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Following a tumultuous season filled with controversy, the British governing body of cycling, British Cycling, is looking for a new head of their performance programme and, for the first time ever, it could very well be a woman.
In the run-up to the Rio Olympics this year British Cycling, experienced a turbulent spring that included everything from allegations of sexism and bullying to unethical medical practice and mistreatment of paracyclists.
Technical Director Shane Sutton was at the centre of that controversy, which began when the sprinter Jess Varnish was dropped by British Cycling and spoke out against what she said was unfair treatment by Sutton. Other female riders came forward in support of Varnish, and claims that Sutton had been derogatory towards paracyclists also emerged.
Sutton subsequently resigned from his role within the federation, and Andy Harrison temporarily stepped in to lead Team GB in their final push for the Rio Olympics.
Investigations regarding Sutton’s conduct are still ongoing but hoping to put this rocky year behind them, British Cycling has launched a search for a new performance director, and The Times reports that retired British cyclist Sara Symington has emerged as a possible candidate.
Symington was a successful road and track cyclist who, since retiring from professional sports, has held senior positions in the sports of archery and netball. Her candidacy is backed by various people in the sport, including former rider Chris Boardman who sees Symington potential appointment as a chance to boost female representation.
Symington’s athletic background is a diverse one, spanning from a stint as junior national Javelin thrower to professional triathlon and cycling. As a professional cyclist, Symington was the first British female rider to take a medal in a World Cup race in 1999. She represented Great Britain at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics and rode at various UCI road and track world championships.
Off the bike, Symington has worked as a police officer and in business. Falling back on her sports science degree and experience as an athlete, Symington returned to the world of sport as a performance adviser for UK Sport. The latter led to the appointment of performance director of Archery GB and later England Netball, a position she currently holds.