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Swimming made a bigger splash, but our cyclists need a blowtorch too

Anna Meares' won one of only two medals for Australia on the track. (AFP PHOTO /LEON NEAL)
Roar Rookie
17th August, 2016
13

Australia’s cycling program at the 2016 Rio Olympics is winding down, with only mountain bikes and BMX remaining, and with just a silver and a bronze, it’s been disappointing.

Caroline Buchanan is one of our last remaining hopes for gold, in the BMX.

The Australian media have put Swimming Australia under the blowtorch, with calls for the board to resign given the lack of success.

As yet, the board and CEO of Cycling Australia have not come under the same scrutiny. Why not?

As Britain’ cycling boss said, countries like Australia “simply did not show up”.

The lack of success could have ramifications for cycling’s future funding levels.

With this in mind, an urgent and independent review of Cycling Australia, including its operations, personnel, governance frameworks, selection policies and funding (how it is allocated, from grassroots to state bodies), is necessary.

This review cannot be left to Cycling Australia and its high-performance coaches. A review that must be broader than required by the Australian Sports Commission.

The Australian Government, via the Australian Sports Commission, allocates funding to cycling through the ‘Winning Edge program’.

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Cycling Australia receives one of the highest funding allocations. In 2015-16, it received around $7.4 million, which dwarfs the $600,000 that archery received in 2015-16, where one of its athletes won a bronze medal.

It is arguable that Australia did not get much of a return on its taxpayer-funded investment.

Sports funding is not just limited to the performance at one event, whether it is the Olympics, World Championships or the World Cup.

Under the Winning Edge funding model, the Australian Sports Commission looks at the historical performance as well as future potential to determine investment.

This will be a worry for Cycling Australia. At the 2015 World Track Cycling Championships, Australia won 11 medals, including four gold, with six of the medals being Olympic events.

Fast forward 12 months and the medal haul at the world champs had fallen to five, including two gold. The trajectory of success at international track events was trending downwards. The medal haul at the Rio Olympics confirms this trend.

There has not been much better performances at the UCI Road World Championships. In 2014, Australia won eight medals, including two gold. However this may have been an aberration, as in 2015 only a silver and bronze were secured.

Australia’s cycling programs are struggling, particularly against Team GB, which is setting the performance benchmark.

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Failure to address this issue may not only damage Australia’s future international sporting achievements, but also grassroot participation – that is, our future Olympic champions.