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New British Cycling performance chief pledges swift progress

By Alexander Smith

By Alexander Smith

LONDON (Reuters) - British Cycling's incoming performance director promised rapid action in areas including leadership and governance on Wednesday, but said the body did not require wholesale change.

Stephen Park, who steps down as manager of Britain's successful Olympic sailing team after one final regatta next week, said he will take on board lessons from both external and internal reviews, but the overall program was not broken.

British Cycling said earlier this month its gold-at-all-costs approach will be softened after allegations of a bullying and sexist culture. It admitted to "failures" in its World Class Programme, which delivered unprecedented medal success at the last three Olympic Games.

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A turbulent year has also seen British Cycling at the center of an ongoing UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation into "allegations of wrongdoing in the sport." It has denied any doping violations.

Park said he is committed to change, but also wants to preserve the strengths of the team's program.

"It's not that I'm going into something that is struggling at every step and needs wholesale change across every area. There is some work that needs to be done in terms of leadership, in terms of governance, in terms of alignment and of course we need to make some pretty quick progress in some of those areas," Park told Reuters by telephone.

"It's not like the cycling program is broken. They have just come back from the Rio Olympic Games having won an incredible number of medals," said Park, who is known as "Sparky" by sailors such as Ben Ainslie, who thrived during the 49-year-old's time in charge of Britain's sailing program.

His first experience of cycling's set-up will be at the world track championships in Hong Kong next month.

"The biggest challenge in the short term is just going to be having a good understanding of all the technical aspects of the sport," the Scot said of his new role, adding that the aim was to get everyone operating in a way that "they can be proud of and the nation can be proud of".

SAILING YARDSTICK

Park's last event with the RYA British Sailing Team after 15 years in charge will be in Mallorca next week where hopefuls for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 will be competing.

While he counts the 2008 Beijing Games, when Britain's sailors won their best gold medal haul, as the team's biggest single achievement, he is confident a strong development program will ensure it carries its success in Rio last year to Tokyo and beyond.

"I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to lead a great group of coaches and support staff and sailors who together have created what I consider to be one of the world's best sports teams," Park said.

It is now "the yardstick by which all other Olympic sailing teams measure themselves", he said, adding that while clear goals and measurable programs were critical, "a healthy dose of passion, commitment and hard work" were also key.

(Editing by Toby Davis)