Posted by Editor on 08/18/07
Interviews & Commentary on CCA Dismissal of Westwood
Yesterday, the Canadian Cycling Association announced that they would be eliminating the position of High Performance Director, and that Kris Westwood, who currently holds the position, would therefore be leaving the CCA as of September 30th. The reason given was a realignment of the High Performance sector prior to the Beijing Olympics next year.
The CCA has now seen the loss of three senior staff in the last 12 months - Chris Dodson (Director of Finance), Michel Leblanc (Mountain Bike Coach) and now Kris Westwood.
The duties of the High Performance Director included developing and coordinating the long term development of athletes for the High Performance program (ie, the national team).
We subsequently spoke with Kris Westwood and CCA CEO Lorraine Lafreniere about this shift in strategy.
"It is yet another difficult decision that we have had to make." agreed Lafreniere "but the High Performance Director (position) is just not necessary to get us to Beijing. Kris was our technical expert, but that role is not needed at this point. We will be holding a full review after Beijing, and will determine our needs at that time."
"It is the coaches who will make or break us in Beijing, and you will see more technical involvement (from them)."
Westwood agrees with that assessment: "From my perspective that is right; we are not creating talent between now and Beijing because all of the groundwork has been done for those Games."
Lafreniere insists that this staff reduction is not about a shortage of funding, "it is not a budget consideration. Of course, it frees up some funds, but it is not about being able to afford the position."
On the other hand, all sports have been impacted by a shift in funding from the Feds, which has seen money going into the 2010 Vancouver build up, as well as Sports Canada demanding that money go into specific, targeted disciplines where the highest possibilities lie for medals.
"We are still one of the better funded sports, but we have lost some funding in the last year" admits Lafreniere.
Under the realigned funding formula, cycling has received increased cash for BMX (because of Samantha Cools) and Mountain Bike (Marie-Helene Premont), but none for younger and developing athletes and programs which may bear fruit in 2012.
"The funding is now based on instant results," agrees Westwood "but that doesn't help turn Max Plaxton into a medal contender in London. Like other sports organizations, we have to try and be everything to everyone, but the (funding) support isn't there."
"There should be efforts concentrated with the younger riders; the Ryan Andersons and even the Catharine Pendrels. That will see value in 2012."
For the run up to Beijing, Westwood's responsibilities will be spread between the three national team coaches with the support of High Performance Manager, Sean O'Donnell. The CCA's coaches are Houshang Amiri, National Team Training Centre (West) in Victoria, BC; Vincent Jourdain, National Team Training Centre (East) in Bromont, Quebec; and, Tanya Dubnicoff, National BMX Coach, in Calgary, Alberta.
Houshang Amri will be responsible for Track and Mountain Bike disciplines, Vincent Jourdain for Para Cycling, Road and Cyclo-cross, while Tanya Dubnicoff will focus on BMX.
"Sean is a very good administrator," points out Lafreniere "and at this point we don't need another decision maker, but more administrative support for the coaches."
Westwood's last duty with the CCA will be at the Road Worlds in Stuttgart, Germany, although Lafreniere hopes to keep him involved in some capacity, possibly on a project basis.
"Absolutely, we would like to have Kris continue to contribute, it just has to be in the right areas."
"It's always a possibility," concedes Westwood "I'm still just as passionate about cycling as I have always been."
However, there is also a significant chance that Canadian cycling could once again lose a scarce resource - Westwood also mentioned the possibility of a return to the journalism career he was developing when he took his full time position with the CCA three years ago.
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