Athletics Australia suspends coach for criticizing hurdles champion

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | 9:16 p.m. CDT

GLASGOW, Scotland — Athletics Australia has suspended its head coach Eric Hollingsworth after he released an unauthorized statement criticizing Olympic hurdles champion Sally Pearson for not attending the team's pre-Glasgow training camp.

Pearson, who won gold in the 100-meter hurdles at the London Olympics and the 2011 world championships, is due to open the defense of her Commonwealth title on Thursday.

Athletics Australia President David Grace said in a statement Wednesday that Hollingsworth acted without the authority of AA and in contravention of the "specific instructions of the chief executive officer." He has been suspended without pay pending further action when the AA board can meet to consider the matter.

"Athletics Australia is bitterly disappointed that Eric Hollingsworth has chosen to make a statement to the media when our focus should be on wholly on supporting our athletes' performance," Grace said.

Hollingsworth released a statement earlier Wednesday defending his decision to cut Pearson's funding for her Commonwealth Games preparations after she opted not to attend the athletics team's training camp at Gateshead, England.

"What's lost here is she's the team captain and there's a reasonable expectation she'd be in the camp ahead of something as major as the Commonwealth Games," he said in the statement. "Her no-show sets a bad example to the entire national team."

Australian media reported that Pearson has refused to speak to Hollingsworth since they clashed at Sopot, Poland, after the World Indoor Championships in March, where the coach was critical of her silver medal-winning performance.

Hollingsworth's ongoing role with the games team will be determined by the Australian Commonwealth Games Association, which is responsible for the team in Glasgow.

According to Australian media reports, the AA has recommended to the ACGA that Hollingsworth be sent home to Australia.

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