By Stephen J Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, June 15. IT would appear that Gennadi Touretski, the brilliant, but sometimes unpredictable Russian-born coach, may well have presided over his last session at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport).
Last Thursday morning with just one swimmer, Olympic 200 backstroker Clementine Stoney, under his charge, he left the pool where he has coached his famous charge Alex Popov and Australian champions Michael Klim, Matt Dunn, Nicole Livingston (Stevenson) and Sarah Ryan since he transferred allegiances from Mother Russia in 1993.
Soon after lunch it was announced by Australian Sports Commission chief executive Mark Peters that the commission and the AIS believed Touretski was currently unable to perform his services as required by the terms of his engagement and was suspended on full pay pending a medical examination.
The suspension came about following Touretski’s return from Europe last Friday having attending two legs of the Mare Nostrum series. It is alleged was he was harassing other passengers during the flight and had spilled coffee over a flight attendant trying to settle him. It has been suggested he was intoxicated on the flight, although Touretski has asserted to AIS officials that he had reacted badly at altitude to blood pressure tablets he is required to take. In addition, he is also facing possible Federal Police charges relating to his actions on the flight from Singapore.
It could hardly be considered a successful trip for the 52-year-old Touretski, after privately paying to attend the Monaco and Rome legs of the Mare Nostrum. He had traveled separately from the AIS team because they had decided that only one coach, Barry Prime, was required to manage a small team of five, which included the only two swimmers that normally train under Touretski – backstrokers Ray Hass and Clementine Stoney. He would have been left in Canberra twiddling his thumbs had he not made the journey. In particular, he told SwimInfo, he was concerned about watching Stoney compete in her first major meet since switching to him some eight weeks ago.
The day prior to competition in Monaco, Hass was involved in an unfortunate accident, breaking his elbow after a fall from a motor scooter, and was immediately flown home for surgery. One could surmise that the injury must have taken some of the wind out of Touretski's sails given it was the qualifying performance of Hass at the Australian Nationals that had put Touretski back on the team for the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs.
This was the second alleged airplane incident involving the mercurial Russian coach. In 1995, while flying from Sydney to L.A. for the Pan Pacific Championships, which were held in Atlanta, he allegedly attacked a flight attendant. The plane made an unscheduled stop in Honolulu, where Touretski was arrested and served a brief jail term. — Ed.)
Touretski was philosophical when he spoke exclusively to Swiminfo today: "I have done some good things and some bad things in my time here (AIS), he said." He said he felt that there was little chance that he would be given the opportunity to continue coaching at the AIS and it was just a matter of time before he received his marching orders.
Of immediate concern to Touretski was to ensure that his one healthy swimmer, 200-backstroker Clementine Stoney, would have good continuity leading up to the Commonwealth Games in just six weeks. After discussions with Australian head coach Greg Hodge and AIS head coach Mark Regan, it was decided she would train under newly appointed coach Pierre La Fontaine
La Fontaine, a Canadian, joined the AIS coaching staff two months ago, leaving the Phoenix Swim Club in the US, where he developed several world-class swimmers, incluing Olympic silver and bronze medalist, Klete Keller.