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London 2012 Giant Olympic Rings travel down the River Thames.
London 2012 Giant Olympic Rings travel down the River Thames.

Allan Maki

Help Wanted: Canadian Olympic wrestling coach Add to ...

There are 132 days to the start of the London Olympics and the Canadian men’s freestyle wrestling team is looking for a head coach.

According to a want ad posted on its website, the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association is seeking an Olympic coach to work from April 1 to Sept 1, 2012 for a salary range of $5,000.

Why the search and why has the CAWA waited so late before deciding to hire a coach? The answers have to do with money.

Two years ago, the government-funding arm Own The Podium chose to decrease its financial support for men’s wrestling while contributing more to the women’s program. The rationale was simple: the men are viewed as medal long-shots in London while the women boast Carol Huynh, a gold medalist from 2008 in Beijing.

With a slashed budget, the decision was made not to have a full-time coach. (Dave McKay of Simon Fraser University had been the men’s full-time coach for Beijing). That allowed CAWA to appoint a national men’s co-ordinator while ensuring the bulk of its money, an estimated $300,000, was spent on the athletes and getting them to international meets.

Now, with the Olympics in sight, the need is there for someone to oversee the men.

“The thing that we want to come across is that each of the athletes who qualify has a personal coach, whether there is or isn’t a national head coach,” said CAWA executive director Tamara Medwidsky. “Usually the national head coach does the planning and co-ordinating. The personal coaches and the athletes’ personal programs are already in place.”

Medwidsky, herself a former national team wrestler, acknowledged the situation was “tough,” but expressed her faith in the athletes, all of whom will be competing this weekend at the Canadian senior/junior nationals in St. Catharines, Ont.

“The plans have shifted a little but you try to stay positive,” said Medwidsky. “We’re going to do our best and I’m very confident in our men.”

National women’s team head coach Leigh Vierling said the OTP funding cut created “a chicken-or-egg” situation – pay a coach to better the athletes or pay for better training via competitions and camps.

“The decision was made not to have a full-time men’s coach. The program was still up and running; the athletes were still training,” said Vierling. “We’ll be in Florida next weekend for the Pan-Am Olympic qualifier. It’s the first of three qualifiers but we’re optimistic a number of our men will qualify.

“With the head coach decision,” he added, “it’s possible one of the coaches who have an athlete in men’s freestyle will be named the national head coach.”

Men’s freestyle wrestling isn’t the only Canadian Olympic sport on the market for a new coach. Speed Skating Canada announced Friday that national short track women’s coach Sebastien Cros had resigned to join the Russian national short track program,

Cros had worked with Canadian speed skaters since 2007. His women’s team won a silver medal in the relay and 500 metres. In a news release, short track program director Yves Hamelin said, “We thank Sébastien for his contributions to speed skating in Canada for the last five years, and especially the women’s national team in preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Games.”