Back where he belongs

Alex Gardiner replaces Les Gramantik at Athletics Canada, whose contract expires at the end of this...

Alex Gardiner replaces Les Gramantik at Athletics Canada, whose contract expires at the end of this year. (Sun Media/John Woods)

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

You might say Alex Gardiner feels like he is back where he belongs.

Athletics Canada confirmed yesterday that the Winnipegger has been named both the national track and field head coach and technical director through the 2012 Olympics in London.

"It is, metaphysically, going home for me," Gardiner said. "I've always loved the sport and it's a little overwhelming to get back.

"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, 59, was Athletics Canada CEO from 1994 to '97 and the head coach for the 1991, '93 and 2003 world track and field championships and the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He left to become senior technical director of Olympic programs with the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2005.

"My job with the COC was magnificent," Gardiner said. "But it was not what I really wanted to do to keep my heart sound and my mind sound.

"I get a chance to not only get back on the ground with coaches and athletes, but really to work with an association that I think is just sort of hitting its stride and its prime. This is pretty much a revisited dream and a great dream come true for me."

Yet, he will not be doing any "hands-on" coaching.

"It's more like being a director of coaching development and setting up support systems around athletes," Gardiner explained.

Gardiner replaces Les Gramantik, whose contract expires at the end of this year. However, Gramantik has been hired as head coach of the newly-created high performance centre in Calgary.

"After Beijing (Olympics), every sport wanted to enhance the growth and changes, and they wanted to keep the best coaches in the field and Les Gramantik is one of the best," Gardiner said. "One of his duties will be to be the head of competitive intelligence and advance coaching education. He's better suited to that skill set."

Although Gramantik admitted that he was originally "extremely disappointed" not to remain the head knock, he has since gotten over it. Gramantik added that he has had a very good relationship with Gardiner in the past.

"It's a brand new initiative and it was very important to me to work with somebody I knew and trusted," Gramantik told a teleconference yesterday.

Gardiner was the only candidate for the job.

The Road to Excellence program will commit $1 million per year to support Canada's coaches.

"These are world-class coaches but we need to fast-track the younger coaches," Gardiner said.

While Gramantik joked that Gardiner will be expected to get 15 medals in 2012, Gardiner said winning three or four would put Canada in the top 10 in the world.

Gardiner will remain in Winnipeg with his wife and four kids aged 17, 15, 13 and 10 and commute to high performance centres in Calgary, Victoria, B.C., and Montreal.

"It's all about collecting air miles," he joked.


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