SAN DIEGO (AP) — Two-time gold medalist Malcolm Page is out as chief of Olympic sailing for the U.S. national team less than a year before the Tokyo Games.
U.S. Sailing said in a statement Thursday that it and Page, an Australian, “have agreed to part ways.”
Contacted by phone, US Sailing CEO Jack Gierhart declined to specify why Page apparently was pushed out, saying, “I’m not going to talk about the past. We’re focused on looking forward.”
Asked if Page was fired, Gierhart said: “I’m not going there.”
While guarded in his comments, Page — who personally won more medals for Australia in two Olympics than the entire U.S. team has in the last two games — seemed to indicate it wasn’t his choice to leave.
“I came in with a strong vision and obviously I’m disappointed that I will not be around to see it through,” Page told The Associated Press. “I think there have been some strong developments in this quadrennium and I guess I was excited for the athletes. The potential in this place is huge. I’ve always seen that. All the pieces of the puzzle are here.”
Page said part of his vision “was having a cultural shift. It’s what I would call winning spirit. I’m a big believer that you have to have that fighting spirit, that winning spirit, that desire to keep going. That will to push limits is a big thing. It needs to come from management, from coaching, from everything.”
The move came less than two months after the American team had no podium finishes in two major regattas at the venue for the 2020 Games.
Page was hired in November 2016 to try to turn around the United States’ sagging Olympic fortunes after two straight embarrassing performances. The United States won just one medal, a bronze by San Diego’s Caleb Paine in the Finn class, at the Rio de Janeiro Games. It failed to medal in London in 2012, the first time that happened since 1936.
Page beat out American candidates for the job because he brought “a template” of the success the Australians had in rebuilding their Olympic program, then-US Sailing president Bruce Burton said when Page was hired. The Australians hired top coaches, put together a strategic plan and found the money to compete at a high level.
Page was part of that rebuild, winning gold medals in the 470 class at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. That’s one more medal than the United States won combined in the 2012 and 2016 games.
Page will remain in a transition role through October. Due to his visa status, he and his family will have to return to Australia. They have been living in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2018.
Page’s departure came three days after Greg Fisher resigned as U.S. Sailing’s COO of Olympic sailing.
Paine said he hadn’t heard about Page’s ouster before being contacted by the AP for comment.
“I thought he was doing a great job and was doing everything possible to make the change,” Paine said from Newport, Rhode Island, where he’s training with American Magic, the New York Yacht Club’s America’s Cup team. “I’ll have to look more into this and get my head around this.”
Paine finished 11th in the Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima in late August.
The United States has won the most Olympic sailing medals in history, 60, but the well-funded British team has quickly pulled within one. Plus, the British lead the Americans in gold medals, 28 to 19.
The United States dominated Olympic sailing in the 1980s and early 1990s before Britain, Australia and New Zealand began overtaking it.
Among America’s Olympic gold medalists are the late Lowell North, who founded North Sails; Buddy Melges, who co-skippered the winning sloop in the 1992 America’s Cup; and Mark Reynolds, a San Diego sailmaker and four-time Olympian who won two golds and a silver in the venerable Star class. Another four-time Olympian and three-time medalist, Paul Foerster, capped his Olympic career with a gold in 2004.
Mr. America’s Cup himself, Dennis Conner, won a bronze medal in 1976.
The last American to win a sailing gold medal was Anna Tobias, who went by Anna Tunnicliffe when she won it in the 2008 Beijing Games.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/berniewilson