Rowing Canada's decision not to keep Mike Spracklen as a coach has revealed a division among the athlete ranks.
Depending on who is speaking the 75-year-old Spracklen is either revered as the genius responsible for the success of the men's eights rowing team or criticized for being a draconian leader who played favourites. The British-born Spracklen led the men's eights to gold medals at the 1992 and 2008 Olympic Games and a silver this summer in London.
Rowing Canada announced Spracklen's departure Tuesday on its website, listing the move among several other coaching changes.
"Victoria-based Mike Spracklen will no longer be part of Rowing Canada coaching team,'' the statement said.
Peter Cookson, the association's high-performance director, said Spracklen "will be missed by many of the athletes he has worked with.''
Apparently Scott Frandsen isn't one of those athletes. Frandsen, who competed in the pairs at the London Olympics with David Calder, was harsh in his criticism of Spracklen.
"I applaud the organization for finally making the decision to move forward,'' Frandsen wrote on the CBC sports website.
"Spracklen created an adversarial environment where everybody other than his chosen few were the enemy. This included our international competition, but also the Canadian women, lightweights, and even athletes within his training group that might have taken the spotlight away from him. They were the enemy and he seemed to feel that he had the right to do whatever he wished to negatively affect them to somehow build up his guys.''
Frandsen also complained about a lack of transparency in the selection process.
Frandsen and Calder won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics but finished last in their final race in London.
Other rowers like Kevin Light voiced their support for Spracklen.
"I'm not sure Rowing Canada and high-performance director Peter Cookson fully understand the consequences of his actions,'' Light, who was a spare on the men's eight in London, wrote for CBC.
"Because not only have they lost one of the greatest coaches in rowing history, but Canada is now going to have to race against him. ''
Former Olympic champion Silken Laumann said she cried when she learned of Spracklen's fate.
"Letting Mike go feels so wrong,'' Laumann said in the Globe and Mail. "This time, the good guy really did lose."
Only time will tell how badly the waters have been poisoned. The first job the new coach will face is healing the rift among the rowers. That person must also accept the job knowing their results will be compared with the success Spracklen enjoyed.