Hollingsworth suspended over Pearson remarks
Athletics Australia has suspended head coach Eric Hollingsworth in unanimous decision over his explosive criticism against Sally Pearson.PT2M45S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3cv1f 620 349 July 31, 2014
Eric Hollingsworth was unliked by most athletes according to former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Fabrice Lapierre after Athletics Australia suspended the coach for his extraordinary outburst criticising Olympic and world champion Sally Pearson on the eve of competition.
Lapierre, the long jump gold medal winner from Delhi 2010 who on Wednesday finished fourth, said he laughed when he heard about the Hollingsworth matter.
Lapierre said Hollingsworth was “definitely” disliked by most athletes.
Athletics Australia's head coach Eric Hollingsworth has been stood down but remains in Glasgow. Photo: Getty Images
"It's pretty funny I think. I guess a lot of athletes don't really like him. I don't really care,” he said.
Surprisingly given his suspension Hollingsworth was still at Hampden Park Stadium for the evening session to help guide heptathlete Sophie Stanwell in competition.
"He's been great the past two days. My coaches for my field events haven't been here so he's stepped up and he did a really great job helping me out,” Stanwell said.
Long jumper Rabrice Lapierre says Hollingsworth is not well liked. Photo: AFP
She added that Hollingsworth seemed unaffected by the furore that he had created with his email criticising Pearson which had culminated in his suspension.
"He's a tough guy," she said.
Athletics Australia president David Grace said on Wednesday Hollingsworth’s position as head coach had become untenable after his disparaging comments about Pearson, the country’s best athlete.
Sophie Stanwell of Australia competes in the heptathlon. Photo: Getty Images
He said AA had been left with no choice but to suspend Hollingsworth after he defied specific instructions not to make public comments about his rift with Pearson.
Hollingsworth ignored that advice and issued a media release through a public relations company.
Despite AA’s position in stating it was inappropriate that the coach continue in his role, Hollingsworth remained in Glasgow with the team because AA had no capacity to send him home.
As team coach Hollingsworth is under the control of the Australian Commonwealth Games Association during the Games and it is up to that Association to decide what action to take.
ACGA chef de mission Steve Moneghetti made no decision on the matter on Wednesday only releasing a non-committal statement that did not address the Hollingsworth issue at all.
“We have athletes in action tonight at various venues around Glasgow and it is my role to ensure that those athletes are given every opportunity to perform at their absolute best,” he said.
“Coaches play an intricate part in that process and the Australian Commonwealth Games Team is all about supporting our athletes’ preparation and performance.”
Grace said Hollingsworth had defied specific instructions from chief executive Dallas O’Brien not to speak on the matter. He said AA believed Hollingsworth may have breached his employment contract by commenting as he did.
The AA board will meet with Hollingsworth upon returning to Australia to decide whether he is sacked. Hollingsworth is contracted until the end of October.
“Athletics Australia is bitterly disappointed that Eric Hollingsworth has chosen to make a statement to the media when our focus should be on wholly on supporting our athletes’ performance,” Grace said.
“Athletics Australia condemns in the strongest terms his disparaging comments about Sally Pearson and his timing
“We have therefore suspended Eric Hollingsworth as an employee of Athletics Australia until such time as the Athletics Australia board can convene to consider the matter.
“Action in regards to Eric Hollingsworth’s role on the Commonwealth Games team will be determined by the Australian Commonwealth Association as the body responsible for the team.”
Grace said AA had been “deeply shocked and very upset with his decision to go pubic with his comments”.
Grace said AA had known of the rift between Pearson and Hollingsworth for some time and put in place an alternative process whereby Pearson dealt with high performance manager Simon Nathan instead of Hollingsworth.
“That’s posed no problems coming into Glasgow.” he said.
That relationship however also changed when on the eve of the games Pearson did not attend the team camp as it was deemed more important tat he race in London instead. When Pearson did not attend the camp Nathan was the person who decided she should be fined or docked her preparation funding.
Hollingsworth said in his media release that as team captain Pearson’s decision not to attend the camp lacked leadership and was a bad example to younger athletes. He challenged other elements of their rift.
Grace said he was upset not only at what Hollingsworth had said but the timing of when he had said it on the eve of Pearson competing in the Commonwealth Games to defend her hurdles gold medal.