Olympian Simon Whitfield sued for defamation over 2012 tweet critical of triathlon coach
Former Olympic medallist Simon Whitfield is being sued for defamation by a triathlon coach over a tweet and comments he made in the aftermath of triathlete Paula Findlay’s performance at the 2012 London Olympics.
Patrick Kelly, currently the head coach of the Hong Kong Sports Institute and a former coach of Findlay, says Whitfield defamed him in a tweet sent out Aug. 4, 2012, after Findlay finished last in the women’s triathlon.
In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Kelly says the tweet conveyed the message that he was “totally incompetent” and had incompetently trained and coached Findlay, causing or significantly contributing to her performance.
The tweet also suggested Kelly incompetently managed Findlay’s health, including her hip injury, prior to the Olympics and that he “dishonourably abandoned” her before the Games, says Kelly.
“Each of those meanings is false, malicious and defamatory of and concerning the plaintiff,” says the lawsuit.
There were 46 retweets of the allegedly defamatory tweet, according to the lawsuit.
Kelly also alleges Whitfield defamed him by making comments in a “loud and disrespectful” manner in the presence and hearing of many people, including journalists covering the Olympics.
The tweet and comments were republished by others, including a number of Canadian newspapers, the CBC and CTV, says the suit.
Prior to the London Olympics, Findlay was considered a medal favourite in the women’s triathlon. Kelly was her coach for a number of years before the London Olympics but ended his coaching relationship with her in June 2012, according to the suit. While being coached by Kelly, Findlay suffered a hip injury in July 2011, says the suit.
Kelly is seeking unspecified general, aggravated and exemplary damages. He also wants an injunction to restrain Whitfield from any further publication of the alleged defamation and an order requiring him to remove the allegedly defamatory expression from any electronic database including Twitter.
Whitfield, a father of two who lives and works in Victoria, had no immediate comment on the allegations, which have not been proven in court.
A four-time Olympian, Whitfield won the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was the flag-bearer for the Canadian team at the Opening Ceremony in London.
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