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'Shocked' Van Hoof Mulls Options After Dismissal from British Gymnastics
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Five months after he was suspended by British Gymnastics, former men's coach Eddie Van Hoof says he may go to court after he was fired last week by the federation over what it calls "irreconcilable differences." Pictured: Eddie Van Hoof and Nile Wilson following his bronze medal-winning performance on high bar at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Five months after he was suspended by British Gymnastics, former men's coach Eddie Van Hoof says he may go to court after he was fired last week by the federation over what it calls "irreconcilable differences."

The technical director of the British men's program since 2005, Van Hoof was suspended on November 29 amid allegations of misconduct. However, British Gymnastics never detailed the allegations against Van Hoof and did not cite any misconduct by Van Hoof in its public statement concerning his dismissal on Thursday.

British Gymnastics said in a statement that "the situation had become untenable."

"It became clear that there are irreconcilable differences between Eddie and British Gymnastics regarding the leadership, conduct and culture of elite coaching for our sport," the federation said.

According to The Guardian, Van Hoof stated that British Gymnastics told him he was being terminated because of insubordination toward British Gymnastics Performance Director James Thomas, "bullying" against an unspecified employee and "combative language or behavior" toward unspecified gymnasts. Van Hoof, 61, said he believes the real reason for his dismissal was because of his stance during the athlete contract dispute last year.

Van Hoof has been credited as the architect of the British men's phenomenal success over the past 10 years. Since 2009, only the Japanese and Chinese men have won more medals than the British men at the Olympic Games and world championships, and the British men amassed more medals overall at the past two Olympics with eight, compared with six each for China and Japan. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 New Year Honors for his contribution to the sport of gymnastics.

"The news of my dismissal is unexpected, undeserved and comes as a crushing blow after so many years of unwavering dedication," Van Hoof said.

Eddie Van Hoof at the 2016 Olympics

In a statement, British Gymnastics thanked Van Hoof for his contributions and wished him future success.

"It was best for all sides to bring matters to a close," British Gymnastics said.

However, the matter may not be over for Van Hoof, who told The Daily Telegraph he is weighing his legal options. He said in a statement that he was "shocked and dismayed" by his dismissal. British Gymnastics appointed a barrister to conduct the investigation into allegations against him, but according to Van Hoof, he was never allowed to see the report except for a brief summary.

Van Hoof said he believes the true reason he was dismissed was that he sided with the athletes against British Gymnastics during last year's contract dispute. He denies any allegations of misconduct, which he said were raised only after the issue with the contracts began.

"The concerns began to surface last August," Van Hoof stated, "shortly after I raised objections to the new world-class performance athlete agreements, which have rightly been a cause of widespread concern for leaving our leading British athletes open to exploitation. I stand by my support of our athletes on the issue of contracts, and I stand by my own conduct and professionalism during my time with British Gymnastics."

The national team members are required to sign the World Class Performance Programme contracts in order to receive funding from UK Sport, but many held out, including double Olympic champion Max Whitlock and the rest of the 2016 men's Olympic team. In August, the gymnasts were warned they had 72 hours to sign the contracts or risk having their funding cutoff. But the holdout continued as parents and agents expressed concern that the gymnasts were left open to financial exploitation by the federation by the "Individual Athlete Plan" portion of the contract. British Gymnastics was accused of wanting too much control over the athletes and not providing financial transparency. After multiple missed deadlines and continued negotiations, the majority of the contracts were reportedly signed in late December.

"My main concern about the agreements was the way in which they were presented to athletes," Van Hoof told The Guardian. "There was a widespread expectation that athletes would simply sign the new contracts without question. However, the athletes had received very little explanation about the content and the heavy legal terminology caused confusion about the meaning and implications of the agreements. After a long and unblemished career, I believe it may be more than a coincidence that a disciplinary process commenced so soon after I raised concerns around management issues at British Gymnastics, including the handling of the contracts."

Van Hoof told the newspaper that he cooperated fully with the investigation, giving hours of interviews with the independent investigator, but he was not given details of specific accusations against him.

"These allegations are basic outlines," Van Hoof said. "There is no clear detail or supporting examples, which make them hard to examine or challenge. Nonetheless, these accusations in no way match my own recollection of my behavior or my contribution to British Gymnastics over the last decade."

According to a spokesman for British Gymnastics, the governing body denied that its decision to suspend and investigate Van Hoof was in any way related to the issue with contracts, but did indicate his stance on the issue contributed to his dismissal.

"It is inaccurate to suggest that Eddie's suspension or the investigation were a reaction to Eddie objecting to the World Class Performance Athlete Agreements," the spokesman said. "However, his comments in relation to the agreements are a reflection of some of the irreconcilable differences between Eddie and British Gymnastics that resulted in his dismissal. British Gymnastics would not support a contract that exploits its athletes."

Born August 22, 1956, in Stainforth, South Yorkshire, Van Hoof was a member of the British national team from the late 1970s to 1985. He began the sport at around 12 years old at Stopsley High School in Luton, Bedfordshire, where he later trained at the Luton Gymnastics Club. He later studied physical education at Borough Road College in London, continuing his training at the famed Hendon Gymnastics Club. He competed at three consecutive world championships from 1979 to 1983 and competed at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where the British men finished ninth. He retired the following year to begin his national coaching career.

Van Hoof was the personal coach of Neil Thomas, the first British gymnast of the modern era to win medals at major international competitions. Van Hoof coached Thomas to Britain's first European championships medal, a bronze on vault in 1990. At the same competition, Thomas also debuted the element he developed with Van Hoof, a double-twisting layout front on floor exercise, known as the Thomas in the Code of Points.

From 1908 to 2008, the British men had won just three medals on the world stage: a silver in the all-around from Walter Tysall at the 1908 Olympic Games in London and silver medals on floor exercise from Thomas at the 1993 and 1994 World Championships. Great Britain was only 15th as a team at the 2007 World Championships, failing to send a full team to the Olympics in Beijing, where Louis Smith won the bronze medal on pommel horse.

Since Dan Keatings all-around silver medal at the 2009 Worlds, however, the British men have been a dominant force in the sport, amassing 12 world championship medals and eight Olympic medals. Only the Japanese men (40 medals) and Chinese (39 medals) have been more successful. Over the past 20 years, several programs have suddenly begun to produce individual stars, such as Brazil and the Netherlands, only the British men have become an actual powerhouse, demonstrated by winning team and all-around medals at both the world and Olympic Games.

Notably, Great Britain's eight medals (two golds, two silvers and four bronzes) won in London (three) and in Rio (five) are more than the Chinese men or Japanese men, who won six medals each across both Olympics. Great Britain has surpassed traditional powers including the United States, which has won 17 medals (13 world and four Olympic), Russia with 16 (10 world and six Olympic) and Germany (six world and 10 Olympic) from 2009-2017.

Additonally, since 2008, the British men have taken the team and all-around titles at every Junior European Championships, winning five consecutive occasions. Giarnni Regini-Moran was the star of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, winning three golds and two bronzes. The British men's ability to develop so many talented juniors who easily move into the senior ranks has been a major factor in the team's success, foreign experts have noted.

Following Great Britain's record performance for men and women at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, UK Sports' Director of Performance Simon Timson credited Van Hoof and women's coach Amanda Reddin for creating a "clearly-defined technical curriculum" to help coaches train gymnasts to reach the international level. The thousands of coaches who had been trained according to the standard was a factor to UK Sport naming British Gymnastics its national governing body of the year in 2015.

In addition to his MBE, the Shropshire-based Van Hoof was given double honors as UK Coach of the Year and High-Performance Coach of the Year at the 2016 UK Sport Awards, presented by Princess Anne. In 1992, Van Hoof was recognized by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) with the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy, only the second gymnast to be awarded the honor following Czech legend Věra Čáslavská in 1989.

He is married to prominent Canadian coach Carol-Angela Orchard (whose protégées include Olympians Monica Covacci, Luisa Portocarrero, Michelle Conway, and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, as well as current UCLA star Peng-Peng Lee), who relocated to Great Britain following the 2008 Olympic Games.

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