Gossip in the Swiss national speed skating squad.
Nicholas HorniRingier journalism student
Not much was missing twice: In 2018, speed skater Livio Wenger (30) in South Korea missed an Olympic medal by just one place, and in 2022 there was another top place at the Beijing Games with 7th place. The Lucerne native is now one of the best in the world.
An amazing rise – after all, speed skating is an absolute marginal sport in this country. This is not least thanks to coach Kalon Dobbin (45).
When Wenger was just seven years old, he trained on inline skates for the first time under the New Zealander. They worked together for years until they hit the ice in 2016. In 2018, the two made it to the games in Pyeongchang, after which Dobbin even took over as coach of the Swiss national speed skating team. Since then it’s been going up steeply. Behind figurehead Wenger, other Swiss are now running in the slipstream of the top stars.
“I was pretty shocked”
But last summer there was a bang. Dobbin’s contract will not be renewed with the association. The reason: he lacks the necessary diplomas. Completely incomprehensible, says Dobbin: “I was pretty shocked. Although I was told that I need diplomas, how to get them, but never.” He was even given a false sense of security. “At the Olympic Games (shortly before Dobbin’s contract expired, ed.) I was told by Swiss Olympic officials that the whole thing was not that urgent. And there is no such thing as training in English in Switzerland.»
The allegations are fierce. Swiss Olympic reacts soberly: “Numerous discussions take place at the Olympic Games, so a year later it is difficult to find out what was discussed. What is binding is what is recorded in writing or what is in the service agreements, »said Swiss Olympic media manager Alexander Wäfler. However, a trainer without diplomas would have been accepted – only the funding to the association would have been smaller as a result.
“The association is sitting in a gold mine”
Dobbin himself is still angry months after the end of the contract: “You didn’t bother to solve the problem. The association sits in a gold mine, gets money for the results of the athletes I’ve coached and doesn’t have to do anything or pay for it.”
Hard words. The language barrier is definitely a challenge when acquiring the diplomas, says Jan Caflisch, Vice President of Swiss Ice Skating. But the Dobbins initiative is also missing. “It’s not enough to just wait for others to do everything for you. He has been living in German-speaking countries for years. He could just take his nose and learn the language, »says Caflisch. Although it is “unfortunate that we cannot hire him at the moment”, the association has always made it clear that the necessary courses must be completed within a specified period.
disillusionment among the athletes
The tense relationship between Dobbin and the association has meanwhile also spilled over into the athletes’ camp. The runners who continue to train with the New Zealander – but now in Inzell, Germany – are unhappy. “With the services that we have provided in recent years, the termination of the contract is difficult to accept,” says speed skater Kaitlyn McGregor about the trainer posse. Star athlete Wenger is also very disillusioned: “It’s a shame. We built something great with him. Now it’s time to look ahead.”
Despite hardened fronts, Dobbin would not rule out a return as national coach. “If he has the right qualifications, my doors are open to him,” agrees Jan Caflisch. So there is still hope for a happy ending.