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CanoeKayak Canada fires high performance director Add to ...

This Olympic cycle has seen a number of leadership changes within the CanoeKayak Canada organization.

The latest move — the firing of high performance director Barney Wainwright on Thursday — is rather eyebrow-raising since it comes just five months before the Summer Games.

However, Canadian paddler Adam van Koeverden said he doesn't feel it will hamper the team's preparation for London.

“I think it's a step in the right direction for the team,” he said from his Florida training site in Indian Harbor Beach. “I appreciate all that Barney has done for us in the past but I do have supreme confidence in our team's ability to go with the staff that we've got.”

Wainwright spent just over a year in the position. He had replaced Graham Barton, who left for a similar position with Own The Podium.

Barton's departure came a year after Anne Merklinger's 15-year run as CanoeKayak Canada director general came to an end. She also left for OTP and was promoted to CEO last month.

In a release, CanoeKayak Canada said the two sides were unable to agree on an alternate role for Wainwright, who will leave within the next two months. The search for a replacement will begin in March and the position will likely be filled after the Games.

“We were very clear to do a thorough assessment of any risk to London before making the decision,” said director general Lorraine Lafreniere. “We have such strong coaches with good plans and great athletes that there was no risk to the performances for London 2012.”

A message left with Wainwright was not immediately returned.

“I'm not going to get into details other than to say he wasn't the person to lead the high performance CanoeKayak program in Canada,” Lafreniere said.

Wainwright spent 10 years as a sport scientist for the British Canoe Union's Olympic programs before joining Own The Podium in 2009 as high performance adviser for performance technology. He moved to CanoeKayak Canada a year later.

“We are working closely with our national team coaches, the high performance committee and Own the Podium to ensure a smooth transition and we have every confidence that we will manage our programs and services with our current staff until a new high performance director is found,” the release said.

Van Koeverden said preparations for the Games are already well in motion and at this point, athletes rely more on their coaches than anyone else. He added that the CanoeKayak Canada staff is “more than capable” of being in the driver's seat until Wainwright's replacement is found.

“If anything I think it'll be a really good opportunity to really decide on the future structure of CanoeKayak Canada and who exactly they want to lead,” van Koeverden said. “Because clearly that may not have been fully thought out 15 months ago when they replaced Graham Barton.

“So it's a good opportunity for them to sit back and restructure.”

Van Koeverden doesn't expect the change to affect this season's results.

“I don't think it will have any negative impact on us whatsoever, despite the headline,” Van Koeverden said. “It kind of seems like bad news for the Canadian kayak team but I truly think it was the right decision.”

The Oakville, Ont., paddler won gold and bronze at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and added a silver medal at the Beijing Games in 2008. He's working with coach Scott Oldershaw and will be one of Canada's top medal hopes again in London.

“I'm really, really confident in our abilities to perform and get the job done,” he said.

CanoeKayak Canada will formally name its Olympic team in the spring.

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