At first glance, it’s not hard to do a double take. After a tumultuous run over the past five years that culminated with CEO Kim Van Bruggen, Head Coach Jono Hall and High Performance Director Eugene Liang all leaving the organization after last year’s Olympics, Triathlon Canada has a new CEO who comes from a sport not normally associated with triathlon.
Although not a triathlete, Joe Morissette, former CEO of Badminton Canada, might be just what Triathlon Canada needs as it looks to rebuild. Morissette has been involved in international sport since 2005 and brings a lot of experience when it comes to dealing with international federations. More importantly, he has done all of this before.
“I came into a badminton situation eight and a half years ago where there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the national federation in terms of the support we were able to provide to the athletes, the way the he organization was interacting with its provincial members, with its technical officials, with its coaching fraternity,” said Morissette. “I think I bring eight years of mending those bridges, building a stronger development system, being an inclusive ‘big tent’ to the table. Badminton Canada has become the continent’s class. We have also the ability to do it in triathlon.
Morissette prides himself on being “an open book” and so far he has lived up to that. After a few months of understanding the technical aspects of the sport, he proved to be extremely approachable.
“It’s important for athletes to understand the challenges of the national federation and why they get the support they receive and to be very transparent about the process,” Morissette said.
Morissette is definitely taking a long-term approach to her new position. He has committed to his position until the 2032 Olympics in order to “mark the organization where we want to go”.
For much of the past decade, Triathlon Canada has imported much of its coaching staff, something Morissette is looking to change as it seeks to “promote from within” and put a “Canadian footprint on the system”.
Morissette may not have a lot of triathlon experience, but he seems to have the tools and attitude that will serve Triathlon Canada well. He will have to juggle the challenges of navigating a system that demands high performance expectations from government bodies like Sport Canada and Own the Podium with the desire of age group athletes to have an organization that also takes care of their needs. To date, Triathlon Canada has often struggled to find this balance, but based on what it has done in the past, Morissette appears ready for the challenges ahead.
This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Triathlon Canada Review.