National women’s rowing coach fired, just months before Olympics

Rowing Canada has set adrift senior national team women’s head coach Dave Thompson just five months before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

“Dave has been released from his duties,” said Rowing Canada CEO Terry Dillon.

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Reasons for the dismissal were not given. Dillon was asked if the move was performance related and answered: “It’s an employment matter and I am not in a position to comment.”

Thompson had rebuilt the Canadian program over the last three years on Elk Lake, along with fellow-Kiwi Dick Tonks on the men’s side, following the Canada’s fall to a single medal won at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“This was a difficult decision but one that was made with very careful consideration,” said Dillon.

Canada has so far qualified six crews for the Tokyo Olympics, of which five are women’s boats that Thompson coached. Rowing Canada hopes to qualify more boats at the last-chance Olympic qualifier May 22-24 at Lucerne, Switzerland.

Assistant coaches Michelle Darvill, Phil Marshall and Lesley Thompson-Willie will take over the women’s team heading into the Tokyo Olympics.

“We are not looking to bring in a new [head] coach at this time into this environment. We have a very talented coaching team moving forward and have a huge amount of confidence in it,” said Dillon.

“There is always an element of not being sure how this will impact the team. But it creates an opportunity for these three coaches to step up and shine. It is a life-defining moment for them and the athletes. With this change to our coaching structure, our number one priority is ensuring our athletes, coaches and support staff have the optimal training environment in the lead up to the Tokyo and beyond.”

Although boats have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, Rowing Canada wants to assure internal competition for seats in those boats and will hold qualifying time trials next week on Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan, which will be the new home of Rowing Canada post-Tokyo.

Canada will take part in two World Cup regattas prior to the Olympics — May 1-3 in Varese, Italy, and the last-chance Tokyo qualifier May 22-24 in Lucerne — before its pre-Olympic camp in Sagamihara, Japan.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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