Pilfered Aussie coaches bring British Olympic success
When London last hosted the Olympics in 1948, the poor bomb-wrecked city could hardly feed its regular citizens let alone fuel its elite athletes.
So when the Australians docked at Southampton they were immediately swarmed upon by their shameless but emaciated British counterparts looking for free food.
Great Britain won three gold medals to Australia’s two – thanks to our generous donations of tinned braised steak and onions, and Golden Circle pineapple rings.
Sixty years later, the Brits came pilfering again.
Bereft of ideas, organisation, money and decent coaches, they adopted the institutionalised model of the AIS, that “shrine of sporting excellence” conceived by us way back in 1973 (of course, we sort of borrowed the idea from the Soviets and East Germans – minus the drugs, I hope) and with funds from the National Lottery went out and bought the best non-British, but mainly Australian, coaches and sports scientists.
“We’ve just been able to go out with lots of money and hire the absolute best people”, was the honest assessment of David Brailsford, cycling performance director of Team Britain, whose Australian head coach Shane Sutton was the engineer of seven gold medals in London.
Great Britain are currently third on the medals table with twenty six gold while Australia is ninth with just seven gold.
There is a real danger too that if we let our poached coaches stay over there too long they will become English with an English spouse, and heaven forbid, English children.
We had to watch England win the Ashes in 2005 partly thanks to their Australian bowling coach Troy Cooley and now another Aussie in David Saker is expected to continue our Ashes woes in 2013.
I always thought Australia, with its warm weather and wide open spaces (not a book in sight), provided the athletes while Britain’s cold climate supplied the ideas. The television, pneumatic tyre and telephone were invented by the Scots. Perhaps they should employ more of them and leave the Australians alone.
We could blame the traitrous and mercenary coaches of course for dressing in Team Britain outfits and hugging athletes draped in Union Jack flags. If the Olympics is the sporting equivalent of a world war, then working for a nation other than your own could be seen as an act of treason.
The Chinese, who are fearless when it comes to investing in foreign regions, have been employing a couple of Australian coaches Denis Cotterell and Ken Wood to oversee the development of their gold medal winning swimmers Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen.
The Chinese view the more carefree Western approach to training as important in the development of their athletes who have visited Australia. Considering the amount of money they’re forking out (four times the Australian rate plus huge medal bonuses) it’d be cheaper for them to find some Chinese coaches with a sense of humour.
Some people believe Cotterell should be strung up by his cotterels to the nearest tree for working with the Chinese and Australian swimmers.
Wood too was identified by some as a treacherous double agent in 2008 when his charge, world champion butterflyer Jessicah Schipper, realised he was sending training programs to a Chinese swimmer who subsequently beat her in Beijing. When confronted by Schipper’s father he said: “I’m a swimming coach, I coach swimmers, that’s what I do… of course I want Jess to win”.
It has been pointed out that Wood and Cottterell have worked tirelessly over many years for little reward and the money offered by the Chinese was too good to ignore.
The director of the AIS Matthew Favier is not sure what can be done to staunch the exodus of Australian coaches: “we need to look at a lot of things …but we must be very careful about panicking into paying too much”.
Watching the British celebrate winning all those gold medals with their Australian coaches made me a little annoyed but I realise it’s not really anyone’s fault.
I did console myself though with the thought that for years we have been telling them Jacobs Creek Chardonnay is a premium wine.
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