Tabbing Merklinger to replace Baumann at OTP is right call
Merklinger, director of summer sports for OTP, was part of an interim committee holding down the post with Ken Read, director of winter sport, and Joanne Mortimore, director of planning and operations.
Consider this a smart move by OTP because Merklinger is truly respected for her leadership and passion in the Canadian sports community and she’s a very astute manager.
She gets it. She knows what’s required. She’s been there as an athlete, a swimmer and a curler, but even more importantly as an administrator. She did a great job in running Canoe Kayak Canada and two of her biggest supporters were a pair of Canadian Olympic flagbearers in Caroline Brunet and Adam van Koeverden, who don’t suffer fools but had all the respect in the world for Merklinger.
Brunet was thrilled yesterday at the news of Merklinger’s hire.
“She deserves it,” said Brunet. “She’s a very hard worker, very professional. I know those are typical words to use to describe someone, but she’s very mature, she would never bad mouth people. She was always a reference for me.
“If you want to know something is for sure, you ask Anne. If she doesn’t know, she won’t bulls—t you, she’ll find out. She has all the right qualities. I’m glad she was around when I was around. I really like her not only for what she did in the job, but as a person.”
If you think that's impressive, here's what van Koeverden had to say:
“Too many executives aren’t good at following through and executing and having good ideas and putting the right people in place to do the jobs that need doing," said the Olympic champion. 'And that’s what Anne’s really good at. She hires the right people and she recognizes talent when she sees it and she gets the job done.
“She’s just a powerful person. She’s smart and motivated and she works harder than anybody I know, including any of the athletes I know. She’s among the hardest working people I know. I have no more faith in any other individual in Canada than I do in Anne Merklinger. I think it’s very, very good for the future of Canadian sport.”
They could have named Merklinger as Baumann’s replacement right after he left for New Zealand for personal reason – and some thought that was the way to go – but kudos to OTP chairman John Furlong and his group for executing a global search before making their decision.
It was the wise move to see if there was a real catch to be had, perhaps someone even of Baumann’s ilk, but obviously that was not to be.
The fear from this corner was that they would hire a big name just for the sake of having one, but that it wouldn’t be the right fit for Canadian sport.
Merklinger is the right fit.
“I’m not an Alex Baumann, I didn’t win two Olympic gold medals and set world records, but I’m fully committed to winning,” said Merklinger in an interview. “I’ve been committed to winning ever since I can remember as an athlete. As director of summer sports, that was my approach and it will continue in my new role as ceo.”
A Canadian sports official told me recently he thought that Merklinger was the perfect choice to take over for Baumann, but he had one major concern.
“We don’t want to lose her as director of summer sports because she’s doing such a great job.”
There’s the rub for sure. Top find leadership talent is pretty scarce in the Canadian sports system.
Furlong and his board were probably looking at that as well in not plucking Merklinger right away. They didn’t want to lose her from a job she’s been doing so well.
Some have wondered if Baumann’s absence would affect the team’s performance in London. It shouldn’t. The athletes who are in medal contention and their coaches are so focused on getting the job done that they won’t be concerned over such a change. Baumann is a big loss, though, because he was a great leader with very little ego.
How many can say that?
Merklinger is cut from similar cloth and will serve Canada’s athletes very well in her new role. Even without those Olympic gold medals.