Athletics Australia head coach likely to be sent home

ATHLETICS Australia has suspended head coach Eric Hollingsworth after the coach released a statement criticising Sally Pearson before she was due to defend her Commonwealth gold medal.

Fairfax is reporting he is now likely to be sent home.

Hollingsworth released the statement through a public relations firm independent of Athletics Australia.

It follows a falling out between the pair after the world indoor championships in Poland six months ago.

In Hollingsworth's statement, he describes how Pearson failed to show up to the pre-games camp in Glasgow.

"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," he said.

"Her no-show sets a bad example to the entire national team."

Hollingsworth also attacked Pearson's claims earlier this week that she was not properly supported by the Australian team's medical unit.

"We've had a team physio travelling with Sally for the past three months, following her around Europe," he said.

"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"To say we've withdrawn support is factually incorrect and a little disappointing."

In response, Athletics Australia released its own comments, saying it was "bitterly disappointed" with Hollingsworth's decision to attack athletes while they compete for Australia.

"Athletics Australia condemns in the strongest terms his disparaging comments about Sally Pearson and his timing," the statement read.

"We have therefore suspended Eric Hollingsworth as an employee of Athletics Australia until such time as the Athletics Australia Board can convene to consider the matter.

"Action in regards to Eric Hollingsworth's role on the Commonwealth Games Team will be determined by the Australian Commonwealth Games Association, as the body responsible for the team."

Eric Hollingsworth's statement in full

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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