Canadian speedskating boss stepping down

Brian Rahill will leave his post as Speed Skating Canada's high performance and Olympic program director later this month to pursue other interests.

Change is running deep at Speed Skating Canada with the Vancouver Olympics fading in the rear-view mirror, and its newest opening is for a high performance and Olympic program director.

One of the country's most successful winter sport organizations announced Wednesday that Brian Rahill's contract won't be renewed once it expires June 25, and that it is searching for the "perfect candidate" to replace him. 

Whoever that person is, he or she will have big shoes to fill after Rahill oversaw both the long-track and short-track teams that combined to win 10 medals, four of them gold, at the 2010 Games.

Mark Mathies, Speed Skating Canada's national team program manager for the past eight years, will handle Rahill's duties on an interim basis.

"I knew this was a possibility, but I leave with no regrets knowing I gave it my all," a disappointed Rahill said in a brief interview. "I'd love to continue working in amateur sports. I've already put some feelers out." 

The decision on Rahill is the latest sign Speed Skating Canada is intent on working toward the 2014 Olympic in Sochi differently, as it now has four key positions open.

One of many vacancies

Gone from the previous cycle are director general Jean R. Dupre, now the Canadian Olympic Committee's CEO and secretary general, and long-track coach Marcel Lacroix, whose athletes included 1,000-metre women's champion Christine Nesbitt plus Denny Morrison and Lucas Makowsky — both members of the gold-medal winning men's pursuit team.

The long-track program director post has also been vacant since March 2009, when Finn Halvorsen resigned abruptly and in controversy. Rahill took on his duties, as well, in the leadup to Vancouver.

"Brian devoted his energy, passion for our sport and countless hours to ensure that our teams were ready to compete to the best of their abilities in Vancouver," president Marie-Claire Rouleau said in a release. 

While Canada's speedskaters produced more than a third of the country's record total of 26 medals, there was a feeling that the long-track team under-performed at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Among the disappointments were Morrison, who fell apart in both the 1,000 and 1,500 and blasted his coaches and preparation out of frustration before apologizing; and the world record holding women's pursuit team, which lost its first race against the unheralded Americans to finish off the podium.

Much of that was discussed in recent debrief meetings where the conclusion was that the short-track side fared well, while the long-trackers left some medals on the table, said Rahill.

The timing of the announcement doesn't leave Speed Skating Canada much time to get all the new pieces in place. Training for the 2010-11 season is already underway and many of the top people in speedskating found work following the Olympics.