Last Wednesday, the news was that one Hetland — Tor Arne — would take his work overseas this summer to coach the Canadian World Cup Team during its training camps and back in Europe this winter.
Three days later, his wife was the subject of a Swiss-Ski press release on May 10. The head coach of the Swiss national team for the last four years (and the only female World Cup head coach at the time), Guri Hetland’s contract was not renewed.
The association explained the decision had to do with “structural adjustments” related to the next Olympic cycle. Tor Arne, Switzerland’s sprint coach from 2010 to 2014, also ended his role with the team in the spring when his contract was not renewed.
According to the press release, recent negotiations with Guri, 39, led Swiss-Ski to determine their respective visions for the program’s direction were too far out of line, leading to the immediate non-extension of her contract, which was up in April.
“I am sorry for the decision, but I respect the fact that Guri Hetland was not to be able to fully identify herself with the proposed role,” Swiss-Ski Sports Director Mark Wolf stated in the translated release. “I am extremely grateful for our cooperation and wish Guri Hetland all the best for the future.”
Wolf told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that the team was split over Hetland: one group wanted her to stay, the other group supported new ideas. Dario Cologna, whom Hetland helped coach to two individual golds at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (despite an injury that led him to miss the first half of the season), was of the second group. Earlier last week, Cologna, a three-time World Cup champion who took home two medals (gold and silver) from the 2013 World Championships, remained fully committed to Ivan Hudáč as the new “group” coach.
Cologna, a 2010 Olympic gold medalist as well, reportedly thanked Hetland for her cooperation since the fall of 2010, but said he was committed to Hudáč, the former trainer of Slovenia’s Petra Majdic, for giving “our team for the next Olympic cycle new training pulses.”
“I had a good time with the Swiss Cross-Country team,” Hetland said in the Swiss press release. “I would be very happy to continue to work with the athletes. It is a big pity that we could not overcome different opinions regarding the new distribution of tasks.”
Wolf wasn’t as delicate to news outlets, telling the Zeitung, “The negotiations with Guri Hetland have ended in disaster. We have not been able to integrate them into a new coaching staff.”
Swiss-Ski reportedly proposed new coaching-staff responsibilities in March. The association suggested Hetland had evolved into more of a team manager than a head coach, and it wanted the latter. Hetland already saw herself as a head coach.
“After the weeklong talks we had the impression that Guri Hetland had not been heart and soul behind the solution,” Wolf said. “In an elite sport, [we cannot] tolerate compromise.”
On Sunday, the team started an endurance camp on the Italian island of Sardinia. While the training schedule was written by Hetland, Hudáč will be the one leading them through it.
Swiss-Ski is now seeking a group manager to work alongside Hudáč, according to the press release. The hire is expected to be made within two weeks, the Zeitung reports. Former B-team coach Albert Manhart will likely become head coach, and although he won’t be present on the World Cup, he will be responsible for long-term planning and training plans.
A “young foreigner” is expected to be hired as the additional coach, but talks remain loose with “several interested parties,” according to the Zeitung.
“We know that our move to the outside world is difficult to convey,” Wolf said.
He added that if Cologna wants to be an Olympic favorite in 2018, his workout regimen needed to change. Wolf described the phone-call negotiations with Hetland as fair and transparent, and Hetland as an “eloquent communicator,” but that it was stressful for both sides.
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