Nikki Hamblin's coaching saga continues ahead of the London Olympics. She has parted ways with her second coach in a year since the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Hamblin was coached by former middle distance runner Paul Hamblyn until recently but the pair could not agree terms on a sustainable working relationship. Despite efforts by the Herald on Sunday to talk to the pair, it's understood a confidentiality agreement exists.
The 23-year-old runner is renowned for a fiery personality driven by ambition. She is believed to want someone who can dedicate most of next year to focusing on her Olympic campaign. Hamblyn could not guarantee that because he also wanted to spend time with his wife and baby. A friend of Hamblin's, Kyle Barnes, is a possible replacement. He is a Ph.D scholar doing his thesis on "running efficiency".
It has created a tricky situation for Athletics New Zealand's high performance manager Scott Goodman, who has been in the job three months: "Paul is a top young coach who we want to develop but we also need to put a structure in place around Nikki for next year. They met last Friday to try to resolve things but you can't force someone to be coached by someone.
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"The downside for Hamblin is that she is now ineligible for Sparc's Performance Enhancement Grants because she finished outside the top 16 at the world championships. However, she remains a carded athlete, which means she gets access to sports providers like physiotherapists. We are reviewing our athlete programmes for 2012 over the next six to eight weeks. It's fair to say Nikki's review will take longer than most."
The news follows Hamblin's turbulent stint with previous coach Chris Pilone which was finally severed in January. Pilone once described Hamblin as "unbelievably talented" but the relationship failed to survive a series of fallouts. They were together four years but Pilone only started coaching her full-time when previous coach Nick Nicholson died in 2009. Pilone is known as an uncompromising taskmaster but the consensus is he gets results, as Hamish Carter could attest with his Athens Olympics triathlon gold.
Following Hamblin's double silver medal success at Delhi, Pilone said: "She'll clonk me because I have said she is difficult to coach but it is important not to be judgmental of her."
Hamblin lingered in the background. She half-joked she was "just checking what he is saying".
The Hamblin-Hamblyn breakdown completes a largely wretched season which promised much. She broke her New Zealand 1500m record, running 4m 04.82s at Barcelona on July 22 which eased her inside the Olympic A qualifying mark of 4m 06s. That time ranks her 35th in the world this year but while a number of athletes are faster (for example, from east Africa), many will miss Olympic selection. Just three athletes per country can qualify for the Olympics.
Since setting her record 1500m time, disaster has pervaded. Hamblin fell 50m from the finish trying to get into the top six of her 1500m heat at the world championships in South Korea last month. She was in sixth - which would have guaranteed a semifinal - but fell after catching the heels of a runner in front. A protest was dismissed.
Her 800m fared little better. Hamblin's 2011 best time of 2m 02.87s at the worlds saw her finish fifth in her heat. The top four progressed automatically to the semifinals. She was overwhelmed in the last 10m by two fast finishers and was some way from her 1m 59.66s best set at Split in 2010.