New role: Michael Khmel pictured with former Australian sprint star Matt Shirvington. Picture: Jenny Duggan Source: The Daily Telegraph
Former Australian sprint coach Michael Khmel now training Chelsea stars
The Daily Telegraph
December 09, 201112:00AM
DEVASTATED when he lost his job as one of Athletics Australia's 18 contracted coaches, Michael Khmel is now earning more working two days as the new sprint coach for Chelsea FC than he made as a full-time coach in a year here.
The charismatic Ukraine-born coach, perhaps best known for guiding Matt Shirvington to five Australian 100m titles and a slick time of 10.03sec, Khmel, 45, feels he was forced out of Australia where he and his wife had preferred to stay.
But he has fallen on his feet in Britain, despite a recent blow-up with UK Athletics coaching boss Charles van Commenee which led Khmel to quit as Britain's national team sprints and relays head coach.
The dispute was related to Khmel's style of coaching, with some injuries suffered among his squad.
Khmel has retained three "troubled" sprinters despite his run to Chelsea's training ground in Cobham, Surrey and stadium at Stamford Bridge, London.
They are Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (10.08sec) and James Dasaolu (10.09) - the two fastest British 100m sprinters eligible for next year's London Olympic Games - and Craig Pickering, regrouping at 10.13sec after slipping down to the 10.3 zone.
"I'm still coaching athletics and doing a bit of football," Khmel told The Daily Telegraph, downplaying his connections with English Premier League giants Chelsea, who are also turning the corner with their 3-0 win this week over Valencia to qualify for the Champions League final 16.
"My main job with the Blues is working for their academy, their youth team and the reserves and to be available for the firsts if they want me. I work in groups sometimes with guys like (John) Terry and (Nicolas) Anelka. My job is more to work with guys one-on-one.
"The work in football is different. I love it. It's challenging."
Khmel was a victim of the great purge of every contracted professional coach on Athletics Australia's books which followed the 2004 Athens Olympics. Seven sprinters (six Australians, one Nigerian woman) from Khmel's personal training squad reached those Olympics.
Several of his proteges figured in the Silver Bullets team which won silver in Athens in the men's 4x400m relay, including Pat Dwyer, John Steffensen and Clinton Hill who all ran in the relay final.
Yet despite his contribution Khmel was dumped, a move which has forever shaken faith in AA's board of directors and erected a huge hurdle on an elite coaching career pathway in Australian athletics.
"I applied in 2005 for the job of Australia's national sprint coach," Khmel recalled yesterday. "I didn't get it. My wife and I were in Holland, where she was working for Nike. We had wanted to return to Australia.
"So we came to Britain and UK Athletics grabbed me.
"If I was fulltime with Chelsea I would not have to ever worry about money."