New chief executive of Cycling Australia (CA), Nick Green rowed in the Australian coxless four that won the 1992 and 1996 Olympic gold medals. Known as the 'Oarsome Foursome', the crew earned household status in Australia for their starring roles in the Goulburn Valley fruit ads.
Since his retirement from rowing, Green, 46, has worked in many businesses, sporting and not for profit organisations, including for the last six years Victorian Major Events. They have organised, among other events, the 2011 Cadel Evans post Tour de France victory parade in Melbourne, and will run the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race on February 1, which will be its namesake's last race before he retires.
Green, will not start his new position at CA until October 20, but Cyclingnews.com spoke with him after he attended the announcement at CA's Melbourne headquarters of his new appointment during the world road championships in Ponferrada, Spain.
Cylingnews.com: How do you feel the sport of cycling is right now in Australia?
Nick Green: Clearly the high performance is in good shape, and results [at the world titles] indicate there is good depth. We know it is a competitive market and Australia have been upholding their own really well at the last three or four Olympic Games with 2008 being the downside in terms of medals. Cycling is in a boom in terms of people who buy equipment, buy bikes and who ride. There are probably a whole lot of terrific stakeholder groups who do wonderful things, but they probably don't have a great conversation with one another about what is going on. We need to work on a one team mentality … so bring in the like minded organisations – whether it's BMX, mountain biking, or the state bodies and other groups who do terrific things.
CN: Will it be hard to convince those parties to believe in you, or your case?
NG: I am coming in with a completely open mind. One of the things I think I'm pretty good at is that I listen well and I'm pretty good at talking. There are going to be some issues and some people who have issues and I need to hear those and understand them. We are going to have a completely fresh executive [at CA]. We have a new board … a new president [Malcolm Speed] and new chief executive [Green].
CN: Is bringing all those domestic parties together your first major priority?
NG: High performance is in good shape. While it is in good shape, I would hope there is room for improvement because in any Olympic cycle the organisation needs to be better and the athletes need to be better … at looking at new technology, the way they train, or upgrade their equipment. I will bring my advice and expertise, my Olympic experience and global perspective – my sporting and Olympic experience networking - to see if high performance needs any assistance or support or if we need to invest in.
CN: The Australian Sports Commission's is loaning CA $2 million. There will be a need for accountability for that loan and an updated plan of it use.
NG: I don't know what are [the key performance indicators], but aligned with additional funding they will be measurable outcomes. The ASC is pretty clear about some of their metrics – winning medals at world championships and Olympic Games. One of absolute focus points from a high performance point of view is continuing to make sure our athletes continue to represent this country well … which we have seen.
CN: What are your relations with the UCI or international contacts so far?
NG: I am good friends with [UCI vice president] Tracey Gaudry. We have an Australian in a senior role in the international federation … it's great to have Tracey right up at the pointy end of the decisions. I have met a number of people from the UCI in my Victorian Major Events role. I haven't met [UCI president] Brian Cookson, but I read a lot about him. I can't help but be impressed by what he has done. I will give the international presence the time it deserves, but particularly in the first 12 months – and maybe longer – it's important that we spend a but more energy domestically.
CN: Are you ready to deal with the ever present curve ball of doping in cycling?
NG: I have to. The athletes know exactly what is expected from them. And that standard is being led very strongly by the sport and some of the changes by the AOC that I sit on the board of. There have been mistakes by some people and they have admitted those. There is no excuse in my view. Athletes these days know exactly what is required. I don't see ignorance and I don't see naivety as an excuse in any way. But clearly there have been some issues, but I would think and be pretty confident that the Australian system across all sports – including cycling – is performing in a clean way.
CN: Is there a place for Stuart O'Grady in Australian cycling after his confession to doping before the 1998 Tour de France?
NG: Stuart has been a wonderful contributor to cycling. I would have no hesitation to welcome Stuart back into the fold. In what capacity I don't know … as a friend of the chief executive if that is what is required because he has been a great contributor. He made an error, has admitted that and will live with it for the rest of his life from a reputation point of view. But I am also comfortable giving someone the opportunity to make amends and have a second chance at it. I would welcome it with Stuart.
CN: If he was to call you …
NG: I would take his phone call in a second …
CN: As a rower how did cycling actually help the Oarsome Foursome crew?
NG: Not only were we rowing 35 to 40 hours a week, I was probably punching out another 15 hours on the bike getting to and from training. It gave us a mental break from rowing. We used it as a sense of release. We knew it was giving us the aerobic training – the leg strength and fitness – but we were doing it in a rowing environment.
CN: Now we are getting personal. Going back to the Goulburn Valley fruit television ads. How is your singing these days?
NG: Shocking. We used voiceovers [in the ads] … I was very good at miming. We would have made good rock stars.
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer on The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)