Olympics: Fouhy ends career on sad note

By Michael Brown

Sporting careers don't always finish on the right note but it didn't need to end like this.

Last night (NZT) Ben Fouhy pulled himself out of his boat after failing to reach the final of the K1 1000m and then launched a tirade against the government funding agency for, in his eyes, their lack of support and integrity throughout the latter stages of his career.

It was a sad way for it to end on two levels - sad that a former world champions failed to qualify for the final of the K1 1000m in his last event but also sad because of what he said.

"I'm disillusioned," the 33-year-old said. "I'm f**king disgusted with Sparc. I don't mind them making decisions that you don't like but at least have the courtesy to get on the phone and ring me and tell me. They spent hours and hours talking to me, trying to get me back in the boat. I understand it's not all about Ben. I understand that. I won the world title but spent all my savings and I was $10,000 in debt.

"I tried to do my best and be as honest as I can. A lot of people didn't like that but they didn't seem to mind it when you were winning. When the chips are down and you're not winning, all of a sudden you're a moaner. I'm a moaner who has been training six days a week, three times a day living off $25,000 a year, borrowing money to pay my bloody mortgage for the last year."

He had some valid points, like a lot of athletes, but it wasn't the right time.

He was high on emotion after missing out on a place in the final and the realisation his kayaking career was effectively over. It's a difficult time for all athletes who commit four years of their lives, sometimes more, to a campaign that can be over in as little as 10 seconds.

Fouhy was close to tears as he delivered his message and seemed to almost regret immediately what he had done, saying he probably shouldn't have said some of those things. He later apologised on his personal website saying the failure to progress was too raw but it is clearly how he feels and might also have been a cleansing experience.

The only problem is it will stain a lot of people's memories of him.

Fouhy was a fantastic paddler who won the 2003 world championships, his first attempt at that level, and followed it up with silver at the Athens Olympics and a world record that lasted five years.

But over the past two or three years he has been surrounded by controversy, some of it his own doing.

There was the messy divorce with his former coach Ian Ferguson, which cast canoe sprint racing into an unwanted spotlight, and he quit the sport only to return after being allowed to operate outside Canoe Racing New Zealand's high performance programme. Those issues are clearly still festering and it all came out.

High Performance Sport New Zealand are in a difficult situation. They effectively decide who gets funding and how much, who gets the chance to realistically challenge for a medal and who doesn't.

They have stringent guidelines they abide by because there is only so much in the bucket and there are so many athletes who have legitimate claims for assistance.

They will come under the spotlight at the conclusion of these Games, when decisions are made around funding for the next four-year cycle.

As for Fouhy, he will slip away. He just decided not to go quietly.

- APNZ

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