One has to ask what was going through Australian Athletics Coach Eric Hollingsworth’s mind when he made the public statement criticising hurdler Sally Pearson? A decision that has now seen him suspended by Athletics Australia without pay until such time as the board can meet and decide on further action.
It was no secret that Hollingsworth and Golden girl, hurdler Sally Pearson did not see eye to eye. Athletics Australia have admitted this, and claim that they were managing the situation. It would appear that they did not do as good a job as they should have done.
One thing that Hollingsworth has miscalculated, as have many foreign coaches and administrators entering the Australian sporting landscape, the Australian public and media love their top athletes, and they will not have “outsiders” come in and speak out against them. The backlash on Hollingsworth will be immense.
Hollingsworth came out firing the minute that he was given the role as head of high performance with Athletics Australia. Back in 2009 he interestingly did not bemoan the funding that his athletes received, instead he criticised the way the money was spent. He pointed out that there were 170 scholarships for athletes in the various sporting institutes around Australia, and then asked why at that time only 53 athletes had competed at international level.
As a former Decathlete who worked alongside the legendary Daley Thompson, and as a man who was a development player in his teens with West Ham United, Hollingsworth was undoubtedly a gifted sportsman, who many have said was not afraid of putting in the hard work.
One gets the feeling that his problem is not entirely with Sally Pearson, but that he has used her to try and make a point. Although his timing is extremely odd.
Having made her captain of the Athletics team – although one wonders if such a thing is necessary – you can understand that he would have wanted and expected her to attend the camp prior to the Commonwealth Games. However one can also understand that Pearson as a World Championship, Olympic and Commonwealth Games Gold medal winner, knows what she has to do to prepare and be in peak condition for the major events, so her decision to run in London while the camp was on is understandable. What is clear is that the communication between the two was not handled as well as it should have been.
When one hears that Pearson had refused to speak to Hollingsworth since March when he had criticised her performance in Poland at the World Indoor Championships where she won silver, suddenly one starts to ask was it actually the coach who made her captain, or was it the administrators interfering once again, as sports administrators are so prone to do. Heaven forbid that it may well have been a sponsors requesting such an appointment.
Hollingsworth was no doubt foolish to make such a statement and its timing was very poor; so too was its grammar! Quite what possessed him to take such action is puzzling, but it will no doubt all come out in the future. Do not be surprised if there was a great deal of meddling in the background that he felt was compromising his position. A position he knew was not going to be renewed when his contract expired in October.
Yet to take a swipe at a pin-up of Australian sport was a very peculiar and stupid move. If he was not happy with Pearson’s preparation, and felt that she was not likely to retain her Commonwealth Games Gold medal, he has now given her the perfect excuse for failing, and he will be the one to take the rap.