Just 16 months out of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Swimming New Zealand has announced that its High Performance Director Luis Villanueva has resigned his role and will step down after a three-month transitionary period.
“It has been an enormous honour to work at Swimming New Zealand and an incredible journey for my wife and me,” Villanueva said. “We will be sad to leave but the time is right to step aside.”
Villanueva, who was formerly the Technical Director for Spanish Swimming, was announced to this role in December of 2012, when the country was mired in financial and political turmoil, and managed to only get one swimmer through to an Olympic final (Lauren Boyle, who was 8th in the 400 free and 4th in the 800 free).
Half-a-year into his tenure, at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships, the turnaround was already noticeable. Boyle earned three bronze medals (400, 800, and 1500 freestyles) and even with a much smaller overall roster, New Zealand put two other swimmers through two finals (Gareth Kean and Glenn Snyders).
But it was Villanueva’s behind-the-scenes work that left the biggest impression on CEO Christian Renford.
“In his time at Swimming New Zealand, Luis has led significant change across our sport at the elite level and we are committed to continuing his work,” Renford said. “He has set a clear direction and well developed plans targeted at attaining success in Rio in 2016 and beyond and feels it is time for someone else to now drive this with fresh enthusiasm.”
Among Villanueva’s efforts has been increased support of the development pathways from youth to elite success, the implementation of a National Head Coach position (which has yet to be filled). Villanueva also led an effort to consolidate the swimming high performance centers to make more efficient use of the country’s swimming resources, though this has been met with some controversy.
We have already commenced the process of finding a replacement and we are developing a target list of potential candidates. I am confident that with our team progressing well, the High Performance Director role for Swimming New Zealand will attract a highly competitive field” Renford said.