Athletics Australia paid Sergey Kucheryanu between $50,000 and $100,000 only for him to ditch Australia to represent his home country Russia.
AUSTRALIAN sports authorities have spent thousands of dollars preparing a pole vaulter who will represent Russia against our own defending champion Steve Hooker at the London Olympics.
None of the bodies involved in bringing Sergey Kucheryanu, his wife and child to Australia and supporting them for seven months at the West Australian Institute of Sport was willing to put a figure on the cost, but estimates vary from $50,000 to $100,000 in cash and kind on what turned out to be a misadventure.
Athletics Australia’s highly controversial high performance manager Eric Hollingsworth, who referred to Kucheryanu as “my pole vaulter”, was prime supporter of the plan to buy a world-class vaulter rather than invest the money in developing local talent.
Kucheryanu arrived in Perth in December 2010 and stayed until June 2011 according to the man who coached him here, Alex Parnov.
“Sergey join group for few month. He came with wife and a daughter but moved back to Russia for the family reason,” Parnov said. “WAIS gave him full support while he stayed in Oz.”
There had always been doubt over whether Kucheryanu’s citizenship would come through in time for him to represent Australia at the London Olympics, but when the International Association of Athletics Federations toughened the change of allegiance process so that it became clear he would have to wait until 2016 in Rio to compete at the Olympics, he fled back to Russia.
Last weekend Kucheryanu won the pole vault at the Russian selection trials in Moscow and he has been named in their Olympic team.
Athletics Australia board member and spokesman Matthew Mahon told said: “I’m told we put no money into him (Kucheryanu) at all. We don’t fund any athlete who is ineligible to compete for Australia. He was not on a full scholarship at WAIS.”
No comment was available from WAIS on Wednesday.
There are plenty of reasons why supporting Kucheryanu seemed to make sense, notably that he would provide Hooker with an international calibre training partner.
But the arrival of the Russian led to another coach falling out with Hollingsworth, two-time Olympian and 1982 Commonwealth gold medallist Ray Boyd.
Boyd, whose Olympian daughter Alana is the new Australian pole vault record-holder with her own medal hopes for London, was already angry with Hollingsworth for leaving Victorian Blake Lucas out of the Australian team to compete at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
“I told Eric you’re paying lip-service to local development and you’re taking a vaulter off the shelf instead,” Boyd said.
By Mike Hurst