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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Fun and Games over, Athletics Australia moves to fix track and field flaws

Fun and Games over, Athletics Australia moves to fix track and field flaws

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Fun and Games over, Athletics Australia moves to fix track and field flaws

From:The Australian
August 14, 201212:00AM

ATHLETICS Australia will re-structure its high-performance department in the wake of the team's results at the London Olympics, where it fell short of its ambition to win six medals.

The athletics team produced almost identical results to Beijing four years ago, where three medallists - Steve Hooker (gold), Sally Pearson (silver) and Jared Tallent (silver and bronze) - claimed four medals.

In London, three medals were won, by Pearson (gold), Mitchell Watt (silver) and Tallent (silver), which again placed Australia eighth on the athletics medal table.

AA chairman Rob Fildes said the six-medal target was probably over-ambitious given Australia was not keeping pace with funding increases among its major international competitors.

The fall in form of Beijing Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker undercut the team's results, as did the under-performing throws group, where four athletes who had previously been rated in the top six at world level finished outside the top eight.

"Our throwers didn't come up to standard and we missed (Hooker) enormously," Fildes said.

He said the AA board believed three to five medals was a realistic target for the Rio Games.

"We will review the high-performance department in entirety, which is normal after the Olympic Games," he said.

Fildes revealed that AA had decided to split head coach Eric Hollingsworth's job into two roles, deciding it was "too big for one man". Hollingsworth would continue in the coaching role but a new administrator would manage the high-performance program.

AA is also negotiating with the Australian Institute of Sport to establish performance centres for distance running and sprinting to improve in those disciplines.

Fildes said he was also determined to improve communication within his organisation after a series of selection controversies before the Games (involving Genevieve LaCaze and John Steffensen) revealed that the various strands of the association were not always on the same page as the Australian Olympic Committee.

From Hollingsworth's point of view, the Australian team "consolidated our position" but missed the chance to move higher in the ranks of the leading athletics nations.

"Obviously, there's a wider spread of medals and things have become even more competitive going forward, but we probably haven't capitalised on the opportunity to move even further up, particularly on the placings table (13th), because of the disappointment of the middle range of athletes ... (they) haven't quite been able to step up from their Daegu performances.

"Accordingly, we have only been able to maintain our position, rather than move forward."

The top three athletes in the country, Pearson, Watt and Tallent, again proved their quality but below them the standard was soft.

Teenage 400m runner Steve Solomon, selected ahead of Steffensen in controversial circumstances, proved his potential, being the only other individual athlete to finish in the top eight.

But the throwers, having promised so much, did not deliver.

Discus throwers Dani Samuels (the 2009 world champion) and Benn Harradine (fifth at last year's world titles) finished 12th and ninth respectively, while javelin throwers Kimberley Mickle (sixth in Daegu) and Jarrod Bannister (sixth at the Beijing Olympics) did not get past qualifying.

"We have a group of athletes on the edge of becoming (medal) bankers who probably in all honesty haven't quite crossed that divide, and that's probably the biggest disappointment from a team point of view," Hollingsworth said.

"It's those middle-ranking athletes who were 5-6 in Daegu who have kind of gone back to 9, 10, 11, 12, that's where the major disappointment is."

Hollingsworth, who is contracted until the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, said he would recommend that AA take a more "ruthless approach" to the national team. He doesn't think lack of funding is the major issue.

"If you've got bucketloads of money it's easier to get performance but I wouldn't put that down as the major factor, not just around our team, but around the general (Olympic) team," he said.

"It's 10 or 20 things you can identify clearly, not just for track and field but for the rest of the Australian team.

"It's a very complicated mix that starts from a culture and an attitude and includes the media, all the way to how we evaluate performance, how we connect to grass roots, all sorts of things."

He said the first social media Games had proved to be "distracting from performance" and was inclined to recommend that athletes divorce themselves from it during the Games.

He would also like to reduce media access to the athletes pre-Games.

"If we are really ruthless we shut that down, but that's just one aspect," he said.

Very dangerous message to make a sweeping generalisation such as "We need to be more ruthless". Had Hollingsworth got his way and been ruthless - Steve Solomon would not have run the 400m individual as he only had a 'B' qualifier. It was Hollingsworth who caved in to Steffensen's threats and made the out-of-form Steff a token 'reserve' for the individual 400m & captain of the 4x400m relay team.

He needs to go through every athlete in the team that under-performed and have a thorough debrief with the athlete and the coach. Treat it on a case by case basis. If there are athletes who consistently under-perform at major meets AA needs to seek out the reasons why and put in place remedies to ensure that athlete overcomes their issues.

Smoke n Mirrorz

ProTrack Star
ProTrack Star
Hollingsworth has achieved nothing whatsoever in his tenure, yet keeps his role and blames the athletes?

Fildes and Hollingsworth set their own KPIs, spectacularly fail in meeting them, and then blame the athletes and media for it. After all they have to look after each other and keep their jobs.

Eric now to have a more 'hands on' role? Ppl obviously have short memories.

Then they want to involve Nic Bideau in the distance running centre. Look Nic does a great job getting the guys running fast during the season and getting into good meets, but he had a terrible record at championships. In 5 champs, Riseley has got past the heats once, coming 10th in the semi. Collis once in 4, coming 16th in the final, and Gregson the best making semis twice.

Jobs for the boys it seems. Unless there's change the sport is in a lot of trouble.

Rhett Cook

I have been thinking about this for a few days and I have come up with this idea

I am not sure who sets the A and B qualifier times but if it is AA then if I was in charge I would scrap the B qualifier and add 0.5% to all times in the track events and that would be the A qualifier.

This would mean more athletes run an A qualifier but then for selection to a major meet (Olympics, Worlds, Comm Games) If there is multiple runners qualified then you take the National Champ from the Nation Champs not a selection meet (1 spot) and the fastest runner in the last 12 months and close the date off 2 weeks before the meet starts. This I believe would then get rid of taking some B qualifiers and not others, Josh Ross would have run the individual, Solomon and Steffenson (I think) would have run the 400. Also the more A qualified athletes we have means the Nationals would become relevant again and competition for spots should help improve times across the board as it would take away grey areas of selection

Just an idea but I would be interested in others thoughts on this topic


Having seperate trials to the Nationals looked a crazy move on paper and was proven in the end by A qualified athletes falling out of form.

Also on the distance front, it looked to me the tactics of the Bideau runners followed a similar formula. Drop out near the rear for the first half of the race on the rails then come to near the front from that point and try and kick whilst fresh. This is a great tactic in a fast run race but doomed in a slow run race. Note: championships are generally slow run....
I do not understand why, expecially if you are in later heat, you do not try and get the race fast so if you drop out of automatic qualification you get one of the fastest time slots. Mottram's tactics were sensational, however he just didn't have the legs. Risely, Gregson, McKnight, Buckman and Birmingham all looked OK but didn't have a crack when they needed to and were out sprinted at a certain part of the race. They all seemed to me to be on a fixed race plan with no B plan. McKnight and Buckman were probably the best performed but they looked to me to be a bit awkward looking in the field and cutting their stride, almost looking like they were on tip toes at times. This no doubt made them inefficient and zapped them later. They would have been better free striding either out front or in lane 2. Instead they were cramped up on the rail.
Risely and Gregson to me seemed to think they could kick down with the others. If they ran it again with different tactics I reckon they'd get to the next round. Again it seems they were given tactics to save themsleves for a kickdown.


Spot on Ribera. Separate Olympic Trials and Nationals diluted the quality of Nationals. To max exposure we must have our best at nationals and make them worth something. Big disappointment for me was Riseley. Looked to me he was stale and 1:46.9 was the best he could do irrespective of tactics. 1:44 going in and loses over 2 seconds. He said himself it was a mental thing, but I wonder about his last fortnight taper. Nick Bideau is a much better manager than a coach and might be time for him to split the roles.


Along with Youngy's concerns I have concerns where it has been mentioned the establishment of performance centres for distance and sprinting with the AIS - I hope this doesn't mean moving athletes to AIS? From the last HP structure I saw out of AA i seem to recall institute coaches with a national responsibility for walks, throws/multis, jumps, relays, 400 hurdles - weird that there wasn't ones for sprints and distance. I also agree that individual one on ones need to take place to find out what went wrong - from an athletes point of view I reckon a lot are held back by fear of the unknown if a coaching change is needed. I don't think we need bucket loads of money, we just need to tighten up the system. I reckon there are probably 9 or 10 areas that contribute to High performance in no particular order:
-Sports Science - I presume we are still world leaders at this?
- International Competitions - again, I think most of our team competed enough in lead up
-Coaching Provision & Coach Development - I have no idea if our coaches are up to it. Would be interesting to see how many of the team had an institute coach and how many didn't?
- Training facilities - we have enough tracks and gyms in Aus (more in SA&WA would be good)
- Sport Policies - selection criteria definately needs some work and no point holding selection trials if they weren't!
- Talent ID system - seems ok, pity we lose them to other sports
-Participation - hopefully AA & ALA are working closer together
- Post Career Support - I manage 35 rugby players in this while my institute equivalent probably manages 200 aths - it might not directly effect performance, but important that these aths have some form of career development.
Financial support - who knows how much is enough?


What a contrast to the Australian HPM's response to Australia's under-perofrmance. His UK counterpart takes responsibility. If Charles VC does leave UK Athletics, Australia should seriously look at head-hunting him.

Athletics head van Commenee unsure on future as team miss medals target

Charles van Commenee is unsure whether to stay on as UK Athletics head coach after stating he would quit if the team failed to achieve their medals target.

Charles van Commenee had said before the Games that it was a 'no brainer' to step down if the team missed their target (Picture: Action Images)..

Despite claiming four gold medals, van Commenee and his Team GB athletics team failed to meet their eight medal target for London 2012, winning six.

Now, after making tough selection decisions in the build-up to London 2012 and saying he would quit if the target was not met, he will have the choice to decide on his own future.

‘If I hold athletes and coaches accountable every day, how could I work over the next four years if I am not held accountable myself,’ said Van Commenee prior to the Games.

’It’s a no-brainer - I never understand when people who have failed stay in jobs, as in politics and football.’

The 54-year-old is a controversial character, and is not known from holding back his feelings, however harsh they may be.

He has received support from Lord Coe as well as the sport's governing body to stay in his role for the 2017 world championships.

But the Dutchman is unsure over his future and will take a three-week break before making any decision.

‘I'm flattered first and foremost,’ added Van Commenee.

‘It's a weird situation, I don't make the target and then people ask me to stay, it's strange.

‘But what is really important now is what is best for the programme.

‘It's not about what is best for Charles, it's about what is best for British athletics and that's what needs to be looked into very carefully.’

Van Commenee admitted he had a combination of emotions after the Olympics was over on whether he had delivered a successful result for UK Athletics.

‘I've got a bit mixed feelings about it,' added van Commenee.

‘It's clear that we had a target of eight medals but there is plenty to celebrate and to remember.

‘There were real iconic moments - we finished fourth in the (athletics) medal tally, which is exceptional for us, and I think we made the nation proud and we can look back at it for a long time with smiles on our faces.’


Very well written and well researched article by a guy who uses the alias Percy Cerutty.


Trackstar wrote:Spot on Ribera. Separate Olympic Trials and Nationals diluted the quality of Nationals. To max exposure we must have our best at nationals and make them worth something. Big disappointment for me was Riseley. Looked to me he was stale and 1:46.9 was the best he could do irrespective of tactics. 1:44 going in and loses over 2 seconds. He said himself it was a mental thing, but I wonder about his last fortnight taper. Nick Bideau is a much better manager than a coach and might be time for him to split the roles.

Riseley ran within .02 of the national 1000m record overnight and Birmingham ran a p.b. over 3000m on the weekend. Both are 2nd on the Aust all time rankings over those distances.
So you would have to say nothing wrong with form and just badly prepared for their Olympic races (tactics, headspace, lead in training etc..).

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