Simon Fairweather quits as national archery coach
Sydney Olympics Gold Medallist, Simon Fairweather, the highest profile in Australian archery, has quit as national archery coach one year out from the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Fairweather, who won Australia's only Olympic archery gold medal on home soil in Sydney in 2000, has quit as head coach a year before the start of the 2012 Games.
Archery Australia is now conducting a worldwide search for a replacement to fill a more over-arching role as national performance director. "Undoubtedly there will be some loss of name recognition for the sport following Simon's departure," said chief executive Jim Larven.
"But for the future and particularly the way the Australian Sports Commission want to see sports travel, we've got to go down this track. Sport now is not just focusing on one or two of the elite, it's about focusing on an all encompassing programme. Simon decided he wanted to go down a certain direction in archery and that isn't what the sport wanted him to do."
The loss of Fairweather as coach has in part been balanced by the return to action of Korean born star archer, Sky Kim, who represented Australia at the Beijing Olympic Games. He adds to the depth in men's archery, with Delhi Commonwealth Games team gold medallists Matthew Gray, Mathew Masonwells and Taylor Worth and former world junior champion Ryan Tyack also targetting the London Games.
Larven is hopeful of luring Beijing Olympian Lexie Feeney out of retirement, with veteran Deonne Bridger currently the country's highest ranked women's archer. Australia should qualify one male and one female archer for the London Games at the Oceania tournament in New Zealand in January 2012.
There are only three remaining vacancies in the Olympic men's and women's teams events which will be filled at a qualifying meet in Utah, USA in June 2012, just a month before the London Games.
Back in January 2012, 40 year old coach Fairweather was interviewed after the Australian team beat the Indians in the semis at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, before clinching the gold with a win over Malaysia, said it was very satisfying. "To see it come to fruition here in an event where we weren't favourites, it's pretty exciting to see". Fairweather, who represented Australia at five Olympic Games - 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, said "coaching was very different from being a bowman. It's a lot demanding and definitely not easy. You have to find the right combination, it's different and challenging," he said.
Referring to Australian Institute of Sports archery programme, Fairweather said he was working towards Rio 2016. Asked whether he was hopeful of a medal in Olympics 2012, the Australian said "A more realistic goal would be Rio in 2016. A lot of changes need to be made and we have to develop archers. Hopefully I remain attached till 2016, or else I would switch back to jewellery design," Fairweather, who also has a degree in jewellery design, joked. "At present we have a mix of old and new with 37 year old Matthew Gray being the most senior. We have a very promising archer in 24 year old Matthew Masonwells."
Fairweather gave credit to his sister who doubled up as his agent, his parents, coach for his Sydney success which came only in his fourth Olympic appearance and nine years after he became the world champion. "It was in a very friendly environment. I had gone there with a couple of years of rigorous training. It comes every four years. An Olympic gold medal is something very different. I am really proud of it. People still recognise me, give me respect all over," he recalls about the momentous occasion on 20th September 2000.
The Aussie trailblazer strode onto the Sydney Olympic Park Homebush Bay archery field and proceeded to make it his own after beating American Victor Wunderle in a ruthless manner. "What helped was that the pressure had built up early. I had begun dealing with the process well and the experience of the past Olympics helped me in keeping cool. I've been asked a few times if it changed my life. I don't know if it did change me; it did change bits and pieces of my life."
The 2004 Athens Olympic Games did not go along well as he switched to jewellery design. "I made the team but didn't get through the first match, even as team mate, Tim Cuddihy, got a bronze. I thought it was enough as I quit archery after 2005." But at the moment he is happy coaching the side that won the men's recurve gold and youngster Masonwells.
All archery enthusiasts, particularly in Australia, wish Simon every success in his future endeavours.