Susan Auch was “shocked and deeply saddened” to learn that she was out as chief executive officer of Speed Skating Canada, ending a long tenure with the organization for the Olympic medallist and member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
The decision was made Thursday by Speed Skating Canada’s board of directors, the organization said in an email. The brief statement did not include a reason for her departure.
Reached Friday in Oakbank, Man., Auch said the news took her “completely by surprise.”
“It’s going to be incredibly difficult to recover from this,” she told The Canadian Press. “This is a very unfair decision and I intend to pursue all the legal remedies available to me.”
Auch, 56, joined Speed Skating Canada’s board of directors in 2008 and later served as vice-president and president of the organization. She moved into the CEO position in February 2017.
In its statement, the organization said the board decided “that it was in the best interest of Speed Skating Canada that Susan Auch no longer serve the organization as CEO.”
“We want to thank Susan for her many contributions to SSC and wish her the best in her future endeavours. The board is currently working on a leadership transition plan and will communicate updates on the matter at a later date.
“Given that this is a private, human resources-related matter, we won’t be commenting any further at this time.”
The organization said members of its speedskating community had been advised of the change.
As CEO, Auch guided the program to a strong performance at the Beijing Olympics earlier this year. Canada won long-track gold in the women’s pursuit and short-track gold in the men’s 5K relay, part of a nine-medal speedskating haul for the country at the Games.
“Together with an excellent staff team, I just completed a reorganization of SSC and the next strategic plan for between now and 2027, which would see us increasing our membership by 1,000 per cent by 2027,” she said. “And we will continue to win more medals internationally in a safe and healthy environment. We just completed a culture review last year.”
Auch, a Winnipeg native, won relay bronze at the 1988 Calgary Games when short-track speedskating was a demonstration event.
She later transitioned to long-track competition and won Olympic silver in 1994 at Lillehammer, finishing three-100ths of a second behind American rival Bonnie Blair in the 500 metres.
Auch was second in the same distance four years later at the Nagano Games, this time finishing behind Canadian teammate and training partner Catriona Le May Doan.
Auch briefly retired from the sport in 1999 but came back the next year and competed at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
She won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as The Canadian Press female athlete of the year in 1995 after winning three World Cup gold medals that season.
Auch was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2010 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.