Unexpected Miami

Breakwater Hotel on Ocean Drive

The traffic around South Beach Miami is in grid-lock around midnight, so my taxi has great difficulty reaching the Breakwater Hotel on the sea-front. The area is a vibrant party with people everywhere on the streets. My room is in a block accessed across a courtyard with live music and party-goers – through a corridor and into an ice cream parlour, where a lift takes me to the third floor.

Miami Beach before the festival crowds

It’s been a long Thursday – thirteen hours from Auckland to Houston then a six hour wait before flying on to Miami. Wifi at the airport fails to connect me to Uber and there’s nowhere to find a US sim card. It’s still only just Thursday as I hit the shower with the intention of going downstairs for a night-cap. I’m too knackered for that and, breaking all my rules regarding hotel mini bars, I open the half-bottle of Cabernet Sauvingon on offer. It’s just what I need,

Miami Police in elegant accomodation

because there’s a hip hop festival going on outside. I fall asleep synchronising my heart beat with the music coming through the windows – briefly waking at 4.30 to note silence. Awaking somewhat refreshed and after an average, but global type, hotel breakfast of scrambled eggs and chicken sausages, I decide to explore.  Just across the road is the Art Deco Information Centre, where a helpful woman hands me the usual brochure, pointing out locations of the Jewish Museum and the Watsonian.

‘Is that related to the one in Washington?’ I ask.

‘No, that’s the Smithsonian.’

‘Of course it is.’

‘That’s OK, everyone confuses them.’

‘What’s in it?’

‘Art and design.’

I’m hooked and make a beeline as it’s literally two blocks along 10th Street. It’s too early – time to walk and look at Art Deco architecture. There’s much more that I’d imagined and I get the feeling that this might be the true Art Deco Capital of the world – sorry Napier (NZ).  I check my balance at the Bank of America  ATM – my usual procedure – just to let my bank know where I am. Passing a phone shop is an opportunity to get a US sim card.  This takes longer than usual as the guy is only experienced with iphones, but we get there. The Watsonian is an excellent and well curated collection over two exhibition floors.

Male nude

A gigantic metal sculpture of a nude muscle man in Deco style dominates the ground floor lobby by the lift. The sixth floor is dedicated to Dutch design and art from the late 1800’s to the 1940’s. There are propaganda posters covering the range of political views, architecture, furniture and interior design.  Of particular note are examples of Nazi art and graphics. I spot a chap giving a young man a personal tour and eaves-drop on some of his comments. Some of the art and graphic representations are examples of how the European colonisers depicted native peoples in idealised ways which the subjects would not recognise, or identify with. The collection continues in the same vein on the 5th floor with studies for wall murals with overt political messages. Here is proof that the struggle of the left is recognised and recorded in this ever right-leaning country. Further down the building, a library (collected by the founder) occupies an entire floor.

Dutch Communist poster
Panel from the smoking room of a luxury liner
Romantic misappropriation of First Nation Amreicans

It’s coffee time and I’ve spotted the French bakery, recommended by the woman from the Information Centre. Yes they can do a late, but it’s too cold, weak and full of froth – a great disappointment. I’m missing New Zealand Coffee and in particular my favourites on

London Underground and the spire from the NY Woolworths buidling make it here

Waiheke Island. Lunch at the gay Palace Bar – ‘because every Queen needs a palace’ – is seared fresh tuna on a salad – just right and proving that you can eat healthy food in America. Time for a snooze before setting out to do my Out Games registration – there’s been an update email directing us to The

Unusual perspective by young artist. Self portrait with wife and son.

Lowes Hotel seven blocks away. There has been no signage around the streets, advertising this world event and only when I get to the hotel lobby do I see a sign by the escalator. At the top I find Rob Wintermute from Out To Swim London, enjoying his complimentary bap after registering for the Human Rights Conference (he’s a human rights lawyer) which is a part of the games. He’s also doing athletics as well as swimming. He tells me that there are two women here from OTS so there might be a chance of a mixed relay team. We exchange US phone numbers. I head to the check in area where guys are milling around looking confused. Suddenly Ivan, the Games CEO, who came all the way to

Study of war lords for community mural

Auckland months ago to drum up support, comes out of a door. He doesn’t remember meeting me at a drinks reception Team Auckland organised, but he has a hassled look on his face. Apparently, swimming is registering at the Marriot Hotel a few blocks away so I set off with an Australian Swimmer, only to find that the Marriot hotel we need is miles away in Coconut Grove, near the swimming pool. We both decide not to bother as registration packs are always available at the pool on the day. I go back to the hotel and find an announcement on facebook that all WOG sporting events have been cancelled except Aquatics, Soccer and Country Dancing. No wonder Ivan was looking sick.

The first stacking chairs to retain elegance.
Self portrait (selfie) with Art Deco dressing table

OK, time to attend to the jet lag which is catching up on me. The consequence of this is that I don’t sleep well later. Admittedly the music is very loud tonight and the streets are heaving with African Americans doing ‘The Cake Walk’ – having a great time and looking everything from outrageous to fabulous. Too many things are running through my mind – my return to London and what has to be done. I’m busy planning ahead.

Corner Deco

World Masters Games Part III

Day Five Tuesday

Elizabeth, Coach & Team Captain

It’s a day for hard races. Elizabeth and I are doing the 200m backstroke. Cynthia and other TAMS swimmers make it in time to see Elizabeth come in on time to win a bronze medal. We are all ecstatic. I have to rush off to warm up for my race, which goes very well – all turns are perfect today and I’m placed 6th. Debs also has a hard day with 200Fly (2nd) and 400IM (3rd). The TAMS women are doing well.

We’ve struck up a friendship with a bunch of Canadians sitting next to us.  They are from Vancouver Island and are all in the older age groups – like us.  The Wellington team have taken to sitting behind us, so when we are not racing, there’s plenty to cheer for.

Elizabeth and Canadians
Our bronze medlalist

Day Six Wednesday

Team Captain tying to look cool.

It’s an early start as it’s the 100m freestyle, which just about everyone in the world has entered. I get to warm up in the competition pool and wait for Elizabeth in heat 20. She’s bought one of those Arena compression swim suits and recons she swims faster – well .03 secs actually, but once again a lovely race and placed 13th. I have to go across to the warm-up pool just to re-warm-up and then to marshaling. I’m in lane 4 and on seed time am supposed to be the fastest in the heat. Sitting next to me in the marshaling rows is a 44 year-old Australian with Downs Syndrome. He says he’s a para swimmer and I tell him I know that. He’s small and wiry looking and I recon he’s fast and I can tell he’s competitive. We chat about the Australian Para team that has come over. Out in the pool I get a chance to look at the guy in lane 5 – a short stocky Canadian a bit younger than me – could be a threat.  I start off doing bilateral breathing so I can keep an eye on both guys. The Australian is keeping up but the Canadian is pulling slightly ahead. I work harder on the way back down the pool and concentrate on catching the Canadian but he’s getting faster as well and out of reach.  It’s made me come in under time and the Para Australian is only a length behind me. I sneak into the training pool to warm down – normally reserved for Para swimmers and the 70+. The Australian is warming down next to me watched by a woman who I mistake for his coach – she’s his mother. Apparently he’s just swum a personal best. ‘You must be very proud,’ I say. She says, ‘Yes he’s a great swimmer.’

Debs & Ross

It’s back to the pool for Ross and Ron to swim their 100m races. Ross takes off 4 seconds and Ron, .04. There’s more slashing of times in the 50m Breaststroke: Ron – 2, David – .50 and Ed – 2 seconds. Unfortunately Ed gets disqualified again – for not having his feet on the same horizontal plane. We are sitting watching the first heat of the Women’s 100m butterfly – not something that I could ever contemplate. There are three in the pool the 95 yea-old American and others in their 80’s from Japan and Canada. Wow, it’s amazing that these women can swim this race. The women in their 80’s complete their race while the American reaches the end of the first length. She stops, holding on to the rung of the starting block. There’s concern, but a lane judge is watching her without panic. She’s having a rest, for about two minutes, before setting off back down the pool.  The cheering is tremendous and she gets out of the pool unaided and raises her arms in triumph to the spectator gallery. Ross is in action now in his 100m butterfly heat, slashing a massive 22 seconds off his time to come 7th.  We are also treated to some breathtaking swimming from the younger guys and ex Olympians in this event. They make it look so easy, and I know that it’s not.

TAMS Swimmers

Our final event for the day is the Men’s 4 x 50 metres medley relay and I’m starting us off with backstroke. It’s a mad dash up the pool and I’ve no idea how we are doing. By the time I get out of the pool, Ed has done his breaststroke length – he was nervous about getting disqualified again. Ross is steaming up the pool with butterfly making up time and Ron does likewise with freestyle bringing us under our seed time by two seconds to 9th place in the 240 age group.

Day 7 Thursday

Coach and Jenny

It’s the last day in the pool and the car park is full to overflowing. I find a place right at the bottom on stony ground between a curb and the perimeter fence. David is all ready for his 200 breaststroke when I arrive. Although he doesn’t quite equal his seed time, he has the longest underwater starts and push-offs in the heat – fantastic. Now it’s the 50 metres freestyle, a long session of ‘Splash & Dash’ as they call it. Once again, the world and his wife (but not I) have entered. Jenny comes 5th with 35.85s, Ron cuts a second off for 9th place and Ross on a mission, mindful that he’s swimming 100 times this on Sunday in the 5K ocean swim, does 27.55s to come 9th. The competition in this event is fierce and spectacular with 32 heats of women and 40 heats of men.  The confusion and noise only increases

Men’s 200m F/s Relay team

for the 4 x 50m freestyle relays.  Our men’s team in the 200 years group is somewhat disadvantaged by being only 6 years short of the 240 year group. Nevertheless, we are not last. I start out with 36:28 followed by Ron at 35:89. David increases the pace with 33:03 with Ross to finish with 27:77 –  we are 11th.

We are not going to squad tonight; instead the team meet for a celebratory dinner and join up with the rest of Team Auckland Masters Swimmers for a drink at the World Masters Games Hub on Queens Wharf. It’s been a blast and I’ve planted the seed of an idea to go to Japan in four years time for the next World Masters.

World Masters Games – Part 2

Day 3 Sunday

Kevin after his 400m Freestyle

Ed and I drive out to the pool early to support Kevin in his 400m Freestyle race. We have the banner to display and make our presence felt. It also acts as a signpost for team members to find us.  The Indian guy who took so long in the 800m on Friday is swimming so I warn Kevin that he has a while to wait. The Indian swaps from breaststroke to backstroke half way though and takes twenty-two minutes to complete. Kevin swims a great strategic race – he’s in lane 4 in the middle of the pool and comes second in his heat shaving 20 seconds off his time. The 400 is a punishing race, difficult to judge. We’d been lucky to catch Rebecca Perrott steam elegantly to victory earlier and now we cheer on Martin from Different Strokes Wellington. There’s also a para swimmer with one leg in the same heat. He turns out to be from the LGBT Sydney team – Wet Ones. I have time to warm-up before Elizabeth’s 100m Backstroke. Although she’s a little slower than she wanted she looks great in the water. As I’m waiting in the marshaling tent, there’s an Australian para swimmer with cerebral palsy lining up for his heat. These guys all get a tremendous reception from

TAMS on Sunday

swimmers and spectators. I always find 100 backstroke a hard race to judge – not going out too fast on the first length – it’s so easy to get carried away with the start, then not having anything left for the finish. I request a starting bar (a relatively new experience for me) which is lowered to just under the water-line. It is beveled into the wall and has a rough anti-slip surface. The feet are planted on it to start, getting them high and in the right position. I’m also trying out the new straight-arm starting position which I picked up at the Waitakere Club’s Backstroke and Breaststroke clinic recently. The theory is that you start high up and there’s not so far to travel before entering the pool for that underwater dolphin kick. All goes well and I make my time and am now officially 6th in the world – Haha. Just as well Mike Bodger from Whakatane isn’t here or I’d be 7th. Kevin is doing the same race in the same lane in the following heat. I turn around and promise to warm up the lane for him. He shaves 5 seconds off his time and is now 4th in the world. He’s really having a great meet.  The guy with cerebral palsy is now racing in his age-group but has his own category. It’s a huge effort for him to swim two lengths of the pool and he gets a massive round of applause at the end.

Jenny on news of her medal

Our big chance for a medal is Jenny in the 50m Butterfly. A Russian woman has put in the same time and two others are in close contention. We are all in a state of great excitement and anticipation as Jenny needs to swim 2 seconds faster than she did yesterday in the medley relay. We are all shouting and waving the banner. Coach Cynthia has come in to watch from the gallery with other TAMS members. Jen gets a good start, spending the longest time underwater to come up level with the field. The Russian fades away to her left but there’s a fight to her right for first and second. Jenny hangs in there for third place. When she gets out of the pool, she has no idea and is blown away when she realises that she’s got a bronze.

Jenny & Mike

It’s also great that we’ve been able to smuggle her partner Mike poolside to see it all and get a wet hug. Earlier we’ve seen a 95 year-old American sharing a heat with a couple of women in their 80’s doing 50 fly. It’s amazing.  Ed, Ron and Ross are also doing 50 Fly and come in under time. Ron shaves a massive two seconds off his time to come fourth in the world. It’s now a rush to get showered and changed as I want to catch Jenny’s medal ceremony. I just miss it, but get the photographic evidence.

Jenny wins Bronze
Ross and Kuoni after Butterfly









Day 4 Monday

Elizabeth and Debs

I’m not swimming today, so the old body can have a rest. I’m here to support and check that the team is all in the right place at the right time, especially for the relays.  Elizabeth is all ready for the 200m freestyle when I arrive. She’s such an elegant swimmer and looks so relaxed in the water. She’s also an ocean swimmer and regularly does 2.4K in a wetsuit, so I suggest that she might like to try an 800m or 1500m some time in the pool. Kevin is also doing the 200m and once again judges his race well. Ron’s had an encounter with a dodgy smoothy and has to drop out of the 200. It’s been another great day for the para swimmers and ex Olympians.  We get to see Moss Burmester, Trent Bray and Anthony Moss in action – fantastic times for guys in middle age.

Elizabeth Ross Martin (DSW) and Ed

Our relay today is the mixed freestyle 4 X 50 for the 240 age group. Our team actually adds up to 265 – over by 25 years. Kevin, Jenny, Elizabeth and Ron cut a fantastic six seconds off our entered time to come 11th.