In a conference call on Thursday, Swimming Canada announced to its senior leve managers that Pierre Lafontaine will be stepping down as the organization’s CEO and National Team Director. He will take over as the new CEO of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, which they will announce via a webcast at 1PM Eastern Time today.
Among the honors that Lafontaine has received as the director of Canadian Swimming include a nomination for the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year and a membership on the UANA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee. He is among the world’s leaders in open water swimming.
Lafontaine’s departure will leave a gaping hole in the organization (imagine Frank Busch and Chuck Wielgus stepping down at the same time), but comes as no great shock to many inside of the sport. He had been pressured to divide his two duties and despite having listed the position of a full-time National Team Director for over a year, had not yet appointed anyone to the position.
He already has a long relationship with the CIS, as the organization and Swimming Canada worked closely to try to promote the development of the sport domestically.
According to multiple independent sources in Canadian swimming (update: confirmed by Swimming Canada later Thursday), the new Director of High Performance in Canada has been named as well: John Atkinson. He comes from Great Britain, where he was the National Performance Director of British Disability Swimming.
Prior to his work with disability swimming, which began in 2010 (and is a wildly successful program in Britain), he was the National Youth Team Coach from 2001-2004, working hand-in-hand with Bill Sweetenham. He then moved up to become the Director of World Class Programmes for British Swimming. He also spent a big chunk of his career in Australia, working among other roles as the State Coaching Director for the South Australian Swimming Association.
“I am delighted to have been appointed to the Director of High Performance role with Swimming Canada,” Atkinson said. “The vision and desire of the organization for success was something that impressed me greatly and I am now looking forward to working with all involved on the journey to Rio.”
“We’re sorry to be losing John. He’s made a massive contribution to British Swimming both in his time with the swimming programme and latterly by leading the highly successful team to the Paralympics in London,” British Swimming Chief Executive David Sparkes said. “However, we also appreciate that John has a passion for swimming and wants to make his mark as a world leader in swimming. We wish him well in Canada and look forward to seeing him in his new role at the next international competition.”