Saturday 10 December 2016

Ankrom departs High Performance

Published 07/10/2016 | 02:30

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After a five-year tenure, one of the highest-paid, most divisive figures in Irish athletics is on his way home. Athletics Ireland announced yesterday that Kevin Ankrom, High Performance Director since 2011, will step down from his role at the end of his current contract and return to the USA, WRITES CATHAL DENNEHY.

While the official statement contained many words of glowing praise from his employers, the consensus of those who worked under him - Ireland's elite athletes - was not quite so gushing, with some claiming his policies diverted funds towards young, developing athletes, inevitably leaving several senior figures, many of them proven championship performers, to fend for themselves.

A recurring complaint was Ankrom's communication skills, with even 2016 Olympians noting their lack of contact with the man who was tasked with overseeing their preparations for the Games.

While his role has traditionally been the most poisoned of sporting chalices, there was no denying the issues surrounding Ankrom's selection policies, which saw criteria sometimes amended or ignored in the build-up to championships. In his defence, it may often have been the wrong move for the right reasons.

Ankrom also funnelled money towards developing relays, which came to fruition on several occasions, though team members complained about his selection decisions. However, one area of the sport here that undoubtedly improved during his tenure was coaching.

"The decision to leave has been a difficult one, but I feel it is the right time for me and my young family to return to the USA," said Ankrom. "I enjoyed my time in Ireland and particularly working with some really talented young athletes and coaches. I believe a good system is in place."

John Foley, CEO of Athletics Ireland, reflected positively on his tenure: "I am very satisfied that he has set us on the right course through the systems he initiated."

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IRISH duo Jonathan Caldwell and Niall Kearney are both well placed to reach the second stage of European Tour qualifying school heading into today's final round of the first stage event at Frilford Heath, Oxfordshire.

Caldwell (Clandeboye) was in fine form yesterday, with a four-under-par round of 68 that pushed him up into joint second place on six-under par overall. Scotsman Daniel Kay leads the field on 11-under.

Dubliner Kearney goes into round four tied for fourth and, barring a collapse today, should also reach the second stage.

He carded six birdies and three bogeys during a three-under-par round of 69 which followed up on back-to-back rounds of 71 - leaving him six strokes behind the leader.

David Rawluk (The Island) made the cut but has work to do today if he is to qualify. He signed for a 74 and is tied 39th on five-over par overall - currently four strokes off a qualifying spot. Mark Morrissey is out of contention, as is Brian Kelly, competing at a first-stage event in Italy.

Irish Independent

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