The Australian Cycling Team’s high-performance director, Simon Jones, has offered a bizarre comment about Alex Porter’s crash in team pursuit qualifying.
“I guess sport is entertainment, hopefully that was entertaining.”
– Simon Jones
High-performance director, Australian Cycling Team
As far as post-race comments go, Simon Jones’ statement after Alex Porter’s crash in qualifying for the team pursuit at the Olympics in Tokyo (above) is about as insensitive as it gets. The injured rider underwent a concussion test before remounting his bike with weeping wounds only minutes after sliding along the boards of the Izu velodrome.
Meanwhile, the high-performance director of the Australian camp was considering what comments he could offer. When he did get the chance to speak with the media, Jones provided another foot-in-mouth moment, one of many during a controversial tenure as high-performance director.
Jones is moving on after the Tokyo Games but before that happens, the hope was that he would rise to the occasion and provide some cycling inspiration at a time when the sport is gaining solid momentum in Australia. Instead, he offers a ludicrous statement – one that may have been intended as a joke – at exactly the time when he needed to show some kind of leadership.
“Hopefully that was entertaining.” What was he thinking?
Did anyone watch Alex Porter hopelessly slipping off his bike with no chance to rescue himself from a devastating crash and think: that was entertaining?
It was brutal. Once the stem broke, it was unavoidable. It was also upsetting. But it was absolutely not entertaining.
A crash is painful, it is humiliating, and it is costly. And yet Jones seems to think he can conjure a one-liner and gloss over the reality of what is happening in Tokyo. At the end of his tenure, after years of fine-tuning all that’s required to achieve the best possible result at the highest level, he’s making a mockery of the position he has held for the last five years.
As CyclingNews reports, he would go on to offer other commentary, and try and explain the situation that had unfolded only moments earlier, but by then his sentiment was already out there.
“Obviously there was a mechanical failure,” he is reported as saying on CyclingNews.com. “We’re not too sure what happened exactly.
“Obviously there was something wrong with the bars,” he continued.
“When you land on your face at 65km/h and you’ve got half an hour to do that again, that’s absolutely amazing.”
Yes, it’s a lot of things. It is amazing. It is also sad and upsetting and painful. But it’s not entertaining.
“You talk about Australian fighting spirit – to get up and go again I’m almost speechless to be honest.”
There was more to his commentary but nothing he says will provide much solace for the riders who have worked tirelessly to race for a little less than four minutes on three occasions over a period of three days this week. They will ride and they will rise, but they were in contention for a gold medal until an equipment failure ruined their prospects.
Simon Jones has been considered a polarising figure in Australian cycling but for that to be the case, there need to be two sides to the discussion: supporters and critics. After five years of regular blunders, it would be hard to find a supporter amongst those who have followed his travails since arriving on the scene.
He has lashed out at the media and others associated with the cycling program regularly throughout his stint as HP director. And each time the hope was that Jones would learn to have a little more grace, some humility perhaps.
We wait to see if the Australian men can compose themselves for the first round later today, when they meet Switzerland and try to qualify for the bronze medal ride on Wednesday. There will be a loud chorus of cheering in front of screens around Australia and many will be urging the riders to prove what we know they’re capable of.
The Aussie pursuit riders are a special breed. They have sacrificed a lot for the sake of being in the best possible shape for the Tokyo Games. Their chance to improve on the silver medals earned in London and Rio is gone but there is a legion of fans who still want to see what they can do with an uninterrupted ride.
Without a crash, it would surely have been entertaining. But what happened on Monday was not fun to watch. The riders will race again and we could even expect a world record from these gifted athletes… but the man who was charged with the responsibility of managing the Australian team should be ashamed of his behaviour and offer an apology to Porter and the others for his dismal attempt at humour.
We want to be entertained and we want to see world-class sport. What we don’t want is a mockery made of a dramatic situation by labelling it something that it isn’t.
– By Rob Arnold