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Pearson spat splits team

Article image for Pearson spat splits team

Australia’s athletics team has been thrown into turmoil after the suspension of head coach Eric Hollingsworth.

Athletics Australia president David Grace stood Hollingsworth following derogatory comments he made about star athlete Sally Pearson.

The coach was unhappy Pearson – Australia’s best track and field athlete and team captain – chose to race at a Commonwealth Games warm-up event in London instead of attending a final team camp.

Pearson hit back at that criticism, and then Hollingsworth last issued a long press release (read in full below) re-stoking the feud.

Athletics Australia said Hollingsworth had defied specific instruction from chief executive Dallas O’Brien in choosing to issue a media release through a public relations advisor.

He has been suspended without pay by AA pending further action when the board can met to consider the matter.

‘We believe he may have breached his contract with Athletics Australia,’ Grace said.

But Hollingsworth is coaching as per normal because he remains the head coach of the Australian Commonwealth Games Association, which is yet to indicate how it will act.

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Australian Athletics Head Coach Eric Hollingsworth has come forward to answer criticism leveled his way earlier this week by London Olympic Gold Medalist Sally Pearson.

“Some time has past since Sally’s camp has released its version of events publicly, and there’s been some adverse reaction so I’ve decided the facts of the matter need to be addressed,” says Hollingsworth, who joined Athletics Australia in 2009.

“I want to speak to some of the points that have come out which paint a negative and incorrect picture of the events leading up to the Commonwealth Games,” says the former British decathlete from his Glasgow base.

Media reports this week have detailed that Pearson took exception to Hollingsworth’s feedback post her performance at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Poland in March this year.

“I asked legitimate questions of her after the race, and she didn’t like the line I was taking. So via her agent she sort a meeting with Athletics Australia’s president, CEO and High Performance Director, which I was not aware of until the day of, or day before the meeting,” explains Hollingsworth.

“While I thought at the time it was curious that I wasn’t involved in that process in any form, Sally raised her issues, and the powers-that-be found no problems with my actions, and there was no case to answer.

“Subsequently Sally dug her heels in, as is her right, and asked for what is a new ‘athlete performance advisor’ which is the conduit between the athletes and Athletics Australia.

“I am that person for the bulk of the high performance athletes, but not all, from a work-load point of view. So we re-assigned Sally which is fine, we had a good working relationship for nearly a decade, but she decided my challenging style wasn’t what she was looking for, which is her prerogative.”

Hollingsworth has also addressed the Australian team’s pre-games camp in Glasgow, at which Pearson was a no-show.

“Sally was coming all along until the last minute when she opted to take a race in London. What’s lost here is she’s the team captain and there’s a reasonable expectation she’d be in the camp ahead of something as major as the Commonwealth Games. Her no-show sets a bad example to the entire national team.”

It was also alleged this week Pearson was not supported by the Australian team’s medical unit, something flatly refuted by the team’s head coach.

“We’ve had a team physio travelling with Sally for the past three months, following her around Europe,” says Hollingsworth.

“Since May we’ve provided this service, and there may have been one day or so where there’s been an overlap when we’ve changed over personnel. To say we’ve withdrawn support is factually incorrect and a little disappointing.”


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