Mike Pederson has been released from his duties as the National Coach for the US Women’s Foil Squad, USA Fencing confirmed this week.
Earlier this week posts appeared within Fencing.Net’s forums discussing the removal of Pederson as Women’s Foil coach. The email released in the forum, which was from USA Fencing’s High Performance Director, Jim Page,
The text of the email (as posted to Fencing.Net):
“I wanted to let you all know that we have decided not to continue Mike Pederson’s contract as National Coach for Women’s Foil.
Mike has put his heart and soul into the development of Foil Fencing in the US and into trying to develop a strong Women’s Foil Program. But it is apparent that those of you who are the top athletes in the program are relying more on your personal coaches for building your plans, developing your technical skills and for support in competition. It is also apparent to us here at US Fencing that we were not going to be able to build a strong Women’s Foil Team for London and Rio with the current structure and leadership.
We do not plan to name another National Coach for Women’s Foil, rather we are looking at a structure based around a weapon’s coordinator and more reliance on and support for your personal coaches. We are going to figure all this out by the end of the first week of January and will get back to you with more information on the program direction at that point. We of course would welcome any ideas you have on how the program can be organized more effectively to support and involve all of you.
For those who were planning on coming to Colorado Springs next week for the testing camp, I apologize for calling that off. We believe strongly in the kinds of support the USOC is looking to provide for us. We will look for a time during the winter when we can reschedule the testing and plan for their involvement with and support for all of you.
We know the timing of this move is difficult. There is very little time left before the qualification for London begins. But we also know you are training hard and preparing well for the year and that our task is to find a way to add value to that process. We will work hard to do that. Thanks for your understanding and support!”
Other coaches of high level athletes declined to comment on the matter, citing their relationships with the national office and concerns over their fencers. The USA Fencing national office declined additional comment on the firing citing employment confidentiality concerns.
No other programs were affected by this change.
What stands out in this email is the lack of confidence in the Women’s Foil squad of performing at the 2012 or 2016 Olympic Games. Whether the removal of a formal National Coach works for or against the women’s foilists will remain to be seen.
The US Women’s Foil squad finished 8th at the 2010 World Championships in Paris and is ranked 6th in the world. As of today, they hold the inside track for qualification to the 2012 Olympic Games being well ahead of regional rivals Venezuela and Canada. The top US women finished 27th (Lee Kiefer), 28th (Nicole Ross), and 32nd (Nzingha Prescod) in the individual event.
The forum thread linked to earlier in the article contains a pretty good discussion of the nature of a National Coach within other programs (such as Russia or Italy) and the disadvantages to those types of programs in a nation like the United States where the fencing is more fragmented in terms of location.