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Interviews with Lafreniere and Westwood re: CCA’s Removal of HP Director Position

August 19, 2007 (Ottawa, ON) – On Friday, August 10 the CCA announced that it was removing the position of High Performance Director as part of a realignment of the High Performance sector prior to Beijing which means that Kris Westwood will be let go. (click here)

Westwood began working with the CCA as a National Team Coordinator from 1999 to 2001 and then again as a National development coach in 2004. In July 2005 he was hired as the CCA’s first High Performance Director, a new position established as part of ongoing restructuring at the CCA at the time. Since then a number positions and people have come and gone at the CCA in communications, finance, marketing, and coaching as the organization addresses its needs along with shortfalls in projected revenue targets.

We caught up with the Lorraine Lafrenière, the CCA’s current CEO/Secretary General and Westwood regarding the recent decision.

Lorraine Lafrenière, CCA CEO/Secretary General

“This is one of the ongoing difficult decisions we’ve had to make since January,” said Lafrenière. “This is not a budgetary issue but more a refocus of our needs as we head into the final stages for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It’s part of our long term plan that includes a major review by the Own the Podium Corporation that begins in September 2007 with our athletes, coaches, national training and development centres, PSOs etc. to be implemented after Beijing as we look ahead to the 2012 and 2016 Games – we need to re-assess the best way to move forward.”

On Sport Canada funding Lafrenière commented, “The shift in funding focus to medals means all sports, including cycling, are revisiting their programs and processes. Funding is now discipline-specific as well so while women’s mountain biking (Marie-Hélène Prémont) and BMX (Samantha Cools) are doing well others are not. Funding is down over last year but we hope to see some improvement in track for instance in the future and there may be opportunities for funding through Own the Podium as well. In the meantime we have limited resources and need to balance essential services for our athletes and infrastructure.”

Explaining more on the realignment process Lafrenière added, “Much of the work prior to Beijing is done and our coaches are the key right now. We need to support them as much as we can and they all have the technical expertise needed. Houshang Amiri (National Team Training Centre – West in Victoria, BC) handles MTB and track, Vincent Jourdain (National Team Training Centre – East in Bromont, QC) manages paracyling, road and cyclocross, while Tanya Dubnicoff (National BMX Coach – Calgary, Alberta) focuses on BMX and she also has lots of track background so we may look to tap into her experience there down the road. Along with Sean O’Donnell, our High Performance Manager, we feel we’ll be ready for Beijing and we can decide on the best course of action with all of our partners post-Beijing after the review.”

Will Kris Westwood continue to play a role in the CCA? “We’ve discussed some projects and ideas but it’s too early to say just now. Kris has extensive knowledge and experience in cycling and we definitely hope to keep him involved.”

Kris Westwood, CCA High Performance Director

“I’m disappointed but I wasn’t part of the decision-making process on this,” said Westwood. “There’s still lots to do but the big decisions have been made leading up to Beijing regarding athletes etc. so its more a case of getting the job done that’s in place. I have faith in the abilities of the team that will implement things but only time will tell,” said Westwood.

On how Sport Canada’s funding affects the CCA Westwood said, “There are challenges that need to be addressed and the focus on medals puts pressure on us and all sports as we all look toward 2012 and 2016. Money for development programming for instance gets more scarce so you need to get creative which is one of the roles I played at the CCA. I credit Symmetrics with leading the way to earn valuable points for Canada this year, and we also earned some surprise points with great performances such as (Martin) Gilbert’s Pan Am Championships gold.”

Westwood has been with the CCA off and on in various capacities since 1999 and remains optimistic for the organization but noted concern over a shrinking core staff. ” I’m not sure how the CCA will allocate my various duties but as with any organization less staff means more work for the those that remain and that can take its toll,” said Westwood.

What’s in store for Westwood who’s last day is September 30 following the 2007 Road Worlds in Stuttgart, September 25-30? “I have no immediate plans for the future,” said Westwood, “We’ve discussed possible projects in the future at the CCA and I hope to stay involved with cycling. I studied journalism at school and worked at the Ottawa Citizen previously so that’s one possibility but I have some time to consider options.”

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