British Cycling has completed its search for a new performance director, appointing Stephen Park, formerly the Royal Yachting Association’s (RYA) Olympic manager.
The role has officially been vacant since Dave Brailsford left the national federation to work exclusively with Team Sky in 2014, but the need for a new recruit arose from Shane Sutton’s resignation earlier this year. Sutton was promoted from head coach to technical director in the wake of Brailsford’s depature, but the Australian stood down in April in the midst of a sexism scandal.
Park, who will commence his role in the spring of 2017, has been the RYA’s Olympic manager for the past 15 years, helping bring in 23 medals across the Olympics and Paralympics and steering Britain to the top of the sailing medal table at this year’s Games in Rio.
“I feel privileged and excited to be given this opportunity, and look forward to building on the high-performance culture at British Cycling,” said the 48-year-old in a statement from the governing body. “My role will be to lead the team, support the coaches and the wider staff to continue delivering successful programmes which enable the athletes to fulfil their tremendous potential.
“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 joins British Cycling at a troubling time for the governing body. As well as the sexism scandal, president Bob Howden and board member George Gilbert were summoned to Parliament this week to answer questions relating to the 'mystery medical package' delivered from the UK to a Team Sky doctor in France by Simon Cope, a BC employee. There were also allegations, made recently by Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, that tramadol was 'freely' handed around the team at the 2012 Road World Championships.
A UKAD investigation into allegations of wrongdoing is still ongoing, while an independent review into the culture at British Cycling is set to report back early next year. There will be more change at the top after current CEO Ian Drake announced his resignation in October, with a replacement needed for April 2017.
After Sutton’s departure, programmes manager Andy Harrison stepped up to the plate and he will remain in place until Park commences his duties next year. The search for a new performance director began in October, with collaboration from UK Sport and Positive Dynamics, and one of the selection criteria was a ‘commitment to equality and diversity’.
Chris Boardman, who was part of the selection process, said: “The standard of applicants was predictably high, and in appointing Stephen Park I am extremely confident that we have someone in place who can now go forward and build on the fantastic success that British Cycling has enjoyed in recent years."
“The role calls for a highly effective, ambitious leader with a track record of successfully delivering at the highest level, and an ability to instill 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 that Stephen demonstrates each and every one of these characteristics.”
British Cycling president Bob Howden added: “The performance director role is integral to our ambitions looking ahead to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond. We are confident that, in Stephen, we have the right person in the role to guide us through this cycle and fulfil our ambition to finish top of both medal tables and remain the number one cycling nation in the world.”