Time for Cycling Australia to review its elite program
The 2012 Olympics in London is about to wrap up with only mountain biking left in the cycling program at the time of writing.
There has been a lot of debate in the media about Australia’s success at these Olympic games in all sports.
Australia does not seem to be punching above its weight any longer. Inevitably, the talk always comes back to the level of funding.
To date, Australia has won six cycling medals across all disciplines (one gold, two silver and three bronze). I expect that medal tally to remain at six as we are unlikely to be successful at either the men’s or women’s mountain biking events.
Australian taxpayers have funded the cycling program to the tune of $31 million. Did we get value for all that money?
Compared to the Beijing Olympics where Australia won a single solitary silver medal, there has been a vast improvement in these Olympics.
The social media has pointed to London being a successful Olympics for our cyclists. I do not agree. If it was not for the stellar performance by Anna Meares on the last night of the track cycling program, Australia may not have won a gold medal for the second Olympics in a row.
I would argue that London has been an unsuccessful hunting ground for the Australians.
I agree that there was a marked improvement in Australia’s performance compared to Beijing. We are sitting third on the cycling medal table, after Great Britain and Germany. But our success is a long way down on Great Britain that won eight gold medals.
Benchmarking Australia’s performance against the 2011 and 2012 UCI Track World Championships, you would say that there would have been an expectation that Australia would have performed better.
At the 2011 UCI Track World Championship in the Netherlands, Australia finished on top of the medal table with eight gold, two silver and two bronze. While we were less successful in Melbourne, we still finished on top with six gold, six silver and three bronze.
Where did it all go wrong in London? Did we peak to early?
It appears that the Great British team was able to peak at the right time. As Brailsford, Team GB’s supremo, said, “The one thing about British cycling is that over the years we’ve got the experience on how to peak at the right time and we know how to manage an Olympic cycle.”
The Australians peaked too early. 12 months too early at the 2011 Track World Championships.
Brailsford went on to say, “A human being cannot stay at the same intensity for four years, it’s impossible. It’s difficult to peak on a given day at a given time once every four years. What really matters at the Games is that you’re at your absolute peak of performance.”
Australia has a lot to learn from Brailsford’s comments. Only a full and transparent review will identify why our athletes did not peak at the right time, and more importantly put in place processes and procedures to achieve better outcomes at the end of the Olympic cycle.
Australian taxpayers have spent a lot of money to gt our athletes to London. Fairfax papers ran an analysis of the cost of Australia’s Olympics medals. With funding of $31 million, the average cost of each medal for Australia was around $5.2 million. Whereas for Great Britain, the average cost of each medal was $3.2 million.
This is a crude method of measuring success. However, it also suggests that the Brits are gets better outcomes from their funding. As John Coates is quoted as saying, “Wlite sport authorities will need to reassess their spending, more money is not necessarily the answer.”
That including assessing why the British have been so successful in Beijing and now in London.
Something went wrong with Australia’s Olympic campaign. The problem may rest with the administrators in Cycling Australia. They swept under the carpet the Bobridge and Hepburn drink driving incident in Spain either this year.
While the pair were found guilty of misconduct, there were no sanctions. The bid for gold was too great. Cycling Australia’s message to the athletes was misbehaviour would be tolerated if there was a potential gold medal at stake. There is also a selection policy that attaches a romantic sentiment for established names.
Cadel Evans should not have been selected of the road race or the time trial. Australia’s best time trialist was and still is Luke Durbridge. Yet he was not selected. I ask why?
Australia has some of the world’s best athletes and some of the world’s best coaches. Yet this has not translated into success at the velodrome or on the road at the London Olympics.
Swimming Australia announced a full review their London performance, including Swimming Australia’s high performance programs and administration, after a poor performance by their recent standards.
Swimming Australia should be congratulated on announcing the review so quickly after the conclusion of swimming events at the London Olympics.
Cycling Australia should take a leaf out of Swimming Australia’s book and review its high performance program, their administration, their talent selection program. This should be a roots and all review.
In fact, the Crawford Report recommended that “all national sporting organisations that are highly dependent on public funding should have rolling five year national plans that set the targets and measures by which the national sporting organisations should be judged”.
What is Cycling Australia’s national plan? This review must be transparent. The findings should be transparent, not kept for internal consumption only.
I am hoping that Cycling Australia will not be dragged kicking and screaming into their how funds are expended.
Anything less from a full review could see Australia fall further down the international pecking order.
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