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The price of legacy

by John Curnow on 5 Feb
Malcolm Page Induction 2016 - the Sport Australia Hall of Fame The Sport Australia Hall of Fame
Malcolm Page OAM, two-time Olympic Gold Medallist (470) with Nathan Wilmot in 2008 and Mat Belcher in 2012, became the Chief of Olympic Sailing for the USA on January 1 this year. In and of itself it is hardly the freshest news, and well and truly yesterday’s fish wrapper. It was also a wise choice on behalf of Team USA, for he has succeeded in both the physical and commercial arms of our sport.

Also, well done to Page, who will no doubt bring great vigour to the role, and you can read a great Q&A with him by Sail-World’s David Schmidt right here. When I last spoke with Page, it whilst he was still Head of Media for World Sailing, he commented that he was using up his holidays to go sailing in the Etchells with Mark Thornburrow’s crew on Racer X.



The importance of that is that he was used to having to travel a lot for work, let alone pleasure, and the former is something he will very much have to do in hise new role. Indeed his predecessor, Josh Adams, had decided to move on after Rio, as a direct result of all the constant changes in locale.

Now it was also interesting to note that at the time of his inauguration, Page also commented in relation to his priorities from day one, “So if you ask what I may do in a hundred days, I reckon that would be a bit clearer.” Well it has not taken anywhere near that long at all for the first strokes of the broom to be clear in the dust on the floor.



On February 2, Page said, “As part of the team’s ongoing evolution and push for more efficiency, we have decided to change the way our leadership team is structured. The performance management of the team will fall under my position going forward.”

Now we have already seen a re-invigorated Team USA get going since 2015 with more funding, better structure, a huge youth development programme, and they collected three medals at the recent Youth World Championship. Then here’s the thing, McKee was instrumental in all of that!

Well it is now an expanded role for Page, so he will most likely not have time for holidays, let alone Etchells sailing, and that travel thing will be even more significant and integral, as he does everything from look after sponsors to inspiring young athletes. No doubt he’s up for it, and so it is time to give him his second congratulations in just under a couple of months.



Of course, we here in Oz cannot talk too much. We went and got the Medal Maker in the charming Victor Kovalenko, and look what he has done and is doing! Other sports attracted Aussie coaches and administrators for the last quadrennial, most notably for Team GBR, and the medal count is all you need to look at for any answers. We have always enjoyed sticking it to the Poms in any way we can, and for ages, we had the results to back that up, but they have certainly turned the tables on us from cricket to yachting, and tennis to athletics.

How ready are we for some of our own sailing medicine to be returned to us by the US? Well, we cannot whinge, for that would make us the Poms, but we do need to get ready, and just like their own mighty US Marines, adapt and improvise. Reason? It is surely going to come to pass that some of the hard won Intellectual Property that Australian Sailing has gained over the last decade, particularly under Head Coach Victor Kovalenko, will be used against us.



Make no mistake, they do deem there own performances for the last while as well below par, and have cited AUS, GBR, and NZL as the benchmarks. So yes, in the globalisation of everything, you cannot stop good, trained staff from doing what they want and seeking opportunities elsewhere.

No. It is certainly not over, and we only need to look at the AFL’s Hawthorn juggernaut to see that the ‘Academy’, as they call it, has now churned out something like six senior coaches for other clubs, out of 18 teams, let alone assistant coaches and senior players (just how will the latter play out form them in 2017????). In the intervening time they have still won Premierships, still made the finals and also acknowledged that there are things they need to do to keep up with all of the re-invigorated teams now serving it back it up to them – hard, fast and successfully! More than ever, a helicopter view is part of the must have skill set for any coach or administrator…. And that is certainly the price of legacy.

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