Paulus Wildeboer, the Dutch mastermind behind Denmark’s successful rise to the top of international swimming, has quit as coach for the national team to help prepare Australian swimmers for the Olympic Games in 2016.
“Paulus has been an essential component in Danish elite swimming in the four years he has been with the Danish Swimming Union. He has helped open our eyes to what it takes to be part of the international swimming elite and has satisfied our goals throughout his tenure,” Pia Holmen, the director of the Danish Swimming Federation, said in a press release. “Result-wise, the past four years have been the best in recent times and much of the thanks goes to Paulus Wildeboer.”
Danish swimming has been improving over the past few years and despite a disappointing showing at the London Olympics this summer, swimmers like Jeannette Ottesen Gray, Lotte Friis and Rikke Møller Pedersen have contributed to Denmark’s respected position in international swimming.
The highlight of Wildeboer’s tenure came in December 2011 during the European Championships in Poland when Denmark won 14 medals, five golds, seven silvers and two bronze, a medal haul only surpassed by Germany.
Wildeboer’s decision to leave could weigh heavily on Danish swimming and several of his swimmers were sad to hear the news.
“It’s a surprise, and not a pleasant one,” Rikke Møller Pedersen, winner of two golds in the 2011 European short-course championships, told TV2 Sports. “If I can speak for my own situation, I fear a bit for the future. I’m certain that I’ll continue to be a good swimmer, but it’s sad that a very special that a man, who has taken me so far and helped realise those goals and dreams, has now decided to end the collaboration.”
Wildeboer only just extended his contract earlier this year, but has had a long-winded dispute with the Danish swimming clubs, who he didn’t feel were accepting the direction that he was trying to take the sport in Denmark.
”I definitely think that the dispute has made it easier for him to make his decision. He has had difficulties in reaching the Danish swimming clubs. It’s like he’s been fighting them the whole time,” Jeanette Ottesen Gray, who won a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships, told Sporten.dk. “None of them really listened to him despite all the success he’s brought and his international reputation. Internationally he is well respected for his work in Denmark and I think he’s found it tough that the Danes never understood him.”
Just weeks ago, Wildeboer was urged to leave his position by Thomas Jansson, the president of Farum Svømmeklub, one of the the country's top swimming clubs, who called Wildeboer condescending and criticised his training methods.
“There has been much controversy between Wildeboer and the elite swimming clubs. The coaches haven’t always agreed with his opinions. He has initiated the golden age of Danish swimming and it’s probably because he doesn’t think in a Danish way and I think that’s why he's being asked to move on.” Lotte Friis, a winner of multiple gold medals and a world record, told Sporten.dk. “When we are in the World Cup or Olympics, our opponents don’t think in a Danish manner. They behave in a way that is completely alien to us.”
Wildeboer expects to leave his position at the end of January and plans to move to Australia and take charge of training Swimming Queensland and Australian Swimming as they prepare for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.