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Lafontaine Leaps; Scott For Top Aussie?

Jan 31, 2013  - Craig Lord

(File updated with Swimming Canada statement at the foot of the article)

Swimming Canada CEO Pierre Lafontaine is leaving the federation to become Chief Executive of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, effective March 1. You can watch the announcement here.

The move comes on the day that Canada appointed John Atkinson in a leadership role. SwimNews understands that Ken Radford will oversee the leadership of Swimming Canada operations until a permanent replacement for Lafontaine can be found. The Vision 2020 strategic plan that Lafontaine and the federation have put in place will remain.

Swimming Canada’s Board of Directors is aiming to find a new CEO by September 2013, the other side of the world titles in Barcelona. That timing makes particular sense if the candidates are to come from the pool of senior people already employed by others and in the midst of preparing for action in Spain come July and August. 

At a time when there is a push in CIS to set a higher performance bar, to align its philosophy more closely with Own The Podium and try to develop world-class athletes and teams, Lafontaine is well-positioned to lead that transformation.

Lafontaine was excited about the prospects of getting Canadian universities to serve as centres for excellence in sport and keep Canadian talent in Canada. "I think swimming in the CIS has to be part of something really important for the high-performance swimming program. That and track and field ... We can't lose basketball kids to the U.S., we need our basketball program to be way better at the university level," he said.

"We have to become part of the Olympic success," Lafontaine added. "Canadian kids have to feel like when they go to a Canadian university in certain sports - and I would like to think in every sport- that there is a pathway for me to become the best in the world if I have the ability. I shouldn't be having to look at going to the U.S. if I'm in an Olympic sport. I do think we have to give them a reason to think there's a place for me here. We have to service them like world-class athletes in every university program."

Meanwhile, British Swimming is preparing to reveal its new head coach and performance director next week. American Denis Pursley completed his contract as London 2012 ended, while Australian Michael Scott resigned amid a review that called on him to change the terms of a contract that British Swimming signed with him before the home Games began.

Scott is poised to take up a job with Swimming Australia: he will replace Kevin Neil, who quit as CEO in the wake of Australia's 10 medals, one of them gold, at London 2012, if a deal can be agreed. Scott had been tipped for a similar lead role in Australia athletics but Swimming Australia are keen to keep him near the water, according to reports Down Under.

Scott's is one of a number of key appointments around the world in the past week: and Lionel Horter became national technical director; Shannon Rollason is to be head coach of the Denmark. 

On the Lafontaine move and what next for Swimming Canada, the federation released the following statement:

Swimming Canada President David de Vlieger announced today that CEO Pierre Lafontaine will be leaving the organization to take on new challenges effective March 1, 2013.

“The swimming community is very grateful to Pierre Lafontaine for his accomplishments as CEO and National Coach since 2005 and we wish him well in his new role,” said de Vlieger.

“Lafontaine’s passion, energy and determination in guiding Swimming Canada during the past eight years has positioned Canada as a leading swimming nation. We have accomplished many great things under Pierre’s leadership, and we will continue to make our mark on the international stage.”

Swimming Canada’s focus is to build on the momentum and successes the organization has gained while continuing to pursue the goals it has set in its “Vision 2020” strategic plan.

A search for a new CEO has already commenced and Swimming Canada’s Board of Directors is aiming to have the successful candidate in place by Sept. 1, 2013.

In the interim, Ken Radford will oversee the leadership of Swimming Canada operations and work closely with the Board of Directors and the management team to ensure a smooth transition.

Radford, Swimming Canada’s director of swimming operations, has been with the organization for nearly 15 years. He was also appointed Interim CEO in early 2000.

As Lafontaine announces his decision to move on from his leadership role at Swimming Canada, he reflects on the growth of the sport in Canada.

“While I’m excited to take on new challenges, I’m feeling truly proud of being part of the immense progress of Canadian swimming in the past decade,” said Lafontaine. 

“Our country has seen an incredible shift forward in the pool. Our swimmers are now household names, which is a testament to their commitment to excellence and guidance from their coaches. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work with incredible colleagues who have shared my passion for the sport, and with the Swimming Canada Board of Directors for their continued support and belief in our vision.”

During his tenure as CEO and national coach, Lafontaine led the organization to consistent podium performances at major international games including three swimming medals at the recent Olympics and 16 at Paralympics, as well as several world record performances.

His ongoing commitments to the development of a sustainable sport system resulted in nearly doubling its membership and budget. The junior program has positioned itself as second in the world and Canadian swimmers have re-written 68 per cent of the record books.

Lafontaine also helped build a stronger corporate brand through innovative media strategies, including a six-day live broadcast of the Swimming Canada Olympic and Paralympic Trials.