Fri, September 20, 2013

Simon Whitfield leaps to Paula Findlay's defence

By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency


Canadian Paula Findlay makes her way out of transition during the women's triathlon at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, England on Aug. 4, 2012. (DAVE ABEL, QMI Agency)


LONDON - Simon Whitfield may regret coming to the emotional defence of teammate Paula Findlay, and verbally obliterating her training team in the process.

He may regret it -- but it's doubtful.

The beauty of Whitfield the athlete, the person, is he's not a phony. He speaks from the heart. He speaks his mind. He doesn't hide behind cliches or typical Olympian psycho-babble. But he did manage to up the attention on himself -- if that was, in fact, possible as the Canadian flag bearer - by being so public in his support of the weepy Findlay and in questioning the strategy utilized unsuccessfully in Saturday's women's triathlon event that saw her finish 52nd.

The men's event goes Tuesday and Whitfield already has a gold and silver medal to his name in the first three Olympic triathlon events: He is ready for the fourth one, and just as ready to go on afterwards with the rest of his life.

Whitfield was so angry watching Findlays difficult performance in Saturday's women's event that he tweeted "There are some people that need 2b held accountable here, total incompetence before they jumped ship. #shameful".

When Whitfield saw Findlay crying and apologizing to Canada, well, he couldn't help but come to her defence. "I said to myself 'I'm not going to say anything. I'm not going to say anything," said Whitfield, before saying something in an availability Sunday morning here, "I do think the people that have jumped ship on her should be held accountable, as she was held yesterday."

Whitifield believes Findlay's hip injury was mistreated and put in no position to challenge in an event she was once among the best in the world.


"She's not a wind-up toy that you just send off," Whitfield said. "I'm not saying people should be fired. I'm just saying, they should stand up and say 'that one is me.' Because it was all on Paula yesterday. We all saw that."


Whitfield's finger and criticism was directly pointed at Findlay's coach, Patrick Kelly, Own The Podium advisor and former synchronized swimming coach, Debbie Muir and sport science specialist, Dr. David Smith.


"I want Doc Smith and Patrick and Debbie Muir to step up and say 'I endorsed that plan. She was injured for a year. She did what I told her to do and in the end, it failed.' Have the courage to say 'yesterday's result is on me.'"


Just a few weeks before the Olympics, Findlay and her main coach, Kelly, parted ways.

And now all eyes are on Whitfield, who has had a way of coming up large at Olympic Games. But this time, it may be more difficult for the 10-time national champion. His comments, at the age of 37, may end up a distraction to him or the opposite, focusing the attention elsewhere, away from his own competition.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @stevesimmons