Boyle lances sprinters

by Jim Wilson

March 07, 2008 12:00am

TRACK legend Raelene Boyle has backed Athletics Australia’s hard-line stance towards male sprinters for the Beijing Olympics.

Boyle says none of our men deserve a spot in the individual 100m and 200m in Beijing and has called on veteran sprinter Patrick Johnson to retire.

“I think he’s probably gone a couple of years too long. I like Patrick as a person but his performances are simply not up to scratch, let alone Olympic standard,” Boyle said.

“I think he should call it quits because his performance at the nationals was ordinary and the time has come to step aside.”

Johnson, the national 100m record holder, wants to be given the chance to recover from a hamstring strain suffered at last weekend’s Australian titles in Queensland.

Selectors have told four experienced athletes who were also overlooked for selection - pole vaulters Paul Burgess and Kym Howe, 1500m runner Sarah Jamieson and walker Jane Saville - they would be considered should they return to form following injury.

Johnson’s manager Clive Stephens said today the 35-year-old sprinter wanted to be included in that category.

“All we are asking is give us a chance,” Stephens told ABC radio.

“He has been injured, he is one of the better athletes, give us some time to show a return to form.”

Athletes overlooked for selection have until this afternoon to lodge appeals with Athletics Australia.

Boyle supported the national federation’s decision to also snub Matt Shirvington and embattled star Joshua Ross, who missed last week’s selection trials because of poor form and personal issues.

“I would say his (Shirvington’s) hopes of representing Australia in the individual events at an Olympics are now gone,” Boyle said.

“As far as Josh goes . . .he needs to sort his life out away from the track.”

Boyle says male sprinting stocks are at an all-time low.

But [b]she is hopeful Commonwealth 400m champion John Steffensen - who has won Olympic selection - will use last week’s defeat at the selection trials to turn around his preparations.

“He’s just got to shut his mouth and get on with the job, of making the final in Beijing,” she said.

“He’s extremely talented but hasn’t fired a shot really since winning the gold medal in Melbourne at the Commonwealth Games.”[/b]


Good to see Raelene is still good for some quality quotes!

she’s talking as if OZ has much of a shot at a medal in the 4x1…

shirvo, ect, if they have any shot at sniffing an OG individual final(which shirvo has, should get finally once and for all get his stuff together) should be allowed to run, if they get run out in the semis, so be it.

edit: these guys aren’t from a commie relay program where jingoistic national pride takes precedence over individual achievement. it’s easy for her to discount them taking an individual berth to try to bring home a relay medal, from her observatory position. but by doing so, she over estimates their willingness to be a relay hero at the expense of running the open. no one wants to just be a relay runner if they qualify in the open.

With respect, I doubt there’s anything about the motivation or competitive temperament of sprinters that Raelene Boyle would not know better than anyone on this board. When someone who has really “been there and done that” under all conditions offers her heartfelt views, people should pay attention. Sometimes she shoots from the lip without knowing an athlete’s personal circumstances, but she’s a hard bitch who did it tough from childhood and won medals in the women’s sprints at the height of the East German era. She paid her dues and then some…

i wasn’t questioning her knowledge, experience, or devaluing her opinions on track and field, i was just questioning her party line stance that the relay program is the end all.

she’s acting as if they have a great shot of doing well in the relay(why
else would they deny people open runs at the frickin olympic games?). It’s obvious that they arn’t a medal stand team without someone else dropping a stick. and when the two big guns, at least historically, shirvo and johnson, have expressed a desire to go after the A qualifier, trying to reign them in and make them do just the relay program, like they likely have another games in front of them.

maybe she has loyalty to AA, i don’t know. but she’s supporting a stance(the whole top 16 in the world thing) that effectively denies athletes from pursuing an individual birth. the athletes have expressed much more interest in the individual birth than the relay program, it only makes sense to let them try to get it.

i guess, i just have it made up in my head, that the governing body of a sport should facilitate it’s athletes performing at their highest level(something AA is not doing), and not just dropping them in to try to scrape an unlikely relay medal.

edit: im pretty sure whatever passed for a governing body back during the 80’s never told her: “it looks like you could get 3rd or 4th or so, but we’re gonna make you just do the relay”. same premise with keeping people who qualify out of the games even if they have low medal prospects. it’s not like they will run much worse, if any, if they run the open and go out in the quarters of semis. on the contrary it could bring them to the games in better form because they(johnson and shirvo) have one last gasp at individual success.

The words described by Boyle of both Patrick Johnson (particularly) and Matt Shirvo is in my opinion very insensitive.


Boyle: “has called on veteran sprinter Patrick Johnson to retire.”
"I think he’s probably gone a couple of years too long…“I think he should call it quits because his performance at the nationals was ordinary and the time has come to step aside.”

Particularly these comment made are uncalled for and discriminates the persons performances based on age (or time in the sport). PJ would know best when his time has come and not anybody else including the comments made by historical legions. This is a very ordinary statement from Boyle, particular so, coming from a great australian ambassador and former athlete who would only know the challenges athletes are faced with to be at their best when it counts!:o :o

Maybe it’s because someone like Johnson, in particular, has so rarely if ever been at his best when it counted. Remember 2003 and he ran that 9.9 in a rice paddy in May and when it came to the world championships he was far from that sort of performance.

Is this a problem purely of Pat’s or is it indicative of a much broarder trend in Australian Athletics? Very few Australian athletes (not just sprinters either) are able to back up mid-season performances with major champ performances unless they are given an exemption for the domestic season or are far enough ahead to be able to handle the competition while in training mode (a la Cathy, although she was also granted exemptions at times).

I know for a fact that some high performance event coaches as well as the medical advisors, when asked for their expert opinion in shaping the selection criterior, recommended against such an early selection process as it risked injury and was not conducive to performances at the olympic games. This was ignored.

In the face of such trends and advice it amazes me how such policy remains in place, and that the athletes continue bare the brunt of the blame for the fall of the sport.

Strategically this Olympic Games could spell the death of Athletics in this country. Athletics is only present in the Australian psyche for a couple of weeks twice every four years and to reduce the exposure that it can generate during this period does nothing but hamstring the development of the sport at a time that it has no major sponsor and is on the brink of being down graded by the ASC is incredible.

With regards to the article: No one can deny Reylene’s accomplishments or deride the circumstances underwhich they took place, but that does not make her an expert commentator or even an expert on athletes. With the exeception of crudely constructed asteisms I have never heard raylene support an athlete or defend their position on its merits and her comments are remarkably predictable (which is possibly one reason some people in the media run straight to her). At least in swimming the Dawn Frasers are able present relatively balanced opinions; in athletics the position of “bitter ex-athlete(s)” has become so stereotypical it has even managed to enter popular culture through a particular telco’s commercials poking fun at them.

Why not be critical in a productive supportive way? Raylene has been saying for years that PJ should retire, why not instead make the observation that he has struggled to perform on the world stage (Although a WC semi and final is something I’d still love to achieve!!!) but that she hopes his performances so early on in the season are indicative of a different approach to a major championships or that she hopes he can get over his injuries?

She is correct that no short sprinter has earned a spot on the team, however the subtleties of the situation seem to be lost on her as they are not protesting their non-selection.

Kitkat, The only time our sport makes any headlines is if there is a drug scandle or if the players involved (athletes, ex-athletes and administration alike) choose to air their dirty laundry in public. It is tiresome and it is killing the sport; a new way forward with solidarity, founded on trust and mentorship, as a central theme needs to be established if we are to survive.

Having been appalled to hear her ‘views’ privately in 1982, I’m not surprised by her public comments at all- and it puts them in a more negative light for me. I’ll have nothing more to say on this subject.

Well, apart from the merits of all this, the headline “Boyle Lances Sprinters,” is wonderful. Is that your work, KitKat?

T&F is the only sport that I can think of where a former great athlete would not refrain from coming out like that and still have a chance to become an official of a national federation.

Then don’t wonder why the T&F movement is not where it should be.

Good on you Dazed!!

Rep’d for that.


As for dazed’s commentary, well said, but I would temper the criticism of the national federation by suggesting that the price of freedom is eternal fund-raising.

If the Federations wants to control its own destiny, it must become financially independent.

The Aussie federation is primarily a charity case and the Australian Government is only so generous for so long before it wants results either at the top end (World Championship medals) or at the grass roots as expressed in volume of participants (Sport For All philosophy).

Correct me please if I’m wrong, but I believe the Aussie Fed has just lost their naming rights sponsor - In An Olympic Year!

I would suggest the thinking at AA is that the top Athletes and a (relatively) high standard Competition are the federation’s only “Products”.

The Olympic team will have their own sponsor, because the team “belongs” to the Olympic Committee of whichever country it represents.

So if a national federation like Australia’s wants to “Market” a product they have the limited opportunity of extracting sponsorship money for a national team attending a World Championship - only every second year.

Or they can, separately or in addition, create a Domestic Grand Prix which will be conducted annually, wholly “Owned by the National Athletics Federation” which can be sold to a Sponsor.

But because so few want to participate on a domestic grand prix, the number of head-to-head contests of quality has been poor and interest from the community, sponsors and television has been reflected in that sorry fact.

The only solution, bitter pill that it may be to swallow, is to mandate participation in the domestic grand prix as an integral component of the National Team Selection Criteria.

If anyone can find a better way, speak up.

Now we’re into another pet peeve. Sponsorship ends up in the hands of the group with the least to offer a sponsor- the federation. The federation makes damn sure they beat everyone else to the sponsorship trough and once the federation pisses in the well, there’s no chance for the individuals or clubs who could do the job of promoting via club/sponsor logo exposure which is not possible in national team settings.
Money talks and bullshit walks!
When the athletes are funded, results follow and the federations just has to select from the best, since they have SFA to do with actual results anyway.

Charlie, that’s all well and good for excellent and entrepreneurial coaches like yourself, but such packages are few and very far between. And what happens to every other athlete trying and hopefully making the national team? The NFs perhaps feel an obligation to carry those fringe team members who will never be able to attract sponsorship because they simply hold no appeal in the market place.

Independent operations, such as yours with the Optimists club, can function in tandem or, if needs be, in opposition to, the national federation. This happens in many countries. Australia for instance had the Melbourne Track Club which was built around Cathy Freeman and then Craig Mottram and had independent sponsorship from Nike when the national federation were funded by a rival clothing/footwear company and some Telcom or other.

The two systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive… although the experience is that the NFs often force entrepreneurs into becoming mavericks because the NFs want it all for themselves and will too often try to screw anyone who tries to take even a thin slice of the pie.

Unfortunately, there is direct competition for sponsorship dollars and, despite what you may think, our federation was always dipping into our pockets- to the tune of 1.2 million dollars by their own sworn testimony in 1988. Not one of those dollars ‘found a good home’. if you consider what they did with them.
Individuals and clubs can put a sponsor’s name on a club uniform (in addition to the apparel or shoe deal). this is not possible with National Team uniforms, so the logo exposure- which can be measured by tracking companies for sponsors- is far less.
the creativity of our federation included inducing Adidas to drop all our individual sponsorships after the 1984 Olympics so they could preserve their pitiful sum, despite the fact that every one of my sponsored athletes got an Olympic medal, switching our flight reservations, booked months in advance, so they could travel on our connections, leaving us stuck on their half-assed flight reservations made far too late, and triple billing us on hotel reservations for a meet we’d already ended up loosing 50,000 to get them into in the first place. (think about it- our whole team, including us, was worth 50,000 less than us alone!) Space and time (and irritation) prevents me from going on and on…
Just shows you there’s more than one Boyle that needs lancing out there.

This may be random, but what exactly are the rules of sponsorship logos on athletes? In sports like beach volleyball, you see a lot of athlete with temporary tattoos, promoting companies, and things of that nature. I am somewhat surprised we haven’t seen anything like that in track.

The “product” that AA has to offer is a little more complex than that. As a promotional medium (for sponsors) you mentioned the primary product they have to offer are athletes, I would suggest that it is also an audience and PR. However at the same time athletes represent a customer over whom AA hold a monopoly and the product they offer them is service based management and organisation of the sport. Historically monopoly providers have held their customers to ransom with poor service, high prices and no choice. The athlete also represents the central stake holder, in a commercial enterprise this would be the owner(s) and in the philanthropic and not for profit world the beneficiary.

Looking at the athletes as a product and AA as a promotional medium the issue is the value of the product (or at least how it is percieved) and how that value is best developed.

The closest thing I can think of that is similar are internet portals such as Yahoo! or in a diffent way Google. Each generates revenue through selling advertising on sites that offer free services to to the end user. The more end users there are the greater the advertisers exposure or “impressions” are and advertising space increases in value.
In order to attract the end user however both Google and Yahoo! need to create or buy quality products that offer value to the end user or audience. This requires significant investment, as evidenced in Googles $1.65bn acquisition of Youtube or Yahoo!'s development of Panama not to mention the costs associated with the maintenence and further refinement of current products.

So in order to generate value for the sponsors AA needs to attract an audience by offering them a product of value. This means identifying what the public percieve as valuable and moving towards delivering it; our swimmers demonstrate that this is done on the international championship scene not domestic grand prix’s. Talking to people every day you become aware that Raylene is not the only member of the public who is fed up with great domestic performances that are not followed up at the majors - the public that track and field literate, who can be considered for our purposes as the early adopters, have become dismissive of domestic performance.
This is not to say that domestic competitions can have no value. They are however reliant on the percieved success of athletics as a sport and brand, which can only be generated on the world scene. Australia’s involvement in the last soccer world cup and the subsequent success of the A league, inspite of few socceroos in its ranks, is a prime example of this.

Not only will this attract an audience and sponsorship but it will also keep government money flowing. I think the mistake here is that ASC funding is considered charity; it is not. Governments fund sport for a reason. International sporting success engenders a positive spirit in the community that delivers tangible returns through increased productivity. This is not a pie in the sky theory but a phenomenon that has been observed time and time again and has its roots in community success in battle. Again the sport needs to generate value for this sponsor of the sport (the Aus’ govt’/people).

I would also suggest that the best way to actively devalue your product is to ensure that everytime it enters the public consciousness it is accompanied by negative interaction between the product and the business. This is the responsibility of every one who cares about the sport; AA should not have dragged JS through the mud over selection issues, however he should not have started throwing it in the first place. You don’t hear business bagging out the products they are trying to promote, it would be commercial suicide.

The athlete/product side of the equation has been treated as a cash cow for too long. It was able to be maintained in the lead up to the 2000 Olympics because of the natural public interest that goes along with being host nation, but the same strategies post olympics have turned it into a dog. Athletes (the reason for the organizations existence) have become wary of AA and feel that it is not operating in their best interests. AA are in the position of governance and have greater power to make policy changes that will steer the course the sport will take and as such I think it is up to them to make the first steps to rectify this. As i mentioned in my first post I believe this is best done through taking actions that will encourage trust and mentorship that will lead to the athletes not wanting to berate AA and a situation where mutual trust can exist. I would also add individual empowerment to the list as well as exorcising the notion of charity from the psyche of the sport.

But first of all the sport as a whole needs to remember that a few years ago the IAAF dropped the word amature from its name; it’s time the sport starts acting accordingly.

Its banned and this is a part of the problem that Charlie is talking about with federations (the IAAF being the worst offender) pissing in the well after they’ve drunk from it.