Winning Edge's folly in focus

ALMOST certainly without realising it, two of the most significant women in the Australian Olympic movement have emphasised the folly that is the Australian Sports Commission's Winning Edge program.

Meanwhile, one of the most significant private investors in Australian sport has taken an almighty swipe at the concept - not even thinly veiled.

The Australian Institute of Sport's director, Matt Favier, said that Winning Edge was ruthless, but in response to the attack from the owner of Australia's only pro-continental cycling team, Michael Drapac, he claimed it was compassionately so.

Drapac Pro Cycling has grown - courtesy of its owner's investment, concept and persistence - to the point where it is able to accept an invitation to compete in the 2014 Tour Down Under, starting in Adelaide today.

Drapac requires his riders to mix cycling with study or a profession - and does so in part because he rightly acknowledges that there is much more to be gained from sport than simply winning.

The ASC and AIS, backed by the AOC, have taken an alternative tack - and while each also has athlete welfare programs as part of their support services, the new strategy is unashamedly about winning and high placement on the Olympic medal table.

Such a singular focus has never been a feature of Australian sport during successful or unsuccessful times. It's not needed and it won't work.

If it wasn't for the fact that 2014 is a Commonwealth Games year, the effect of the brave new world would have already been evident.

But so dearly are those Games still held in the hearts of all Australians and their aspiring sporting stars in particular, that the majority are, at least for this year, still motivated and able to realistically pursue their dreams.

The Australian Olympic Team's new chef-de mission, Kitty Chiller, rightly - and we can also be sure genuinely - espoused on Twitter this week that it was inspiring to watch Lleyton Hewitt's true fighting spirit - adding that it's what being an Australian athlete is all about.

Sorry Kitty - but no it's not under Winning Edge, there's no place in that ruthless culture for first-round losers, however good they may have been in the past.

Her colleague, rower Kimberley Crow - world single sculls champion and chair of the AOC's Athletes Commission  - wrote in her usual erudite manner in a newspaper column late last year that the concept of ``winning'' had much to answer for.

Crow was reflecting on a speech from Pope Francis, which had included a comment about ``a significant means of fostering the integral growth of the human person''.

Now that sounds more like the path we have taken in this country until now, albeit expressed in a slightly different manner. 

Obviously no input from the Vatican on Winning Edge.


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