The team leaders appointed to each sport for Australia’s 2016 Olympic campaign will be ultimately responsible for not only the performance of that sport but the culture within it, chef de mission Kitty Chiller says.
In a move to stem the gold medal slide and enforce improved culture, Chiller on Wednesday named 10 national high performance managers to replace the section managers who traditionally led the Olympic team’s different sports, with the rest to be appointed by the end of the year.
The team leaders will have expanded roles including responsibility for strategic planning, preparation and performance.
“Just like I’m ultimately responsible for the performance of our whole team these leaders will be responsible for the performable of their sports but not only in respect of where they finish but for the behaviours, the actions, the approach, the planning and the culture as well,” Chiller said.
“They will be the single point of truth for that sport for me so that we’re aware of everything that’s happening in that sport – good, bad or indifference.”
Finishing 10th on the medal table, London 2012 was Australia’s worst campaign in 20 years matching the performance in Barcelona in 1992.
The 2012 Games were also dogged by claims of a “toxic” culture within the swim team which saw athletes abuse prescription drugs, alcohol and curfews during the Olympics.
While Chiller admitted there was a need to look at the model of management, she said the new concept of the team leader was not a reaction to London.
“It’s not a knee-jerk reaction to what did or didn’t happen in London,” she said.
“It’s about sitting down and looking what we think is our best model to achieve success.
“After every games even the good ones, you should always sit down and think what worked and didn’t work.”
The team leaders are Michael Scott (swimming), Simon Nathan (athletics), Chris O’Brien (rowing), Richard Fox (canoe/kayak), Tim Mahon (shooting), Chris Webb (equestrian), Adam Sachs (gymnastics), Graeme Rose (diving), Bernard Savage (triathlon) and Peter Conde (sailing).
Chiller defended setting the team the difficult target of a top five finish on the gold and overall medal tally in Rio – something not achieved since the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Australia’s gold medal position has fallen from fourth (58 gold) at the home Games in Sydney in 2000 and in Athens (50) to sixth in Beijing 2008 (46) and 10th in London 2012 with 35.
“Striving for success is part of an elite athlete’s DNA, we have no qualms about aiming for the top five” Chiller said.
Chiller admitted planning for Rio had been challenging with the lack of progress in preparation in the Brazilian capital.
“The Australian Olympic Committee is renowned for being very mature and advanced in it’s planning,” she said.
“But in order for us to be that we need to know certain information. We need to know where access zones are, how accreditation is going to work … But it is what it is.
“We’re setting up our plan A. Yes it’s Rio and we’re going to need a plan B and sometimes a plan C.
“But we need to work towards our plan A and not be distracted by some of the noise about Rio’s progress or lack of.”