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Saturday, August 12, 2000

Politics sink Calgary coach

 Calgary swimming coach Mike Blondal got shafted.

 He should have been one of the coaches of Canada's Olympic swim team because the Calgary Swim Club placed seven athletes on the Olympic team.

 The criteria call for a coach from a city that places five swimmers on the national team.

 But, it seems, that Blondal's credentials are not as attractive as those of Shauna Nolden.

 Certainly not in Canadian head coach Dave Johnson's eyes.

 And so a woman who has little or no criteria to be one of the coaches of Canada's swim team at the Sydney Olympics, will be going Down Under while Blondal will have to watch his proteges on the television screen at home.

 Who's at fault, you may ask?

 Well, naturally, Johnson, who seemed to have found something especially interesting in Nolden's teaching technique.

 Secondly, it's pretty easy to figure out that Canadian swimming officials have a rather suspect backbone and would not do anything that might offend the sports moguls in Ottawa.

 But the main blame should be placed on the shoulders of the federal government-appointed organizations that began instituting a selection process that is not based on ability, but on politics. The main culprit, as usual, is Sheila Copps and her inefficient staff.

 Nick Thierry, a veteran swimming coach and publisher of SwimNews Magazine, minces no words when explaining the real issue behind the Nolden appointment.

 "The root of all problems is the federal government," said Thierry. "They're insisting that a certain percentage of the coaching staff has to be female. I understand, that by 2004 (Athens Olympics), 30 percent of the coaching staff has to be female.

 "If a female coach is good enough, I have no objection as to their selection. But if not, swim officials should tell the government to go to hell. In this case, Dave Johnson ... sent (Nolden) travelling all over the place last year, so she could claim she had the criteria for the Olympic coaching position. The government's directives to have a female coach made his plan work so much easier. He has all the authority he needs and no one seems to have the courage to stop him."

 There's no doubt swim officials are weak. They have been weak for some time, even going back to the days when Imperial Esso offered the Canadian Swim Association free offices in Toronto. But swim officials, in their wisdom, or lack of it, decided to remain in Ottawa because that's where the measly government handouts came from.

 And today, no one seems to have the guts in the Canadian Swim Association to stand up and resign over the Shauna Nolden incident, which has divided the swim community.

 The fact that some are worried about the government handouts is probably the key reason.

 The other is today's political correctness which calls for no commotion if a male coach is shafted, but which would result in public outcries and the cancellation of government grants if a female coach is not added to the team -- with or without criteria.

 That's why Mike Blondal has to sit in front of his television set in Calgary and watch the Olympics. Humbug!