Rowing Canada CEO backs women’s rowing leadership in wake of coach dismissal

VICTORIA — Five days after women’s head coach Dave Thompson was fired by Rowing Canada, chief executive officer Terry Dillon is backing the remaining leadership group.

Dillon would not get into the reasons for Thompson’s firing, calling it an “employment matter” and saying it was covered by a confidentiality agreement, but on Monday he endorsed former assistants Michelle Darvill, Phil Marshall and Lesley Thompson-Willie.

That trio will now be responsible for preparing the Canadian women’s rowing team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, including possibly qualifying more boats for the Summer Games.

“We have an extraordinarily talented coaching team and we have a high level of confidence in the coaches that are in place with the women’s program,” Dillon said. “They bring a huge amount of experience to this group. They’ve been very much integral to the success that the program has had over the last several years. We feel really confident that that team is capable of taking the group forward.”

Dick Tonks remains in place as the head coach of the men’s national team.

Six Canadian crews have qualified for the 2020 Summer Games, five of them women’s boats that Thompson had coached with the help of Darvill, Marshall and Thompson-Willie. Thompson had been hired on Dec. 17, 2016 after a disappointing showing at the Rio Olympics when Canada’s rowers only earned one medal, a silver in the women’s lightweight double sculls.

Thompson earned a coaching excellence award in 2019 from the Coaching Association of Canada for helping Hillary Janssens and Caileigh Filmer to a bronze at that year’s world championships.

Dillon said he is confident in the team’s current leadership group and will only hire an additional coach if it’s deemed necessary for the preparation of the upcoming Olympics. Rowing Canada has no plans to hire a new women’s head coach until the start of the next Olympic quadrennial.

“This is definitely one of the most talented groups of women that Canada has probably ever had,” Dillon said. “We’re looking at how we move forward with that group and give them the best possible chance of success. We’re also looking to see whether we can qualify an additional women’s boat and three additional men’s boats.

“We’re feeling very positive about where we’re at and our prospects for Tokyo.”

Canada will participate in three World Cup regattas before the Olympics — Sabaudia, Italy, beginning on April 10, then Varese, Italy, starting on May 1 and a last-chance Olympic qualifier in Lucerne, Switzerland that will begin on May 22. The Canadians have also planned a pre-Olympic camp Sagamihara, Japan before the Tokyo Games begin in earnest.

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