Gramantik out

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

Canadian track and field head coach Les Gramantik admitted yesterday he did not hop, skip or jump for joy when told last month he was going to be replaced at the end of this year.

Gramantik, after all, enjoyed the gig and, by all accounts, succeeded as head coach, leading the Canadian team to an impressive performance at the Beijing Olympics, where the squad earned five top-eight finishes, eight top-12 finishes and 11 top-16 finishes.

And, just as impressive, Whitby's Priscilla Lopes-Schliep won the bronze medal in the women's 100-metre hurdles, Canada's first Olympic medal in track since 1996.

Yesterday, Athletics Canada confirmed that Gramantik would be replaced by Alex Gardiner, a former head coach and CEO for the organization.

"I was extremely disappointed not being able to continue as head coach," Gramantik said in a conference call. "But it's over, it's not an issue anymore."

Gramantik will shift to the head coaching position of the newly created track and field body, High Performance Training Centre, based in Calgary.

Athletics Canada CEO Joanne Mortimore said yesterday that an infusion of cash expected to come from the Road to Excellence program has given the organization the opportunity to invest more into the program, especially on the coaching side. Mortimore said Athletics Canada is expecting to receive close to $1 million extra per year as a result of the Road to Excellence initiative, which was developed two years ago by the 28 Olympic and Paralympic summer sports, the Canadian Olympic Committee and several other groups.

The Road to Excellence initiative was designed to give Canadian athletes the required financial and technical support to help them be competitive at the highest level.

As for Gardiner, the Winnipeg-based coach assumes the post as head coach/technical director effective the beginning of 2009. He was most recently employed by the Canadian Olympic Committee as senior technical director of Olympic Programs.

Gardiner, who has more than 30 years experience as a coach, served as general manager of the National Sport Centre-Winnipeg from 1997 to 2002 before becoming Athletics Canada head coach.

"I am excited and privileged to be able to return to Athletics Canada. Never before in my 30-plus years in sport has there been this much opportunity and optimism fuelling our drive to the podium." Gardiner said. "This is where my heart is."

Gramantik had been head coach for Athletics Canada since 2006.


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