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Long time Athletics Canada (AC) employee, Mathieu Gentès, was announced on Thursday, May 19 as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of the organization.

Gentès had served as interim-CEO after the departure of David Bedford earlier this year. Bedford replaced Rob Guy in 2020. Gentès started in 2005 in marketing and moved into the COO position before covering for the departing Bedford.

Asked how he feels about the appointment Gentès told Athletics Illustrated on Friday, “first and foremost, I’m honoured and excited to take on this challenge. I’ve been with the organization in various capacities since October 2005. I do think that gives me a unique perspective on understanding our organization, our members, our history, and what that means for the path forward.”

“Mat brings a breadth of knowledge from his years with the organization to his role as CEO, said Chair of Athletics Canada Board of Directors Helen Manning. “The board is excited to partner with him and our senior leadership in the path forward to Paris 2024 and beyond.”

Canadians may be curious of pending changes to the organization, if any. Asked if there are plans to execute fundamental change Gentès said, “I don’t see any fundamental changes in the short term.”

“The organization’s strategic plan to 2028 was finalized with our members not that long ago (2020). Of course, then the pandemic hit so we do have some rebuilding to do to get us back to where we were, especially on the revenue side. Revenues are a priority. I have some ideas on how we can see growth. Ultimately, to reach our strategic objectives we need to make further investments, especially on the grassroots, development, and participation side of things. Those are priorities. The changes I would like to see are investments in those areas, those investments require additional resources, people and financial.  Another important step is working with our provincial branch members to clarify roles and responsibilities within the plan. We need to clearly outline areas of responsibility. The strategic plan is not just an Athletics Canada strategic plan, it’s an athletics in Canada plan, that includes our members. Will we find gaps, likely, once we identify them we will need to work together to address them.”

Gentès led negotiations and closed two of the biggest national partnerships in Athletics Canada’s history with Hershey and Nike. He also played a central role in developing the Canadian Track and Field Championships and Trials into the financial and sporting success it is today, culminating in Bell’s naming rights partnership through 2024. 

The National Track Tour was resurrected for 2022. The previous version, the National Track League, did not have the financial legs to make a go of it. Several of the same meets are participating, plus there are new ones including the first meet of the series the Pacific Distance Carnival that happened one week ago. The meet has borrowed from the inspiration created by the very successful Night of 10,000m PBs, which takes place in London, UK. For the series, the long-running Victoria Track Classic has also been resurrected. Full Tour schedule can be found here>>

The plan to 2028

He developed and launched the Athleticscanada.tv digital platform so that fans can watch Canadians compete across the country. Gentès launched Athletics Canada’s merchandise program in 2014 which has grown to become a major revenue stream, according to Athletics Canada. 

At the end of the day, perhaps parachuting in CEOs isn’t the best direction and that hiring from within — when possible — means that the organization has on-staff someone who is intimate with the nuances of the organization.

The outline of the plan to 2028 speaks to the grassroots and fundamental pieces needed to develop the sport from the bottom up.

For example, the plan speaks to increasing the number of athletes qualified to enter the Canadian Athletics Performance Pathway (CAPP) year-on-year. As well as developing more certified coaches, officials and high-level competitions, hence the Tour.

Among many other goals, the plan to 2028 lists equity, better media communication, increasing revenues independent of taxpayer dollars, and addressing safe sport issues.

Canada has had some issues over the past few years with coaches who have crossed ethical lines locally, at educational institutions and at the national level.

The plan not only lists revenues, membership and developing coaches and officials, but also speaks to every sector: ‘Track & Field,
Road Running, Cross Country, Trail Running, Mountain Running and Ultra Running.’

Both ends of participation and competition needs to be fed, therefore AC plans for increased membership and participation at the grassroots level, in school athletics and masters athletics. With enthusiasm and some tenure, perhaps the changes at AC will take place in the indicated growth at all levels; it will take energy and momentum.

“To get back to the heart of your question, I’m excited and I’m energized,” added Gentès. “I’m not sure the organization or the sport has ever been in a better place on or off the field of play.”

The outline of the plan can be found here>>