Stephen Park has been appointed the British Cycling performance director at the embattled governing body.
The Glasgow-born 48-year-old might have stayed in place as the Royal Yachting Association’s Olympic manager but the fact he has jumped ship to an organisation veering from one crisis to another – and a new sport – shows his ambition.
“Welcome aboard,” British Cycling declared on Twitter in announcing Park’s arrival. The two-times Olympic sailing competitor becomes British Cycling’s first performance director since Sir Dave Brailsford departed to concentrate solely on Team Sky in April 2014.
Brailsford’s position as Team Sky principal is under scrutiny in a crisis that has engulfed cycling in Britain. The British Cycling chief executive, Ian Drake, is to leave in early 2017, with the recruitment process for his successor continuing during a period of transition for Britain’s most successful Olympic sport.
British Cycling is also without a technical director after Shane Sutton resigned in April over allegations of discrimination. An independent review into the culture of the world-class performance programme is continuing and scheduled to conclude early in 2017.
Despite the disruption to preparations, Great Britain won six gold medals from 10 track events at the Rio Olympics and were the dominant team at the Rio Paralympics. Park will have to ensure that dominance continues at the Tokyo Games and beyond.
British Cycling said it was always the intention to appoint a performance director for the Tokyo 2020 cycle. However, the appointment of Park, a non-cycling specialist, means there could be further restructuring of the coaching programme. A new technical director could be appointed to work with Park. The head coach, Iain Dyer, could fulfil that role.
Park recognises the challenge. “I feel privileged and excited to be given this opportunity and look forward to building on the high-performance culture at British Cycling,” he said.
“Clearly cycling poses very different challenges to sailing but it’s a sport I am very passionate about from a personal perspective. I’m looking forward to meeting its challenges head on and working intensively with a highly motivated and experienced group of athletes, coaches and support staff.”
Park is accustomed to success, having led Britain’s sailors to the top of the Olympic medal table in Rio. He has worked for the Royal Yachting Association for 15 years, with Britain amassing 23 Olympic and Paralympic medals during that period. He backed sailing to continue to thrive in future. He will begin work at the National Cycling Centre in the spring and should be in place for April’s track world championships in Hong Kong.
Chris Boardman, the 1992 Olympic individual pursuit champion and a key protagonist in British Cycling’s successes since, was part of the selection process. “The standard of applicants was predictably high and in appointing Stephen Park I am extremely confident we have someone in place who can now go forward and build on the fantastic success that British Cycling has enjoyed in recent years,” he said.
“The role calls for a highly effective, ambitious leader with a track record of successfully delivering at the highest level and an ability to instil a real sense of team and get the most out of the wealth of experience that is evident in the Great Britain cycling team. Throughout the selection process, it was very clear Stephen demonstrates each and every one of these characteristics.”
Chelsea Warr, the UK Sport performance director, said: “In this critical appointment of Stephen Park – well known across the system as Sparky – to the role of performance director at British Cycling, we have one of our world-class performance system’s most successful leaders, who has worked at the highest level of Olympic and Paralympic sport and has been tremendously successful over multiple Games.
“In collaboration with the brilliant coaches and support team at British Cycling, I am very confident Stephen will lead the programme to achieve even more success in the Tokyo cycle and beyond with a renewed focus on leadership, innovation, high-performance culture and behaviours, to meet the needs of the athletes and help them reach their full potential.”