A children’s gymnastics coach and former Olympian is fighting to get his job back and clear his name after he was sacked earlier this year over a single word he used to describe his team.
Lindsay Nylund was fired from his role as a high-performance coach at the City of Canada Bay Council’s Five Dock Leisure Centre, in Sydney, in May, after he sent an email to parents with a picture of his winning team, describing them as “beautiful”.
“Hi all … Our beautiful FDLC Level 8 Women’s Artistic Gymnasts,” he wrote in the email in February, following a competition win.
“All achieved a top six apparatus placing in their respective divisions at the first state trial competition of the year.
Addressing the claims on Sydney 2GB radio on Tuesday, the 65-year-old said he was “traumatised” when he was handed a show-cause letter months later, informing him the council found the use of the word beautiful “sexually objectified the athletes”.
“For a children’s gymnastic coach, it’s probably the kiss of death for your professional reputation and character,” he told Ben Fordham. “[It’s] traumatic because there’s probably no worse thing that you could accuse someone of, if you’re a children’s gymnastic coach.”
When asked what he meant by the word “beautiful”, Mr Nylund clarified the term referred to his team’s performance and is commonly used in women’s artistic gymnastics.
“I was very proud of their performances, they’d all performed exceptionally well and won apparatus ribbons. And so I was very happy about that and decided to send an email out to parents, coaching staff and some members of council to express pride and joy in their achievements.”
Mr Nylund said it “appears” someone wanted to ‘do him in’, claiming no one raised any alarms about the language used in the email until he received the letter.
“I only got positive feedback about that email when it was sent,” he explained.
“Parents were outraged [over his termination], the coaching staff were outraged, everyone was outraged … Most people are flabbergasted, they can’t believe it. They think this is ridiculous.”
Mr Nylund, who competed at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and won a bronze and silver medal at the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games, said it’s “mind boggling” how easily his reputation has been destroyed.
“Absolutely mind boggling,” he added. “And hence I’m not letting it go.”
Determined to get his job back, Mr Nylund has taken the case to the Industrial Relations Commission.
“I haven’t asked for money. I’m asking for my job,” he said.
According to The Australian, the council listed three other allegations in their termination notice, including that Mr Nylund “showed a lack of respect to management” by allowing a one-week membership fee freeze when it should have been two weeks.
He also allegedly transported athletes without parent consent and attended a social event at a local club, which the council claimed breached Child Safe Practice guidelines.
However, when he was asked about the claim that he transported children, Mr Nylund said he was leaving a school competition in October when he was asked by a colleague to take three of the gymnasts back to the leisure centre.
“I know that person was making arrangements and communicating with parents, as was the head teacher. So I certainly was on the understanding that permission had been granted from the parents.”
As for the claim he attended a social event at a local club, the 65-year-old said parents had requested an informal catch up over dinner after training one day last year so he could explain the competition schedule for the following year.
Mr Nylund said himself, coaches and students have asked to “sit down around the table” with council and “have a sensible discussion over what’s happened”.
“I think most reasonable people know that those allegations are bogus, they’re not things that one would expect to have their employment terminated over. And I think the sensible thing would be to have a discussion and move forward collaboratively. “
A four-day hearing at the NSW IRC has been set for mid-November.