SAN DIEGO (AP) — Paul Cayard has resigned as executive director of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team, the latest upheaval for a once-dominant squad that has become an afterthought on the world stage.
Cayard, one of America’s most successful sailors, said Saturday that he couldn’t work under a restructuring of the Olympic team’s management. He said he was told just minutes before a board of directors meeting that he would be asked to focus on fundraising while someone else ran the team.
Cayard leaves less than 1½ years before the Paris Olympics, with the American team mired in an unfathomable slump that started long before he took over in March 2021.
This is the second time in less than two full Olympic cycles that a highly successful sailor has left the position. Cayard was hired in March 2021 to replace Australian Malcolm Page, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who was forced out after less than three years on the job.
The United States has won just one medal in the last three Olympics — a bronze in 2016 — and has been overtaken by Britain on the all-time sailing medals table.
“In March of 2021, I accepted the position as head of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team, with the goal of getting Team USA back on the podium,” Cayard said in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press. “While this was my greatest challenge, I am very proud of my team and what we achieved to date.
“Unfortunately, the current board of US Sailing recently restructured the Olympic Department, including my role as executive director. The new structure is not what I signed up for, nor something I am willing to be part of. I am not a quitter, but I do know when it is time to go. I am grateful to those who supported this mission with me. I wish our USA athletes great success and I always will be there for them.”
Cayard said he raised $18 million since he was hired and was working to restructure the Olympic trials to reduce burdens on American sailors.
In an email to the AP, US Sailing board president Richard Jepsen said Cayard “was offered the ability to continue to support the team by, among other things, providing valuable input into its direction and leading the important fundraising efforts. He declined, and we respect his decision.”
Cayard replaced Page four months before the rescheduled Tokyo Games, when the United States failed to win a medal while watching the well-funded British team win five, including three golds, to surpass the Americans for the most in history, 64.
Americans failed to medal in the 2012 London Games, their first whitewash since 1936. They avoided a second straight shutout in 2016 thanks to Caleb Paine, who won the bronze in the Finn class, but then were blanked again in Tokyo.
The last American to win a sailing gold medal was Anna Tobias, who went by Anna Tunnicliffe when she won it in the 2008 Beijing Games.
When he was hired, Cayard said a turnaround might not happen until the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
However, the Americans do have a solid 2024 medals hopeful in 21-year-old Daniela Moroz of San Francisco, who has won six straight world kiteboarding titles and is a three-time US Sailing Yachtswoman of the Year.
Cayard was an alternate at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, when the Americans won three gold medals and four silvers. He competed in the Star class in Athens in 2004, finishing fifth. He competed in the America's Cup seven times and twice circumnavigated the globe, becoming the first American skipper to win one of sailing’s toughest challenges, the Whitbread Round the World Race, in 1998.
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