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Elka Graham Saga Continues; Her Coach Is Given the Boot -- July 13, 2003

By Phillip Whitten

SYDNEY, July 13. PITY poor Elka Graham, one of Australia's top medal hopefuls for Barcelona.

First the 21 year-old, ranked third in the world in the 200m free, suffered two fainting spells after practice and was diagnosed with a heart problem. That led to her suspension from the Aussie team competing in Barcelona.

Then she got another medical opinion, which said she was okay. After she and her coach, Brian Sutton, put tremendous pressure on Australian Swimming, she was reinstated.

Now Sutton, 41, who is also the head Aussie men's coach, has been sacked from the Barcelona World Championship team.

Sutton was cut after he failed to join a pre-Barcelona training camp in Sindelfingen, Germany, when expected, team officials said today.

National high performance director Greg Hodge said Sutton was allowed to stay in Australia for two days on compassionate grounds after the team left for Germany a week ago but was sacked from the team when he dedcided to take an extra day without getting appropoval from Australian Swimming.

Hodge said the compassionate grounds had nothing to do with issues surrounding Graham. It is believed Sutton was allowed to stay at home until Tuesday because his wife is ill.

Graham and Sutton left Sydney for Germany on Wednesday, but Hodge said he had already told Sutton he'd been dimissed from the team and his credential withdrawn.

"We're all mates with Brian. He's respected by the athletes. Of course it's difficult. But this is a team," Hodge said. "This is not a bunch of individuals running around the world."

Australian head women's coach Scott Volkers has taken over as head coach of the team in Sutton's absence. Volkers, too, is under a cloud, as he has been accused of sexually abusing a former swimmer some two decades ago.


The following statement was issued tonight by Ian Hanson, media director for Australian Swimming, Inc.:

"Australian Swimming Inc. announced today it has stood down National Head Men’s coach Brian Sutton from its Barcelona World Championship team, for a breach of team by-laws.

"Sutton, 41, applied for permission to join the Telstra Dolphins training camp in Sindelfingen, two days after the 70-strong squad left for Germany on Sunday, July 6.

"This concession, on compassionate grounds, was granted by ASI and Sutton was due to join the team on Tuesday (July 8).

“'When he did not join the team on Tuesday, Australian Swimming had to consider Brian’s position on the team as a head coach and as a personal coach,'” ASI chief executive officer Glenn Tasker said today.

“'We gave Brian the time he requested but expected him to join the team on Tuesday but he failed to make that commitment.

“'Subsequently, Brian’s position on the 2003 World Championship team has been withdrawn.'”

"Australian Swimming head women’s coach Scott Volkers has assumed the role of head coach of the team as it prepares for next week’s 10th FINA World Swimming Championships in Barcelona.

"Sutton travelled to Sindelfingen (where the Telstra Dolphins are in camp until next Wednesday, July 16) independently last Wednesday (July 9) with his freestyle star, Elka Graham, who re-joined the team after receiving a health clearance on Monday.

"The 1996 and 2000 Olympic coach has spent time in Sindelfingen this week working with Graham, alongside National Squad coach Stephan Widmer and under the direction of Volkers.

"Graham will now continue her second World Championship campaign under the watchful eyes of Widmer, Volkers and the Australian Swimming medical team."