British Cycling have sacked German Heiko Salzwedel, the coach who helped mastermind much of the track programme’s Olympic success. Salzwedel was reportedly escorted out of the Manchester velodrome on Wednesday by security after being let go, in a ‘standard HR procedure’, the Daily Mail reported on Thursday.
Salzwedel has a long history of results as a coach, beginning in the late 1990s when he worked with Australia ahead of the Sydney Olympics before joining British Cycling in 2001. He then moved onto the Danish federation and helping its men’s team pursuit squad take silver in the Beijing Olympics before returning to Britain at the beginning 2009, and remained through the London Olympics, where the country repeated its domination, winning seven gold medals on the track plus the men’s individual time trial with Wiggins.
Salzwedel left to start the RusVelo programme in 2012 but was brought back into British Cycling by Shane Sutton in 2014 during its post-London doldrums – a move that lured Bradley Wiggins back to the track. The return of the German helped spark the team’s impressive turnaround to a six-gold medal haul in Rio. Wiggins said he would not have come back to the team pursuit programme had it not been for the Salzwedel.
“Heiko is like Louis van Gaal or one of those other experienced European managers. He has his philosophy and he sticks to it,” Wiggins said of Salzwedel in early 2016. “‘We are doing it this way’. The pressing game or whatever. Not everyone agrees with him but it seems to work. Sure enough, he turned it around in a couple of months. After the eighth place in Cali , GB were back to second in Paris .”
British Cycling has been in a state of flux following the 2016 accusations of sexism and discrimination made by sprinter Jess Varnish that led to the resignation of Sutton, and a UKAD investigation and parliamentary inquiry into doping in sport that touched on a controversial delivery of medications to Wiggins and examined his use of a Therapeutic Use Exemption for triamcinolone.
An independent review of British Cycling’s World Class Programme upheld claims of a ‘culture of fear’ in the programme, and found that its ‘medal obsession’ since the late 2000s had a negative impact on athletes.
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