Poort In A Storm: Kane Radford & The Rio Ticket New Zealand Has Taken Off Him

Kane Radford on Lake Taupo -  Photo: Simon Watts/www.bwmedia.co.nz
Kane Radford on Lake Taupo - Photo: Simon Watts/www.bwmedia.co.nz

Editorial: Can Kane Radford win the Olympic marathon crown? Probably not but stranger things have happened. Can Radford finish top 16 in Rio? Well, yes, he can. New Zealand think not and have taken his Rio ticket off him. Are the double standards of blazers in play? As Radford considers and appeal, Aussie open water ace Jarrod Poort backs his fellow marathon man

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If only FINA let the next fastest swimmer period to represent their continent, and not the next fastest swimmer from a country that has no qualifier, then Australia and New Zealand (in this case, but maybe also any other countries) may have had different criteria as well.

Craig Lord

Yes, the whole thing was badly built – which is why I pose the questions as to where NZL stands on those policies its representatives have been in a position to back or oppose, asf.


Yes, the answer would be illuminating. If NZ reps backed the current qualification criteria when it was still in discussion and/or being proposed, then it just doesn’t make sense if NZ Swimming refuses to send swimmer on continental ticket. But probably it’s NZ Olympics committee that has they say who to send.


Sorry but I dissent on this one ! Whilst I have empathy for Radford, the fact is that his quota is a “roll-down” rather than a direct entry one.

When your NOC has taken an increasingly “hard ball” approach over the past decade or so like NZ, continental “roll-downs” rather than direct entry quotas are going to be seen as discretionary calls …. and highly uncertain ground for any competitor or team.

Arguably, a number of the NZ pool swimmers do not/will not hit the top 16 benchmark but they DID tick off the first hurdle; that of matching/bettering the FINA A times for a direct quota.

The NZ Swimming document is actually a poorly worded document with regards to the open water segment; merely stating “performance and results at the marathon swimming nomination event” which was stated as the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier 2016 (June 11th and 12th 2016).

If we are to use FINA’s own documents; their parameters for open water are:

2015 FINA World Championships: The ten (10) best ranked athletes from the 10km event will directly qualify.

FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier 2016: The nine (9) best ranked athletes will directly qualify. Only NOCs/NFs that have no swimmer qualified through the 2015 FINA World Championships may elect to send a maximum of two (2) athletes per event to
the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier 2016. Each NOC/NF can qualify a
maximum of one (1) athlete per gender.

Continental Representation
The best ranked athlete in the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier 2016, not
yet qualified, from each of five (5) Continents will directly qualify. Should an
NOC/NF have previously qualified one (1) or two (2) swimmers, the next best
ranked athlete from the same continent, not yet qualified, in the ranking of the
FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier 2016 event will qualify to ensure that
each of these competitions yields a competitor.

Did ANY NZ open water competitor meet ANY of these parameters for a direct quota ? No, they did not ! They did not make the cut-off at 2015 Worlds. Nor did they make top 10 at last week’s Open Water Qualifier ? Were they the fastest even from Oceania …. no, they were behind Australians. Rather, they have received a “roll-down” on the grounds that they allocate a final additional spot to each continent.

NZOC’s line, like that of many nations with finite resources, is increasingly one of a smaller and much leaner team. Even in their power house sports of rowing, kayak & sailing; they do not look to qualify all boats but rather concentrate on ones with a track record of performance. Continental “roll-down” are increasingly NOT making the cut and the relative sporting bodies are guided by that.

Does open water get the rough end of the stick amongst the NZ swimming fraternity …. arguably yes. Is NZ Swimming inefficient and dysfunctional; again strong evidence for the affirmative but these are not the point.

Radford’s performance on the day that mattered for selection was insufficient to place him in a position to “tick the requisite boxes” for a direct quota. By being the recipient of a continental “roll-down”, his position was far less secure than those pool swimmers who at least ticked the FINA A box.

its very nice of Mr Poort to stick up for his mate but as the recipient of selector’s/AOC “charity” at the last Olympics; his performance in the 1500 was a veritable poster case for NOT doing so in future.

TBH, all the talk of “Olympic spirit” is mostly a load of guff. Yes, one hopes that competition is conducted fairly and in the right manner but the days of amateurism are long over and top level international sport is very much a business …. and a very unsentimental one at that.

Yes, Mr Radford has the right to appeal and the non-specificality of the NZ selection document may be his best grounds but the fact that he did not obtain a DIRECT quota may be the point on which this all hinges


Whilst there can most certainly be some painful individual “victims” of the NZOC approach; as Mr Radford arguably may be; their overall approach “works for them” and they arent likely to change what is proving successful.

Take London as a case in point; they send an overall team of 184 competitors and fly home with 6 gold 2 silver and 5 bronze. Compare this to their neighbours across the ditch who send a behemoth of 410 for the return of 8 gold 15 silver & 12 bronze. Even at this point, the prospective teams for Rio measure up as 184 (NZL) & 379 (AUS)

Granted, AUS has a larger population and a larger economy and therefore will always be a somewhat larger team but there is an awful lot of “inflation” in those numbers with a number of sports there on continental basis rather than world ranking.

The following may not go down well but comparing the actual medal prospects of the two countries; the prospective Rio gold medals for NZL look distinctly securer than the bulk of AUS’s. Should AUS Swimming not fire up or provide at least 5 golds, then AUS may very well be looking at a repeat of 1984.

Given that the public funding for sport in AUS is likely to contract immensely no matter which party wins the upcoming federal election; its more than likely that AUS will be increasingly mirroring the NZL approach. Rio will most likely to be the last of the 400+ teams .. think more low 300s at best in future

Craig Lord

CW – under the criteria set, whatever we think of it, he qualified. My question is clear: did NZL reps argue against that criteria or agree with it or say sod all. I think you get my point. (The arguments as to whether a swimmer can make a final/top 16, a medal or have the remotest chance of getting past a heat are manyfold given that nations set their own criteria beyond the into criteria – and NZL is entitled to set its own policy, as I point out… my questions are aimed at those who now stop a swimmer who has been given a ticket to the Olympics fair and square under the criteria but his home nation is saying that he cannot take up that ticket… at which point, legitimate questions arise as to where NZL stands on the policies that granted the swimmer that ticket in the first place in a system that automatically cuts out swimmers with a greater claim that some who will be racing in Rio (swimmers who will not get to go to Rio regardless of whether NZL send Kane or not). The selection process, internationally, is a pig’s ear.


Craig, whilst that’s a fine MORAL argument (which I have no issue with); the issue for Radford is whether his LEGAL case is sustainable or not.

The base FINA document itself differentiates between “direct entry” and continental representation and it is the latter category into which Radford fell.

NZ based their policy on the swimmer firstly meeting a performance benchmark with the top 16 piece being a further “potential” benchmark.

The NZ document IS a shoddy and somewhat evasive document and it will be the issue that the performance benchmark for open water was NOT directly specific (did not specify a placing) which will be the issue upon which his case is likely to hinge.

NZ Swimming DO deserve a good slap-down for having such an inadequately clear policy (and NZOC indirectly for not ensuring greater clarity) but had Radford CLEARLY met the FINA benchmarks for DIRECT entry, he would not have been in this position and we wouldn’t be debating this issue


Thank you Mr Lord for featuring Jarrod’s FB post. Sometimes when batting around opinions and commentary from the safety of our keyboard we forget the rawness that has been evoked in Jarrod’s post – of a mate, for a mate, regardless of nationality, and their pursuit of extraordinary goals.

I know we have debated in an earlier article the merits or not of the FINA qualification system or the Olympic ideals, and could go on here, ad nausem. But that is best in a pub over a pint, rather than repetition here.

Whether we agree with the system or not, Radford was given the FINA nod “fair and square”. Yes, most certainly, it would have been easier if he qualified as Poort did through an automatic place, no question. But I have no doubt that had Poort only earned his place through a continental nod that Swimming Australia would have taken it, because their selection criteria specifically anticipated that possibility and therefore would have allowed it if it was needed.

The question is then, did SNZ anticipate the possibility of a continental place? Most certainly they did, because their selection criteria was, in my opinion, deliberately vague and woolly. I do not believe that this time around (as opposed to 2012 when the possibility of a continental place was specifically excluded by stating direct qualification only) they would have precluded an invitation outright, otherwise they would have stated it.

Therefore, we are then left with the messy business of applying the overriding selection criteria (which theoretically applies for both Pool and Open Water in SNZ selection policy) of potential “top 16” capable. Much easier in Pool swimming as the subjectivity is taken out of the hands of Selectors by FINA publishing FINA ‘A’ standards (which they have only used since 2008, previously they allowed ‘B’ times), so do the time, get the place.

But how do you apply “top 16” criteria and mindset to an event like Open Water that is so vastly different to pool events, and as you so rightly point out is subject to the “ebb and flow” of so many factors. The only thing Pool and Open Water have in common is they occur in water. As I have stated in an earlier post, placings/rankings in Open Water race are meaningless, particularly when the top elite swimmers only compete en masse at FINA World Champs every 2 years. This makes it impossible to create any credible ranking system, unlike triathlon and the ITU series where the top elite triathletes compete each year over a series of events resulting in much more meaningful data. In Open Water a much better analysis of the competitiveness of a swimmer would be to look at the time differentials, for example, of the winner and everyone else, the leading pack, the split times, etc. How would you compare Radford’s podium finish at Pan Pacs in 2014, with a poor finish at Kazan, to arguably a very good race in Portugal? Frankly, despite what a 19th place would suggest in Portugal, he swam a great race – the time differentials being 34 secs off the winner, 28 secs off the Olympic champion, 20 secs off an automatic spot. Top 16 capable? Most certainly.

But here is the rub – applying the overriding criteria of “top 16” capable to Open Water only you cannot avoid the obvious disparity that exists. Currently, according to FINA rankings of 2 per nation, going into Rio, NZL Pool swimmers have rankings of: B. Ashbee 200IM (20th); M. Stanley 200Fr (30th), 400Fr (28th); M. Hutchins 400Fr (34th); C. Main 100Bk (27th); G. Snyders 100Br (15th); L. Boyle 400Fr (19th), 800Fr (10th); E. Robinson 800Fr (20th); H. Glasson 100Fly (25th). Do the Pool swimmers deserve to be in Rio? Of course they do and no-one is suggesting that they shouldn’t go. They have achieved the FINA ‘A’ time “fair and square”. But if applying the “top 16” capable overriding criteria, by the above analysis, most of the Pool swimmers claim to a Rio place would be no more deserving than Radford’s.


Someone has posted elsewhere the following (with my edits):

“Kane has [swum against and beaten] … the following top swimmers in major races during the last two years:

A) World Champion Jordan Wilimowsky.
B) Olympian 2012, 2016 Yasunari Hirai, JPN.
C) Olympian 2012 Alex Meyer, USA
D) Jared Poort, AUS, Olympian 2016
E) Daniel Fogg, UK fifth in london 2012 and 14th in Kazan.
F) Ivan Enderica Ochoa, Ecuador. Olympian 2012/2016 Third in the qualifier.
G) Mark Papp, Hungary Olympian 2016.
H) Antonio Arroyo, Spain. First man on the outside 2016.
I) Caleb Hughes, GBR
J) Sean Ryan, US Olympian 2016, 4th in Kazan.
K) Gergely Gyurta, Hungary
L) Rob Muffels, GER Silver at World’s 5k 2015
M) Ventislav Aydarski, BUL Olympian 2016
N) Vitali Khudiakov, KAZ Olympian 2016”

Radford not competitive? Not capable of top 16 out of 25?


Sorry, bit of a roll here.

Speaking of the FINA gravy train. Did you realise that John West, one of two NZL officials out on the boats in Portugal, is also one of the SNZ Selectors? Um, conflict of interest anyone? There is no way he should be active in both roles.


Very rarely do you get to say that a swimmer would have been better off if they’d been competing under a South African passport, and that seems to be the case with Radford here.

Craig Lord

No, indeed not h2tk

James T

Craig, as always you are right on the mark over key issues. Here we go again and all the Kiwis come out to play.

May I add to the debate (it was going to be a little, but in the end it is a lot.)

First, the issue of the selection polices of the NZOC are a complete red-herring in this discussion as the issue of open water selection post Portugal did not even get to the NZOC. It stopped at the doors of the swimming federation and its appointed selectors.

It is well known that NZL has a rigorous overall Olympic selection standard which is intended to focus scarce resource toward where the greatest returns on investment are possible. Every Olympic cycle there are always examples of athletes on the fringe who either make it or not. This issue about Radford and Webby is not there yet. Any debate relating to the merits of that policy should be reserved for a forum that has its focus on National Olympic Committee policy and strategy. By all means debate the relative merits of bloated teams and medal returns or skinny teams and bang for dollar in that forum. That is not what this issue should be about – yet. Unless I am mistaken Swimvortex is primarily a forum for swimming issues and this is a swimming issue because, and this is important – it relates to how a swimming federation is dealing with selection issues before it has even got to the Olympic Committee. It is also about a pattern of behaviour that the same federation has displayed over time and as it relates to similar issues.

Also, thank you for raising and linking in your article the subject of FINA and those who swill at the great trough. I may comment on that further subsequently because there are important threads in that one too.

The important issue to me with this case is here – there is a pre-published standard (as others note, possibly poorly and ambiguously drafted) which was materially and almost certainly intentionally different to that which was applied for 2012 qualification where acceptance of an open water continental place then was specifically precluded. 2016 was different, not only was the exclusion of the continental space removed but there was an informal implication conveyed that this draughting was to deliberately allow consideration of a possible continental acceptance. The athletes now involved, rightly or wrongly swam in Portugal in the knowledge that acceptance of a continental place was possible.

We then go to the issue of top 16 and examination of evidence that an athlete to be selected is top 16 capable. That of course aligns with the NZOC criteria for Olympic selection. The issue with this provision and key to the treatment of both Radford and Webby is that the top 16 criteria has been applied selectively in their case and not with equality to pool selection and by the exact same panel of selectors.

Now I hear the argument from all sorts of “lawyers” and “bush lawyers” alike that the FINA A standard in the pool is top 16 – well that thought process was possible back when the new FINA policy for Olympic space allocation was adopted for 2012 and that is what the NZOC accepted as a selection criteria from the subject matter experts – ie the SNZ selectors, who had to validate that athletes selected were top 16 capable. It was therefore accepted in advance for 2012 that FINA A meant top 16. As it proved then, we learned that for most pool events that it was only an approximation with most events qualifying significantly more than 16 athletes under FINA A (2 per nation). Now onto 2016 where the same subject matter experts (SNZ selectors) manage to convince the NZOC that FINA A again means top 16. To accept that premise for 2016, based on 2012 experience was either wilfully dishonest or negligent or reflects a pragmatic approach by the NZOC. Either way to validate the top 16 facade, SNZ disingenuously set one of the earliest qualification cycles for Olympic selection and sure enough, at that point they can say to the NZOC that all selected athletes are top 16 capable – look at their current world rankings, of course they must be. Well as all our “West Island” friends know, most major countries (and minor ones too) had hardly swum when NZL named their pool team and as other correspondents now point out, the NZL qualified athletes all (excepting for two) now rank outside of the top 16 and in some cases ‘well outside’ top 16.

Now let me be clear, I support rigorous selection criteria for the Olympics, as the great All Black captain once said, ‘it’s not tiddlywinks’. I also accept that it is reasonable to establish the FINA A standard as an absolute selection standard as it is calculated based around top 16 performances over previous cycles. That is all fair enough. What is not fair enough though is to then apply a different standard under the same provisions to a related but different discipline. This reflects a possible bias which in itself is an established ground for appeal under the NZOC participation agreement as it relates to team selection.

We might well ask could there be a bias on the part of such worthy subject matter experts toward one discipline or group of athletes as opposed to another?

That is an excellent question to consider with some possible answers. Maybe it has something to do with the national television coverage of the pool trials and an almost pathological need by the institution to prove to the public that they are spending tax payer money wisely and “haven’t we done a fine job with all the money invested in us” (ask Lauren Boyle if they have spent the money she single handedly earned the sport during this cycle wisely and in the areas where best return was likely) and the almost total news blackout and PR mileage available through open water. Especially when the tax paying public comes to a realisation that next to none of the money invested on their behalf in SNZ has trickled down to this part of the sport. Maybe it also runs deeper – maybe it was reflected in a failure to even acknowledge open water swimmers (Radford et al) when the team for Pan Pacs was publicly announced in 2014 and being called on the matter – maybe it relates to the involvement of members of the present selection panel in various roles within the organisation on previous occasions when there has been conflict with the same group of swimmers including previous NZ sports tribunal cases where the institution was reprimanded for their selection failures. Maybe there are all sorts of other reasons known only to the selectors. Maybe, just maybe, their research was so diligent that they were able to establish that Kane Radford has never bettered any of the swimmers who qualified ahead of him and based on that research there was no realistic prospect of a top 16 place and maybe they had undertaken similar research on the pool swimmers that suggests they have a realistic prospect based on proven performance of being capable of improving their rankings to better those swimmers ranked ahead – unlikely though because my research as simple as it is tells me a different story.

What then to conclude from this long post – (sorry, Craig) – there is more than a small bad smell coming from the SNZ cupboard – it’s just that we have become so used to it that we accept it as normal. There is inconsistency in the application of selection policy between pool and open water – that much is clear – is it bias, or incompetence or informed? We can not be sure but if I were the athlete the possible evidence of bias would leave me feeling very angry. I am not the athlete and I am angry – I can only begin to think of how they feel.

Craig Lord

Thanks James T (no need to apologise – you make lots of very valid points)

Craig Lord

Very good, h2, CW, this is the drop, hypocrisy and double standard in this list pointed out by h2tk:
“But here is the rub – applying the overriding criteria of “top 16” capable to Open Water only you cannot avoid the obvious disparity that exists. Currently, according to FINA rankings of 2 per nation, going into Rio, NZL Pool swimmers have rankings of: B. Ashbee 200IM (20th); M. Stanley 200Fr (30th), 400Fr (28th); M. Hutchins 400Fr (34th); C. Main 100Bk (27th); G. Snyders 100Br (15th); L. Boyle 400Fr (19th), 800Fr (10th); E. Robinson 800Fr (20th); H. Glasson 100Fly (25th). Do the Pool swimmers deserve to be in Rio? Of course they do and no-one is suggesting that they shouldn’t go. They have achieved the FINA ‘A’ time “fair and square”. But if applying the “top 16” capable overriding criteria, by the above analysis, most of the Pool swimmers claim to a Rio place would be no more deserving than Radford’s.”


Thank you for showing the hypocrisy of treatment between OW and pool swimmers. Those pool swimmers world rankings are very illuminating. And right now, their rankings are actually already slipped down the list. for example, Snyders’ 100br ranking is now down to 21st from 15th.

And this is even before US swimmers hit the water in Omaha next week.

The only NZ pool swimmer who is likely to advance to final is Lauren Boyle. The rest may even find it very hard to advance to semis.


My bad, I didn’t read properly the “…2 per nation..”


Snyders’ ranking is down to 16th.
And I haven’t even checked the rest, aside from Boyle which is perfectly acceptable.

Craig Lord

17th on my list asf – and likely to be 18th after USA trials – and he is among the best ranked on the team


True, if top 16 is applied properly on pool swimming, the only one who gets pass is Lauren Boyle.

maryann Corrigan

B. Ashbee 200IM (20th); M. Stanley 200Fr (30th) and 400Fr (28th); M. Hutchins 400Fr (34th); C. Main 100Bk (27th); G. Snyders 100Br (15th); L. Boyle 400Fr (19th) and 800Fr (9th); E. Robinson 800Fr (20th); H. Glasson 100Fly (25th).
no doubt these will change after the USA comp, I hear that the resigning CEO of SNZ has decided he will go to RIO – begs the question how competitive is he??and who endorsed the junket? The nose in the trough stuff at the expense of the athletes must stop. Sadly all of the corporate BS (thanks Sport NZ) affects the swimmer…who work tirelessly to meet and exceed their goals and ambitions, never good enough for a bunch of never in their lifetimehave they achieved olympic qualifying standards…go figure.

Craig Lord

How competitive is he, Maryann? Certainly not top 16, though the competition isn’t too stiff, by and large.


In highlighting the current FINA rankings of the NZL Pool swimmers going to Rio, above and elsewhere, I do so with very mixed feelings. It most certainly is not to diminish our Pool swimmers, the majority who like Radford get b***** all support and train in AUS or are in the US because they cannot be world-class remaining in NZ, sadly.

But SNZ chose to publicly hammer their justification for non-selection on the basis of not being “top 16” capable, which when applied across the board is clearly fallacious. Unfortunately, by underlining this policy publicly in red marker pen, it also highlights the vulnerability of those already selected.

Craig Lord

Quite h2tk – they’re driving nails into their own program. Much to learn.


Radford should go to Rio in my opinion. That’s not because I’m unsympathetic to NZ’s desire to send smaller streamlined competitive teams. By all means take that approach as for a relatively small country in NZ’s situation it has merit. But I’m completely unsympathetic to such shoddily worded and haphazard qualification criteria for something as important as the Olympic Games. If NZ didn’t want to take people that did not “directly qualify” as CW states, then they should have stated such (ie you must finish in the top 10 at the 2nd chance qualifying meet). Clear as day. Problem solved. The issue with having open ended discretionary picks is that you have the discretion to be unduly biased, arbitrary, or even malicious let alone inconsistent and hypocritical.

Craig Lord

Quite so, KeithM


My initial response to this overall matter WAS one of scepticism as to whether he (and Webby) actually had legitimate legal grounds for an appeal to succeed as moral outrage (however warranted) isn’t going to get him on the plane !

However, on further investigation of the facts, I will happily concede that my initial response WAS wrong or at minimum premature.

Firstly, NZ Swimming’s nomination document is unspecific as to the LEVEL of performance required at the recent final qualification meet. Was this deliberate as some have intimated ? Whilst you may suspect it, good luck proving it !

The second part of the picture is actually the COMPLETE statement released by NZ Swimming regarding the non-selections.

Various sites, including this one, have quoted the final two stanzas but it is actually the earlier part of this statement that provides the vital context ….. and arguably provides their undoing.

“Ten places for the Rio 10km Open Water event were selected at last year’s world championships with a further 10 direct places decided at the FINA 10km Marathon Swimming Qualifier in Portugal last weekend.

New Zealanders Kane Radford, Phillip Ryan and Charlotte Webby finished 19th, 34th and 31st respectively to miss out on direct qualification.

FINA, the world’s ruling body, offer one additional quota place for the leading swimmer from each of the five global regions – the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania – representing nations not already qualified.

With Australia qualified, New Zealand was the next highest nation from Oceania competing in Portugal, with Radford and Webby therefore earning an invitation spot for New Zealand.”

From the above, we can draw a very clear IMPLICATION that NZ Swimming did, indeed, differentiate between “direct qualification” and “invitation via continental representation”. However, their official nomination protocol made NO such specification or differentiation.

Had it done so, there would be no argument as to where Radford & Webby stand but this does indeed give Radford at least very very strong grounds for appeal and potential overturning of NZ’s decision.

I thank H2TK & James for their input, and for adding further context to the discussion. The potential conflict of interest of Mr West (as NZ selector & FINA race jury for the Portugal meet) is interesting but I’m not sure whether its has any particular bearing on this matter. Unless there were any matters of protest with regards to the race results, the qualification positions and consequent continental invitations are not subject to any input from he or any other jury members.

The question of whether Radford (or Webby) met the performance threshold is a far more vexed one and whether the appeals tribunal will rule on this or whether SNZ may back down on this (on the grounds that FINA has granted invitational positions to both) is open to speculation.

Whilst the examples of Radford outperforming various open water luminaries are interesting, sadly they are irrelevant to this case. FINA set down only TWO races whose results would determine Olympic qualification and those are the only results that are relevant.

Will be VERY interesting to see how this all plays out.

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