had been looking to rent a house near the swimming pool. I accepted the loan and we started looking for a suitable house to buy.
The Assistant Town Clerk was keen on us buying his house. We inspected the house which was the original house on a section which had been sub-divided to the extent there was little land left over by the original house for sale and gross lack of privacy from the surrounding houses. The house for sale was clad with roughcast plaster over wire netting fixed direct to the exterior studs. An under the floor inspection revealed signs of rust to the wire netting. Needless to say, buying the house was a no go. House sales in Balclutha were few and far between, but we came across an ideal house which was a 1920s cottage on a large section on the main street of Balclutha with walking distance between the swimming pool and the town centre. The cottage had been fully renovated with exterior and interior paintwork, new wallpaper, new floor covering, and as-new curtains. We bought the house for $9,000 after first getting a valuation from a registered valuer. The owner told us that relatives had been keen to buy the property, but they felt uncomfortable in negotiating a price with family. The house had an electric stove, but hot water was by way of a wetback system connected to the original coal stove. We installed an electric hot water cylinder and additional power sockets. I paid one of my squad members who lived in the house behind us to mow the lawns and keep the weeds down because I simply didn’t have the time to do that myself.

My training squad did land exercises on the poolside before the swimming pool was filled with water and from then onwards, they swam five sessions per week in the morning. Two of the Mayor’s children were members of my training squad. I managed to persuade four members of my squad to compete at the Otago Swimming Champions at Moana Pool in February. My squad had got in less than 3 months of training since the Balclutha swimming pool opened and they were well outclassed by the Dunedin swimmers and over-awed by the experience. This was a good example of why promising swimmers should be blooded at international events even if they are not ranked fast enough make the finals. The next time they swim at an international event, they would be far more confident. My squad swam at an inter-town and country carnival later in the season and made a clean sweep of first places in every event. In the 1970s, swimmers from small towns generally had minimal impact at provincial swimming competitions held in the major cities and none at national level. Claire Bennie, a breaststroker resident in Alexandra, was an exception who swam with success at the Otago Swimming Championships. Claire later on represented Otago at the 1964 nationals held in Blenheim (see photo). Swimming squads in towns with indoor heated swimming pools open for 10 months each year and a competent coach now successfully compete for medals at national competitions.

During our stay in Balclutha, it was like a busman’s holiday in a bus to also train in the swimming pool while working for so many hours at the pool. I might have got in about 10 swims at most, including a 200 metre freestyle push-off in 2:22.0 compared to my best time of 2:14.9 at Moana Pool. I did start going for a few runs, but our stay in Balclutha would have been the longest period that I wasn’t doing daily exercise of one form or another.

The swimming season drew to a close sooner than I expected and would open again in October. The period of closure of the swimming pool during winter had not been discussed at our interview. I had then assumed that closure of the swimming pool would be no longer than that at Moana Pool which was also an indoor heated swimming pool – two months at the most during which I could take annual leave and attend to maintenance of the pool. My duties during a winter closure had also not been specifically addressed at my interview. We put our house on the market for a private sale knowing that owning a house in Balclutha would be a liability if there should be no suitable work for me during the off season. We had an offer the following day from the relatives of the original owner. We signed a contract for $10,000 which compensated us for the improvements we had made to the house. The final settlement date was 3 weeks later. We found a house to rent behind the fire station and shifted in. The buyers had sold their house and couldn’t find temporary accommodation in Balclutha. In hindsight, they could have stayed in a motel. We had already shifted out of our house, so in a gesture of goodwill we allowed the buyers to shift in before the final settlement date. A week later, Pam and I heard the fire station alarm sound off early in the evening. About midnight our solicitor knocked on the door. I said to him “You are here to tell us that our house has been on fire””. He replied “How do you know?” I said “We heard the fire engine alarm from next door and during the evening we had discussed how weird it would be if the fire engines were racing off to a fire at our own house”. Pam and I drove to our house where the firemen were still in the process of dampening out the fire at the back of the house. The buyers were also there and were profusely apologetic saying they would still continue with the purchase. According to them, one of my training squad members had been babysitting for them and they had instructed her to check on the upright cabinet dryer to make sure clothes hadn’t fallen form hangers to the floor of the cabinet where the radiant heater with vents was located. It was a messy situation. The contract we had signed was for an intact undamaged house. I didn’t believe their promise for one moment and our solicitor confirmed the following day that the buyers had pulled out of the sale. What made the situation even messier was when we found out that our solicitor had also acted on behalf of the buyers, a blatant conflict of interest. We told our solicitor that we were leaving Balclutha and he should stick with his clients who were staying. We engaged a Dunedin solicitor to take over.

The fire had burned out a third of the floor area at the back of the house and there was extensive smoke damage throughout the house. There was no way we would rebuild. We would have to sell the property as is and we were at the mercy of the insurance company to pay out a reasonable sum to reinstate the house. Additional proceeds from the sale of a house with major fire damage could leave us with a hefty debt. I do not know to this day whether the sum the insurance company paid out would have been sufficient to reinstate the house. I should have been advised by our Dunedin solicitor to get an independent valuation. Upon receiving payment from the insurance company, we immediately paid off the balance of our $2,000 loan from the city council and put our property up for a private sale. I contacted the owner of the adjacent empty section to see if he was interested in buying as the land value of the combined sections would be greater than the sum of the valuation of each section. The owner of the section next door could not afford to buy our property at the time. I must have done my sums right with my asking price for the property as-is because we agreed to a negotiated price with a buyer a few weeks later which left us debt free after paying off our mortgage with an additional $1,500 in our saving account. We had what could be called a “good fire” but I wouldn’t recommend it given the stress that we were put through.

In the meantime, the swimming pool closed for the season and the Town Clerk instructed me to assist the plumber. I accompanied the plumber for four days while he showed and explained to me his normal weekly work routine. I was hopeful that I could help him with processing building permit applications, but there was a dearth of applications. On the fifth day of Friday, the plumber drove me to a mechanical digger at work on a trench in the middle of Gormack Street and told me that I would be assisting the digger that day. I was given a shovel and expected to fill in the trench behind the digger. It was as I suspected. There was no suitable work for me as an officer of the council except to work as a labourer. I worked all day behind the digger and at the end of the day I visited the mayor at his home where we discussed the situation. We agreed that an immediate resignation was in order. That weekend I hired a trailer and with multiple loads of furniture we shifted back to Dunedin staying at my father-in-law’s home in Sawyers Bay. We were so relieved that we had finally returned to Dunedin.

Some month’s later I was contacted by an insurance company with regards to an injury sustained by a carpenter to his hammer arm. On the final swimming session of the season, he had been standing on a changing room bench while pulling his trousers on and he had slipped and fallen heavily on his elbow. The Balclutha City Council claimed to the insurance company that the accident was due to “tomfoolery” going on in the changing room. I was on the poolside at the time of the accident and entered the changing rooms to assist the carpenter when I heard his calls for help. I had reported the accident to the council stating that the accident had been no fault of the carpenter. I confirmed this in writing to the insurance company and stated that standing on the changing room benches was necessary to avoid getting the cuffs of one’s trousers wet due to the ponding of water on the changing room floors. My experience of the poor design and construction details of the Balclutha swimming pool plus my experience of working on a construction site played a part in my later decision to become an architect.


A week after returning to Dunedin, we shifted from Sawyers Bay to rent another house in Cumberland Street a few houses South of where we had previously stayed. I approached Duncan Laing to see whether he had a vacancy for an assistant coach. Bill Robertson had been his first assistant coach and by the time we got back to Dunedin, Bill had moved on to Australia where he became a highly successful swimming coach and businessman. Gordon Soper was Duncan Laing’s second assistant coach by the time we arrived back in Dunedin, but on a temporary basis. Gordon had been the swimming pool manager in Gore and was assisting Duncan Laing for a few months to gain experience in coaching before shifting to his new position as manager of the Takapuna swimming pool in Auckland. Duncan Laing took me on as his third assistant coach after Gordon’s departure. My duties would be sole charge of a squad of junior swimmers at the South Dunedin St Philomena swimming pool in the mornings, his junior squad at Moana Pool in the afternoons, and learn-to-swim classes on Saturday mornings.

I started work as a relief teacher of mathematics at Kings High School in South Dunedin. I taught the 3A1, 4G3, and scholarship classes. Classes at Kings High School were streamed according to academic ability. The students in the 3A1 class were motivated and some students were a bit up themselves knowing that they were in the top stream. Most of the students in 4G3 were disinterested in mathematics and some seemed to have already written themselves off. There were only four students in the final year scholarship class including Chris Boberg whose sister, Beryl Boberg, had been a top Otago backstroker. I taught the scholarship class by working out problems on the blackboard with the students by conveying to them aloud my own thinking processes while doing so. While teaching at Kings High School, I was able to compare the teaching environment of a high school where the cane was used to maintain discipline against that when coaching a motivated squad and teaching kids to swim. The 4G3 class was the most disruptive with the students knowing that, as a relief teacher, I didn’t have the right to cane students. By the end of the year, I knew that I didn’t want to become a high school teacher. I enjoyed teaching, but I wanted to teach only those who had a motivated interest in learning whatever subject or activity I taught.

We started looking for a house to buy as soon as I was earning an income again in Dunedin. We had $1,500 to put down as a deposit and we were looking at the low end of the market.  The cheapest house available with an asking price of $8,000 was located in Serpentine Avenue. This house had limited sun aspect and was built close to the ground with no crawl space and minimal underfloor ventilation. The house felt damp inside. The next house we viewed was on the wrong side of the hill in North East Valley with an oil-fired heater, a necessity because the house got no sun in winter. We rejected both houses. A few days later, a sales rep notified us of a house at 20 Culloden Street in Kaikorai Valley with an asking price of $5,500. We immediately visited the house which was in sore need of renovations. The price was low because the owners had separated and the wife wanted a quick sale. We organised a solicitor’s mortgage at $13 per week and paid the asking price. A condition of the mortgage was that we replaced all rotting weatherboards and painted the exterior of the house, including the roof, within one year. I managed to complete this by the end of the year with the intent of extending our mortgage to help finance my return to full-time studies the following year. I made another application to the Department of Education to reinstate my boarding allowance on the basis that I had completed a full second year course of study under my own steam and that my mid-year departure in 1968 was not due to an inability to pass university exams. Our solicitor wouldn’t extend our mortgage when I completed the renovations, so I continued working for Duncan Laing when I started my final year of studies towards a BSc in 1974.

After shifting into 20 Culloden Street, I started to run daily with an occasional swim. I wore Bata Bullets running shoes with unforgiving soles running initially for 5 minutes out and 5 minutes back home on asphalt to get used to the pounding on my calf muscles. Over a few months I extended my runs to Ross Street Reservoir returning via Waikari Road and Taieri Road, a challenging loop with a long hill climb taking me about 40 minutes. When I set the Moana Pool junior squad an 8 x 100 metres butterfly series, there were protests from a few swimmers who didn’t believe that I had done the same series at the same age as them. They challenged me to swim a 50 metres butterfly under 30 seconds with a push-off start. I was happy to oblige and put paid to their protest. 


I enrolled in Advanced Two Physics and Intermediate Economics in my final year of studies. Our third-year physics class had whittled down to 10 students compared to the first-year class of 300 students. The first-year economics class was held in a large hall with tiered seating in which the class numbers exceeded the number of available seats. I arrived from the more distant physics department later than other students to sit on the steps of the tiered hall. The lecturer was barely audible above the hubbub and dart throwing of the immature first year students and the blackboard was too distant for me to read what had been written. Whatever I was able to glean about the contents of the first two weeks of lectures gave me pause which I confirmed decades later when I studied economics in more depth. I enrolled in another course, Intermediate Psychology, before the expiry date for a course change. In my first psychology lecture, I arrived late again from the physics department along with another student of the same age as me or younger. I said to him I would take the back stairs rather than walk in late at the front of the lecture theatre. When I sat down at the back of the tiered lecture theatre, I realised the other late student was the lecturer, a recent PhD graduate. I enjoyed the psychology lectures and laboratories. The young lecturer called Mark and another senior lecturer also called Mark (Kameny?) used to do a tag team of delivery which was highly effective. They were both involved in debunking the spoon bending of Uri Geller.  My physics lectures also went well and I teamed up with a straight A student during our afternoon laboratory experiments, the results of which we independently wrote up and submitted for marking. This student was a sharp and quick thinker, but when we got bogged down using 100-year-old equipment which frequently failed without tutor support, I was frequently the one to suss out a solution. We made a good and effective team.

At the end of the first semester, I realised that I was burning my candle at both ends by undertaking a full-time course while coaching a squad in the early mornings and evenings. We put our house on the market to help finance completion of my degree and to enable me to gain better grades than in previous years. We obtained a valuation of $7,800 from a registered valuer, but we ignored this valuation by advertising a private sale with an asking price of $10,600.  There were no houses in Dunedin selling for under $10,000 at the time. Our first prospective buyer inspected our house the day after our advertisement accompanied by a person dressed in a suit who he introduced to us as his solicitor. This person seemed to me to be a bit seedy to be a solicitor. The prospective buyer made an offer of $7,800 confirmed by his “solicitor” who said that was all the property was worth. Where did this figure come from? We declined the offer and negotiated a price of $9,700 with the second prospective buyer. Within weeks we shifted to a house in Caversham which we rented for $25 per week. This rent was over double that which we paid for a house at 192 Kenmure road four years earlier, but we had little choice. We needed a house to live in. I kept an eye and ear open for a house with a more reasonable rent and a few months later we shifted to 756 Cumberland Street on the corner of St David Street. This was the fourth house in Cumberland Street that we rented. In the meantime, I continued coaching the St Philomena squad in the mornings and taught beginners to swim on Saturday mornings until the start of the third semester when I received a letter from the Department of Education which stated that I was entitled to a marriage allowance. This marriage allowance was $48 per week which was paid in a lump sum at the start of the third semester. If only the Department of Education had processed my application by the start of the first semester, we wouldn’t have sold our house. I stopped all coaching work for Duncan Laing and focused solely on my studies for the first time including 1967 when my focus was more on swimming than studies. I completed my BSc with an A+ major in physics and a Senior Scholarship in Science awarded by the University of Otago. I also became a certified professional swimming coach after sitting examinations and endorsement by Duncan Laing.

We celebrated my graduation with a visit to a professional photographer and dinner at La Scala, the swank restaurant in Dunedin. I hired a suit for both the photo session and the restaurant and took advice from the photographer to take family photos without my cap and gown. Our family photos didn’t turn out so well as our two-year-old son couldn’t stop squirming. Our photographer liked my portrait in cap and gown well enough to display in the front window of his premises for several years. At our dinner at La Scala, a gentleman seated at a nearby table looking over at me with a quizzical eye as we arrived at our table. I recognised him immediately as the manager of Dunedin Electroplaters. 

It was time to decide what I was going to do now that I had completed my BSc degree. I had never expected to complete my degree with an A+ major and, in some ways, it was intimidating. Could I ever repeat that effort? Continuing with a PhD in physics was out of the question. I didn’t have an honours degree in physics which is an immediate entry level to a PhD. I would have to first complete a diploma then a Masters degree before enrolling as a PhD candidate followed by up to five years of research. I had already spent far too much time on university studies graduating four years later than my classmates at Bayfield High School. I didn’t want to be a high school teacher, but what else could I do with a BSc? I had strong memories of working as a technician on low status and low wages. I should have ideally studied towards a profession as I wanted to in 1968 instead of first completing a general degree. I undertook due diligence of several professions. I considered structural engineering, a four-year degree for which I would be exempted the first two years with a BSc. Given my marks in mathematics, I considered it would be wise to take three years to complete this degree. Architecture was a five-year degree and I would be exempted the first year with my BSc degree. I applied to the Ministry of Works for a cadetship in both architecture and engineering which would provide an income during studies with a bond over five years and a head sum equivalent to the first year salary upon graduation. I was awarded a cadetship in structural engineering, but not in architecture. During the 1970s, I had developed a strong interest in issues of sustainability. I felt I could make more of a difference as an architect than as a structural engineer. I could also become a research architect. I applied for enrolment at the Auckland School of Architecture and my enrolment was accepted. We had enough savings at hand from the sale of our house to cover the first year of study with some part-time work. Before shifting to Auckland in February 1975, I worked as a relief postie and as a pool attendant at Moana Pool. Before locking the swimming pool up at night, I did a quick warmup by myself and did a push-off time trial over 100 metres breaststroke. I swam 1:15 which was equivalent to a sub 1:14 with a dive start. I was still in good swimming condition.


We shifted to Auckland by train and ferry two weeks before the start of the first semester at the Auckland School of Architecture. Our furniture was on board the same train along with a new 100 cc two-stroke Yamaha motorbike I had purchased in Dunedin to provide cheap transport in Auckland. I could have purchased a secondhand 250 cc four-stroke Honda for about the same price, but I didn’t want to take on someone else’s mechanical problems. Constant regular decoking of the cylinder head of the two-stroke motor proved to be a pain and the 100 cc motorbike was hopelessly underpowered on a motorway, especially with a pillion rider. I soon learned to fully occupy the lane instead of hovering at the left side of the lane like a bicycle tempting cars to pass in the same lane.

We rented a house for $25 per week at Mangere Bridge which was miles away from the Auckland School of Architecture located near Queen Street, the main street of Auckland. Our landlord was a flight steward living in a converted garage on the same site and his sister owned the adjacent house where I assume he showered and had his meals. A few months later, our landlord told us that he couldn’t afford to continue charging us the same rent and he asked us how much we could afford to pay. I didn’t reply to that question. We immediately looked around for more stable rent and rented a house for $35 per week at 30 Quadrant Road in Onehunga located on the North side of Mangere Bridge. By then, I had started a part-time job as an assistant swimming coach to Colin Kidd who won the Annette Kellerman Cup open water three mile handicap race in 1947. My role was teaching stroke technique to more advanced swimmers while Colin Kidd taught the beginners.

We applied for a Housing Corporation loan to buy a house with capitalisation of our family benefit as part of the deposit. We had already identified a two-bedroom home unit at 25A vine Steet, Mangere, one of six units, selling for $23,500. The developer provided a $5,000 second mortgage. The Housing Corporation delayed its decision for almost six months as it considered that we needed our full family benefit each week to cover living costs on our low income. The Housing Corporation finally conceded that we would be better off paying $19 per week on a first and second mortgage as opposed to paying $35 rent per week in Onehunga. The developer of the home units had not yet sold the unit we had expressed interest in purchasing. The unit was overpriced and the provision of a second mortgage was an inducement for those on low income and deposit like ourselves to purchase. The developer sold our second mortgage to a third party at a discounted price of $4,000 a few months after we shifted in. The market value of our home unit did not match what we paid for it until many years of inflation later. We shifted into our home unit shortly before our daughter turned five in October when she started school at Sutton Park Primary School at the North end of Vine Steet.

My job with Colin Kidd petered out in winter and after painting the ceiling of the lounge in his home to keep me in employment, I returned to the university job centre to look for another part-time job. The timing couldn’t have been better. Lincoln Hurring had just shifted his swim coaching business from South Auckland to the North Shore Takapuna swimming pool and he needed a sole charge swimming coach to look after a squad of his swimmers he had left behind. This squad trained at the Three Kings swimming pool for two hours each evening. Lincoln wanted me to sign a written contract on $4.00 per hour which required my giving three months’ notice of resignation. I couldn’t guarantee three months’ notice, so I settled for $2.50 per hour with a standard Department of Labour two weeks’ notice.  I coached the squad until the first semester of 1976.

Over the summer break of 1975/1976 I worked at an electronics factory in Otahuhu which assembled TV sets. I had delivered pamphlets for the Values Party before the 1975 elections and Jack Frost (that was his actual name), a local Values Party candidate, got me a summertime job at the factory where he worked as an electronics engineer. The manager of the factory was dismissive that my BSc degree was of value to him and I was put on assembly line wages. I spent only one day testing assembled components and then I was given the task of assisting a senior technician to assemble consoles for testing a new line of TVs. I enjoyed the autonomy of this task compared to the robotic testing of components. The assembly workers would congregate outside for a breath of fresh air and sunshine away from their cooped-up work stations at lunchtime and smoko breaks. At the end of each day, I would ride my motorbike to the Three Kings swimming pool for another two-hour stint of coaching. On two occasions that summer I had to down my motorbike to avoid a collision when a car cut across my lane in front of me to make a left turn. I realised that with accumulated tiredness, I hadn’t been fully alert to anticipate potential dangers when riding my motorbike.

The Ministry of Works offered me a cadetship in architecture before the start of the 1976 university year. I accepted the cadetship which paid $80 per week after tax during terms. I had been on a marriage allowance during each term of study which paid $48 per week. I was also offered employment at the Ministry of Works during university breaks, an offer which I most willingly accepted.

A letter had been waiting for me in the office pigeonhole at the architectural school when I returned for my second year of studies. I had been awarded a $1,000 scholarship funded by a legacy administered by the Otago Branch of the Institute of Architects. This scholarship which was awarded to an architectural student normally resident in Dunedin came as a complete surprise to me. I immediately handed in my resignation to Lincoln Hurring who was none too pleased with my two weeks’ notice. I had to remind him that I had turned down being paid $4.00 per hour as I couldn’t guarantee giving him three months’ notice. From 1976 onwards I devoted my full-time attention to my studies without working part-time and I completed my BArch degree with honours at the end of 1978. In my final year, I wrote a sub-thesis which examined the context of low energy settlement patterns in New Zealand. The title of my sub-thesis was “In Search of Steady State”, a title I have carried through with the domain name of my current research website.


From 1975 until 1982 I ran six days a week and swam once per week at the Fanshawe Street swimming pool on Mondays at lunchtime. This 33-1/3 yard pool was owned and run by the Auckland City Council with cubicles around the perimeter of the pool. There were no lane ropes for circular swimming, but this wasn’t a problem because very few people back then swam during lunchtime. I met up with Barry Young at the swimming pool in early 1980 and I swam alongside him for the company. Barry swam mainly freestyle with backstroke as his number one stroke. We swam long distance freestyle in each session and I started to do flip turns for the first time in training instead of a swivel arm turn as I did when swimming alongside Bruce Smith in the late 1960s. Barry’s flip turns were much better than Bruce’s flip turns which I could easily keep up with using a less energetic swivel arm turn.  At the end of each Monday session, I swam 100 yards butterfly.

I joined the Mangere East Running Club within months of our arrival in Auckland in 1975. The club had been set up to cater for young runners ranging in age from 10 to 16 who competed in regular interclub track races in summer and cross-country races in winter. On Saturday afternoons when there were no interclub races, the club held its own races on the local streets in summer and a local farm in winter. There were no pack runs in groups of similar ability like the Mornington Running Club pack runs I had run with in 1965. Several adult runners had joined the Mangere East running club a few years before I did and a small group of these runners were marathon runners. I was encouraged to join them on much longer runs on Sunday mornings. I was immediately advised to get rid of my Bata Bullets running shoes and to purchase a pair of Lydiard running shoes from the Avondale factory shop. I later on purchased New Balance running shoes when the Lydiard running shoes were no longer available. To this day, it still grates on me that named brands tout their expensive street shoes as running shoes. Many of these shoes have rigid soles with no give or flexure in the toe box which, if used for long distance running, will lead to chronic foot problems.

The regulars on our Sunday morning runs included Des O’Connell (see photo), George McClaren, Johny Fitton, and Bruce who had been a sub 2 hour 30 minute marathoner in his younger days. Les Mathews joined us a few years later. We ran from either Des O’Connell’s home in Mangere Bridge or from my home in East Mangere. A favourite loop from my home was via Otahuhu, the back roads to Howick where we stopped for a drink at Brian O’Connell’s home (Des’ brother) and the main roads back home. On one occasion we ran from my home into the city, ran in Round the Bays, and then back to my home. All our group Sunday runs were over 20 miles. During the week, I ran 40-minute runs by myself from home while I was still studying at the university. When I started employment as a graduate architect at the Ministry of Works in 1979, I swam each Monday lunchtime at the Fanshaw Street swimming pool and joined a group of runners at lunchtime on Tuesdays through to Fridays. The regulars in this group included Terry Hume, Malcolm Cartwright, and Barry Brown. We could fit in only 40 minutes of running (or swimming) during our one hour lunch break and we ate our lunches at our desks. 

Ricky Gorringe, a med student, joined me on a several runs in Dunedin in 1974. Ricky had been a keen competitor on the track as a teenager and he asked me to time him over 800 metres on the Logan Park track. He wanted to break 2 minutes and I called out his first lap time at 59 seconds. Ricky completed the 800 metres in 2:01 and he then invited me to run a 400 metres time trial. The last time I had run 400 metres in a race was as a 16 year-old when I struggled to finish in 65 seconds. I surprised myself by running 59 seconds as a 24 year-old with no previous speed work. Despite all my extra training for marathons, including speedwork, I have never run faster than 59 seconds over 400 metres. I simply didn’t have the leg speed and fast twitch muscles to ever compete at a high level in running. As a 16 year-old, my best time over 2 miles was 12 minutes which is a 6 minute per mile pace. Over a period of 6 years from 1975 to 1982 training for marathons, I managed to run the 16 kilometre Auckland Road Race at the age of 32 in 59 minutes 12 seconds, a pace of slightly under 6 minute per mile over 10 miles.

My first road race in Auckland in 1975 was the Howick Road Race on a hot day. The field of runners were advised to take advantage of the drink stations to avoid heat stress and collapse. A group of female runners passed me early on in the race. This was a new experience for me and I finished about 250th in a field of 500 runners, another new experience for me as I had been used to swimming first or at worst third at national level. In swimming I competed against the clock and if I was fast enough, I finished first. I don’t think I would have continued competing in swimming if I couldn’t make the finals or take a medal at the nationals. With running, it was different, and especially when it came to running marathons. I cannot claim to have ever raced a marathon – the challenge was to complete a marathon and doing a personal best was a bonus. I enjoyed running for the simple joy of running. Now that I have slowed down in swimming, I don’t enjoy my swimming as much as I enjoy running on the beach and into the sane dunes. I continue to swim because I know that the low impact exercise is good for me and that at some stage, I will have to flag away running in which case I would do brisk walking instead.

I ran my first marathon solo in 1976 after measuring out a course of 3 loops using the odometer of my car and making an allowance for errors. I wanted to make sure I could complete a marathon before entering my first official marathon race. I finished in 3 hours 11 minutes, 28 seconds. Over the course of a marathon, the human body burns through its stored carbohydrates and then starts burning stored body fat to maintain the energy required. This causes the body's blood sugar levels to drop. I became very much aware of hitting the “marathon wall” at the 18 mile mark. Over a series of 8 official marathons from April 1977 to my last marathon in November 1981, I never got used to the pounding on my thigh (rectus femoris) muscles. My average mileage over each year was about 45 miles per week peaking at 65 miles per week for 16 weeks before each marathon. My club mates who ran 80 to 100 miles per week before a marathon would be 10 to 15 minutes faster than me over a marathon while on a par with me over 10 kilometres.

My first official marathon in April 1977 was the Fletcher Marathon, a loop around Lake Rotorua with a bit of a hill climb at the 18 mile mark and, on the day, a strong head wind along the home straight. I finished in 3 hours 9 minutes and 20 seconds. I ran my final marathon, the Winstone Peoples Marathon, in November 1981. This marathon was a flat course with little if any wind which I finished in 3 hours 4 minutes and 27 seconds, my best official time. The big difference between my first and last marathon was that I ran a negative split in the second half of my last marathon in about 1 hour 30 minutes finishing the last 2 kilometres at close to 6 minutes per mile pace. It was the easiest marathon I have ever run. In the same season I had stopped running over 20 miles on Sunday mornings which left me feeling jaded for the rest of the day. I devoted my Sunday morning and afternoons to my family instead and ran a shorter circuit at a faster pace in the late afternoon from my home through Otahuhu to One Tree Hill to Onehunga returning across Mangere Bridge and back home. The first time I ran this circuit it took me 2 hours 10 minutes. I whittled this time down to just under 1 hour 50 minutes.

Speed work at the Domain on a measured road circuit looping from one end of the grandstand to the Botanic gardens and back to other end of the grandstand, a distance of one mile, included 400 metres or 800 metres every lap with best times of 59 seconds and 2 minutes 8 seconds respectively. I also included one mile and 2 mile time trials over the domain circuit with a best time of 4 minutes 49 seconds and 10 minutes 25 seconds respectively. I once ran 1,200 metres in 1 minute 32 seconds. On that occasion, Gordon Pirie who won a silver medal at the 1956 Olympics in the 5,000 metres, told me that I was over straining.


In early 1982, Barry Young told me that the first World Masters Games would be held in Christchurch in 1984. This event was later renamed as the 1st International Masters Swimming Championships. We both joined a Masters swimming club and started to train together for the 1984 championships. Barry joined North Shore Masters and I joined Cameron Masters. I also joined my local Otahuhu swimming club and competed in New Zealand Swimming Association carnivals as well as Masters carnivals. 

There was an element of putting paid to unfinished business for both of us in joining Masters swimming. Barry was born in January 1939, 10 years 8 months older than me, and had been a promising junior swimmer at national level in South Africa before the 1956 Olympics. Barry chose to join the merchant navy as a career before the 1960 Olympics and, by doing so, had not realised his full potential as a senior swimmer. I had long got over my disappointment at not competing at the 1966 Commonwealth Games – my trip to Tokyo the following year was more than ample compensation – but I also regretted not realising my own full potential as a senior swimmer and never setting a senior national record in breaststroke.

I swapped over from running 6 days per week and swimming once per week to swimming 6 days per week and running for one hour on Sundays after a low weights, high repetitions training session using a barbell for pullovers and bench presses. I could feel the benefits of this strengthening session the following day when I swam my butterfly grinder at the end of our long-distance swim. Barry and I started to swim a weekly routine of long-distance freestyle on Mondays, 4 x 400 yards on Tuesdays, 6 x 266-2/3 yards medleys on Wednesdays, 12 x 100 yards on Thursdays, and four series of 4 x 66-2/3 yards with plenty of rest on Fridays. On Saturdays I swam an easy session to flush out the lactic acid in my system. Without lane ropes, we sculled on our backs with a breaststroke kick to occupy our “lane” while recovering from each effort. On Wednesday nights I swam at Cameron Masters where I trained with Bert Pater and Alan Seager.

We had only 40 minutes available for lunchtime swimming, so our brief warmup was followed by only one high intensity main series. Barry was reluctant to swim medleys claiming that he was too old and stiff in the back to be swimming butterfly. My response was to get over it. Swimming butterfly would be good for conditioning. I swam my 266-2/3 yards medleys in a par time of 3:20 and Barry initially struggled to do 3:50. When we each swam our number one stroke – backstroke for Barry and breaststroke for me - Barry gave me a handicap start. We both had waterproof wrist watches to time ourselves. I aimed to swim under 5:45 and under 2:40 for my 400 yards and 200 yards breaststroke series.  On one occasion I swam 43.8 seconds for a 66-2/3 yards breaststroke.

Both Barry and I made good progress over the next two years setting multiple national Masters records in our respective age groups before the 1984 Masters Championships in Christchurch (see photos). At a Masters race in the Fanshawe Street pool, I swam 100 yards breaststroke in 1:05.8 which was only 0.2 seconds slower than my best as a 16 year-old. I also swam a 220 yards breaststroke in the Newmarket 55 yard pool against a promising junior swimmer who I was told was aiming for 2:45. I deliberately set him up for a burglar finish by letting him get in front of him by the end of the third length and then storming home. The roar of the crowd alerted the young swimmer as to what was happening behind him. I finished a close second in 2:47.5 which was an encouraging time for me in a cold-water pool. My time of 33.26 for a 50 metres short-course breaststroke was also encouraging. I was awarded a Masters trophy for swimming the closest time to a World Masters record.


The 1st International Masters Swimming Championships in Christchurch attracted 493 New Zealand swimmers and 615 swimmers from overseas. Organising the event was a major task under the capable hands of Ian Butterworth, the Executive Secretary, and his team. Ian Butterworth was also a national Masters recordholder in freestyle. NZASA officials from up and down the country donated their time and effort over 5 days of competition.

Barry Young swam in the 45-49 age group 4 months after turning 45 and he won two gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres backstroke with a bronze in the 50 metres. Barry swam against the current world Masters record holder, Hinshaw from the USA, in his events and set a new world Masters record of 1:10.9 in the 100 metres backstroke. Competition at the 1st International Masters Swimming Championships and subsequent World Masters Swimming Championships is unlike competition at the Olympics where a gold medal represents an achievement by the world’s best on the day. The best Masters swimmers in the world do not necessarily compete outside of their country. Masters swimmers are self-selected representing their own clubs and are not selected by their national organisation with full expenses paid. Barry’s gold medals represented a true pinnacle in Masters swimming because he swam against and beat the current world Masters recordholder and set a world Masters record in doing so.

Bert Pater and I shared a motel in Christchurch. Bert swam in the 35-39 age group and I swam in the 30-34 age group three months shy of swimming in the same age group as Bert. The best time to compete as a Masters swimmer is shortly after entering the next age group. When we booked our motel, I briefly considered not joining Bert in Christchurch. The time and effort I had put into my training prevailed. My first event was the 200 metres butterfly in the morning. I swam in the lane next to Michael Toomey and I was in front of him by a metre at the 150 metres when I realised I had gone out too fast and that I would put paid to my chances in the 50 metres breaststroke in the afternoon if I had tried to finish the race. I stopped at the 150 metres, got out of the pool, and had a slow swim in the diving well to get rid of lactic acid in my system.

In the afternoon I swam in the lane next to Hubbell from the Olympic Club in the USA. When we surfaced from the dive start, Hubbell was half a body length in front of me. I was in shock. How the hell did he manage to do that? This was the first time anyone had been in front of me after the dive start. I raced after him, clawed back his lead, and lunged for the orange touchpad. I missed it by a hand and touched it with my momentum. Hubbell won gold in 33.00 and I won silver in 33.04. Another surprise for me was Tony Hayman, a fellow New Zealander, who won the bronze in 33.50. I knew Tony from previous nationals some 16 years earlier. The 55 yards breaststroke hadn’t been an event at the nationals during the 1960s. Tony Hayman would have been a competitor to contend with back then if we had a 55 yard breaststroke on the programme. I found out how Hubbell managed to be in front of me at the end of the dive start. He had used a more modern and streamlined pike dive start whereas I had used a belly flop dive start. 1984 was before access to the Internet which enables one to keep abreast of new developments in swimming. I tried the pike start dive in our club 200 metres medley relay and was timed at 32.1 seconds. Add on a reaction time for anticipation and that 50 metres was my lifetime best. 

My next event a day later was the 200 metres medley. I swam an OK time for me in 2:30.2, but was out of the medals. Two days later I swam the 100 metres breaststroke. My seeded time was 1:15.00, the same as Hubbell, and Boulding was seeded at 1:14.50. I won the gold medal in 1:13.98. On the last day I swam the 200 metres breaststroke. My seeded time was 2:45.00 and Marugo from Italy was seeded at 2:36.00, a time faster than the current world record of 2:43.3. Marugo, unlike a competitive runner, appeared to be a bit overweight when he swam in our 50 metres breaststroke race. But he had subsequently won gold in the 400 metres medley in 5:14.00 and I wasn’t ready to dismiss him as the one to beat. Marugo swam in lane 4 next to me and I was in lane 5. It was at the 150 metres that I became aware that a swimmer in lane 2 turned about the same time as I did. I could hear the raw of the crowd as we raced to the finish. I couldn’t afford to turn my head to see where that swimmer was. I just concentrated on my own swimming and won the gold in 2:45.60. Four months later after turning 35, I set a New Zealand Masters record of 2:41.93 over the 200 metres breaststroke short-course in the next age group (see photo). This time was recognised as a world Masters record in November 1986 by FINA (see photo). This was my pinnacle moment of Masters swimming. My world Masters record was lowered to 2:41.02 by Mike Morrow in November 1987, the same year that FINA rules changed to allow breaststrokers to completely submerge with a raising of the head above water each stroke.


Over the next 10 years which is two age groups, Barry Young and I continued setting NZ Masters records in our number one strokes (see photos). Barry also set NZ Masters record in freestyle, butterfly, and medley which remained unchallenged for many decades. I set NZ Masters records in butterfly and medley which were broken by Mark Saunders and Steve Prescott as soon as they entered that age group. In 1994, Barry Young, Craig Hudgell, Mark Saunders, and I were the only male Masters swimmers to hold national records over three age groups. Barry held six NZ masters records spanning three age groups, I held three, Mark Saunders held two, and Craig Hudgell held one. Barry Young was clearly the most dominant male Masters swimmer in New Zealand over the 10 years since the Christchurch games in 1984. In addition to holding NZ Masters records, Barry continued to set world Masters records in backstroke for each subsequent age group followed by world Masters records in medleys and then butterfly. Barry was twice listed by the magazine, Swimming World, as being one of the top ten Masters swimmers in the world and in 2010 he was the first and so far the only NZ Masters swimmer to be inducted into the FINA World Swimming Hall of Fame. Barry passed away on 4 December 2014 at the age of 75. I suggest that Barry had been the best Masters competitor ever in any sport in New Zealand. It is a shame that the Halberg Awards did not include a Masters category while Barry was still alive.

John Fay, a fellow Masters swimmer, redeveloped the Fanshawe Street pool in 1986 and swimming lanes were put up. We had scores of swimmers join Barry Young and me in the fast lane and the most common name was Mark and Bruce. Barry often used to say that he wouldn’t have managed to achieve his successes in swimming if he hadn’t swum with a group and that he couldn’t train by himself. Core members of our group included John Fisher, Noel Gracie, Bruce Walker, Les Hibbs, Bernadette Rae, and Robert Redford. We forgot that Barry was much older than many of us and he was well able to hold his own in training. In the late 1980s, early 1990s, Barry did the same job at the Maritime School under contract and he started swimming in the mornings at Takapuna pool making new friends. He swam double the distance we could manage to do at lunch times and he also swam at lunchtimes. By doing so, Barry slowed down the slowing down with age process.

In 1990, I enrolled as a PhD candidate and to keep travelling costs down, I studied at home over the next three years running six days a week from home and swimming only once per week. I purchased a weights machine and a Total Gym to simulate swimming butterfly which I used before each run. I returned to work in the city again as a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland in 1993 and I rejoined our group at the Fanshawe Street pool. When I had been swimming six days per week just before I started my PhD studies, I had many a tussle swimming 400 metres backstroke with Bruce Walker in a par time of 5:50. On my return to the group, I was struggling to swim 6:10. This was understandable after three years of swimming only once per week. But when it came to swimming breaststroke, I found that I was struggling to swim 400 metres in 6:40. I had previously swum a 1500 metres breaststroke in 23:51 at a pace of 6:21.6 per 400 metres. I had also swum 3,590 metres in a one hour swim with Bernadette Rae and John Fay at a pace of almost 6:40 per 400 metres. I had simply lost my breaststroke kick which I never regained and I was never again able to swim a 400 metres breaststroke faster than 6:40. I stoppled competing in breaststroke at Masters carnivals and briefly competed swimming butterfly and medleys in which I set national Masters records which were soon broken. By 1995 when I swam my last Masters race, I had started to daily alternate swimming and running because I enjoyed running so much. I was never going to be competitive in swimming by running every second day, so I retired from Masters swimming. My last Masters race was 100 metres short course butterfly in the 45-49 age group. My time was 1:11.22 (see photo) compared to Dave Gerrard’s long course record of 1:10.48 set in 1991 (see photo). Dave Gerrard’s record was lowered by Michael Toomey to 1:09.36 in 1996 (see photo). Records are made to be broken. 

In the year 2000, Barry and I took multiple video shots of our stroke technique, including underwater shots. At our lunch time swims we had no time at all to devote to stroke technique. I already knew that my freestyle was crap, but I was horrified and mortified to see just how bad my backstroke was. I have tried to model my backstroke on Barry’s stroke technique ever since. Barry was able to see for himself that his butterfly and breaststroke had room for improvement. With Dix Ozier's input and refinement of his butterfly, Barry added the 100 and 200 meters butterfly world Masters records to his collection. In more recent years Don Bidwell refined his breaststroke technique. Barry bettered the world masters record for the 70 to 74 age group by a substantial margin, but the record wasn't ratified by FINA because the pool was too short by a few centimeters. I am regret that I never had a good look at Barry’s breaststroke. Barry showed me his new breaststroke technique in the ocean which wasn’t the best place to see it. Barry did tell me that his new stroke technique was far more strenuous than his previous technique. I take that to mean that one must have a high level of conditioning and strength to take full advantage of a high lift breaststroke technique. YouTube videos of Adam Peaty in the gym confirms this. I observe that many young swimmers ape Adam Peaty’s high lift stroke technique, but fail to lunge forward with their kick. There is a severe dead spot in their stroke. A narrow and powerful whip kick is needed to swim the same as Adam Peaty.


I thorough enjoyed the company, camaraderie, and friendship of swimmers who joined our group session at lunchtimes at the Fanshawe Street pool. John Fisher, Noel Gracie, and I used to go for lunchtime runs from the Fanshawe Street pool on Wednesdays. Barry Young didn’t join us. He wasn’t into running. Our runs became quite competitive and I got the bright idea of seeing what time we could do for a 150 metres butterfly at the end of our run. John Fisher and I took up the challenge and we watched each other swim a 150 metres butterfly after a brief 200 metres warmup. I managed to get down to 1:51.5 and John got down to 1:50.5. Thankfully, John was in a lower age group. On another occasion, John and I set out to swim 8 x 100 metres butterfly on 2 minutes in adjacent lanes. We were swimming them in 1:17 edging down to 1:15 by the 5th 100 metres when we called it a day. We were both stuffed. Group swimming is so much better than solo swimming as each member pushes their fellow swimmers to swim faster than they would by themselves.

The training programmes that I set were more varied than those when I swam as a junior and senior. I introduced reverse 200 and 400 metres medleys. As a group, our par was 2:50 for the 200 metres reverse medley. My best time was 2:36. I was able to swim my reverse medleys in training faster with butterfly at the end rather than at the start. John Fisher was the only one to swim reverse 400 medleys with me. The others in our group swam freestyle in lieu of butterfly. My best training time for a reverse 400 metres medley was 5:36 swimming the butterfly leg in 1:16 after a cautious freestyle start. On one occasion I swam an 800 medley in 12:06 swimming the butterfly leg in 2:48. No one else in our group was game to give it a go.

In 1987 at the age of 37, I swam 110 yards breaststroke in the NZASA Auckland Swimming Championships at the Newmarket 55 yard pool. I just wanted the competition expecting to swim in only the heats. It was a cold evening with drizzle and wind sweeping down the pool. I managed to swim 1:15.3 which was faster than my 1:15.94 NZ Masters record for the 35-39 age group which I had set in 1985. I was pleased with my time, but dismayed when I was told I had qualified for the finals to be held two hours later. I had already done my dash. I hung around in the cold and did a land exercises warmup 15 minutes before finals. I finished third in a time of 1:15.5. I didn’t expect to almost repeat the time I had set in the heats. The officials presented the first three places with a towel including a towel for Brent Foster, the NZASA swimmer who had placed fourth. I was embarrassed by standing there receiving my towel with youngsters almost half my age. All I had wanted was to swim against competition. Brent Foster who had competed in the 200 and 400 metres medley at the 1986 Commonwealth Games was more embarrassed than me.


I have continued to daily alternate running and swimming since 1995 when I retired from Masters swimming. In 1975 I departed from my home city of Dunedin for Auckland. In 2008 I returned from Auckland to my home town of Dunedin. Dunedin is now a town to me compared to the scale of Auckland. On my return to Dunedin, my challenge was to be still running three days a week for at least 40 minutes each run at the age of 75. If I should meet that challenge, then I am sure I will set up another challenge. A few years ago, I had a discussion with Michael Borrie, a professor in gerontology, about exercise for the elderly. Michael told me that moderate exercise for the elderly was sufficient to be beneficial. My response was that some elderly people need and want the challenge of vigorous exercise. I am one of them. I am reminded of an interview on video of Arthur Lydiard in his twilight years shortly before he passed away. Arthur Lydiard had injured one of his legs in an accident and was shown using his walker going up a steep hill. That is the way to go out for me. My father-in-law was physically active into his nineties. The day that he sat down and expected someone else to make a cup of tea for him was the day he steadily declined.

Before each run, I do two x 50 simulations of butterfly using my Total Gym. I then run for 40 minutes on the beach and into the sand dunes. On firm flat sand, I maintain a pace of 6:10 per kilometre which is a 10 minute per mile pace compared to the 6 to 7 minute per mile pace I used to run in my early thirties. I start up with a pulse rate of 115 bpm which rises to 130 bpm some 30 minutes into my run. I like to push my return journey and my pulse rate increases further to 150 bpm which I maintain for 15 minutes. To keep the use of petrol down, I walk briskly to a local rugby park and run a number of laps on grass which take about 5 minutes per lap. I avoid running on asphalt, hence the brisk walk instead. I walk at 9:00 per kilometre pace and my pulse rate remains at 90 bpm on the flat. It is only by walking briskly uphill that my pulse rate exceeds 100 bpm. Yes, brisk walking is good for you, but the maximum possible heart rate is nowhere near 150 bpm unless you are doing vigorous competitive speed walking like the Olympians which I don’t do as it would risk injury. At the end of each run, I do four chin-ups using a chin-up bar hung from a door frame. I have managed to do a maximum of seven and it is lack of strength in my forearms which limits me from doing more. In 2020, I started to take levothyroxine for my hypothyroidism condition and I have since lost 10 kilograms in muscle mass. I now weigh 64 kilograms and I can lose up to 2 kilograms in sweat during a hard run on a hot day. My running is as good as ever from four years ago, but my swimming has taken a nose dive.  I was still swimming 400 metres reverse medleys in 2016 at the age of 66, but those days are long gone. It became a struggle to swim 100 metres butterfly by 2020.

My current swimming sessions start with an 800 metres warmup consisting of 200 metres one arm butterfly focusing on a double dolphin kick, 200 metres dolphin and backstroke kick with a kickboard and zoomers, 200 metres alternating breaststroke and backstroke, and finishing with 200 metres breaststroke kicking on my front with my arms held by my side and on my back with my arms above my head. This is followed by a minor series of either 100 metres freestyle and backstroke paddles, 100 metre medleys, or 25 metres butterfly. I then swim 2 x 100 metres freestyle kick with board and zoomers with a 50 metres backstroke kick rest in between. My swimming session in the pool finishes with 4 x 25 metres upside down underwater breaststroke returning to the start sculling on my back. I take a good 60 seconds rest between each effort. My swimming sessions add up to 1,600 to 2,000 metres. My swimming in the pool session is followed by 10 vertical press-ups in the diving well pool as if I am climbing out of the pool over the raised end. I then do 20 horizontal press-ups on the poolside with my palms in front of my shoulders and then 15 horizontal press-ups with my palms at my shoulder line. A series of leg and shoulder stretching held for 30 seconds completes my swimming session.

And that completes my autobiography of swimming and running. I now look forward to moving on to my other activities described on this website. A real challenge for me is to make progress with my art. I always seem to get diverted by my other activities.

Ivan M. Johnstone
23 March 2024