Peter Eriksson has been fired as head coach and chief technical officer at Athletics Canada just months after the track and field team had one of its most successful Olympics in decades.
Canada captured six medals at the Rio Summer Games, its best performance in a non-boycotted Games since 1932, and has seen the rise of young stars such as sprinter Andre De Grasse and high jumper Derek Drouin.
But there has been growing discontentment with the team’s leadership for months. The move comes after an extensive internal review.
“We talked to a lot of athletes and coaches out there,” Athletics Canada chief executive office Rob Guy said on a conference call Friday. “Athletes and coaches are the key to everything. In a very decentralized sport like track and field where a lot our athletes are working on their own, they just need to feel good about themselves and feel really supported.
“Everybody has their style. Overall there was just a general feeling that a different style might be a little bit more appropriate.”
When asked what style Guy would look for in a successor, he suggested that person will need to be more inclusive.
“The results of the review confirm that people want to feel supported, they want to work with the federation in driving performance,” said Guy. “I suppose a style that’s perhaps a little more supportive and engaging with these athletes and coaches.”
The organizational review included both an anonymous online survey and more than 120 in-person or phone interviews with staff, provincial branch members, athletes, coaches, sponsors, media and other stakeholders.
“Going to miss you,” Olympic racewalker Evan Dunfee said via Twitter. “U believed in our little race walk group from the beginning & we wouldn’t have had our successes without that.”
Former star hurdler Perdita Felicien called it “the right move.”
“I wish Peter the best,” she tweeted.
Eriksson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The review committee was asked to use the results of the report to make recommendations to the board.
Guy informed Eriksson of the decision in person in Ottawa on Friday morning after the board of governors met Thursday night.
While the decision was largely about Eriksson’s approach to the job, Guy added it was also made with Athletics Canada’s focus squarely on the future, including the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“Yes it’s about style, but it’s also about continuing to win medals and continuing to have success,” said Guy. “Rio’s over with. It’s done.
“The athletes and their coaches in their daily training environment is really what drives this. We need to make sure we’re providing the best possible support we can.”
Guy said that although Canada’s track and field success in Brazil this summer was impressive, it didn’t come down to one person.
“We did a significant reload on our high performance plan after (the 2012 Olympics) and we significantly changed our system,” said Guy, who added the federation will be reviewing all of its policies. “This isn’t about looking backwards. It’s about looking forward. Everybody else is trying to take those medals back from us.”
The 64-year-old Eriksson was hired by Athletics Canada in August 2013 after four years working with Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic track teams, including one year as the track team’s head coach.
He’s also been the high performance director for Speed Skating Canada, head coach of wheelchair racing in Canada, and head track and field coach for the U.S. Paralympic Committee.
In the interim, the high performance team will report to Guy, who said there is no timetable for finding a replacement.
“We want to do it as quickly as we can,” said Guy. “But we want to make sure we have the proper time to talk to our people to make sure that we get the structure that we’re looking for, the type of person that we’re looking for.”