Israeli Olympic windsurfing hopeful in choppy waters over affair with coach

Sailing Association fires coach Pierre Loquet, citing his relationship with potential medalist Katy Spychakov; rival athletes now claim she got preferential treatment

Israeli windsurfer Katy Spychakov (R) and her coach Pierre Loquet. (Israel Sailing Association)
Israeli windsurfer Katy Spychakov (R) and her coach Pierre Loquet. (Israel Sailing Association)

Israel’s top windsurfer, considered to be a contender for a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has become embroiled in a scandal that could hurt her chances after it was revealed that she has been in an eight-month affair with the coach of the Israeli women’s team, who was fired over the relationship.

Other windsurfers and their parents have now banded together, complaining to sporting authorities that 20-year-old Katy Spychakov’s romantic involvement with French coach Pierre Loquet, 37, had earned her preferential treatment, one-on-one training sessions and an unfair advantage in the race for the single spot representing Israel at the Olympics.

That race is all but decided, with Spychakov — the silver medalist in last month’s World Championships — enjoying a comfortable lead with only one qualifying event remaining, the 2020 World Championships. The gap can only be closed if another Israeli windsurfer takes gold and Spychakov is unsuccessful.

Now, competitors are calling for all previous progress to be deleted and for the Olympic race to be restarted, just nine months before the Tokyo games kick off. The Israel Sailing Association has rejected outright their original demand to immediately suspend Spychakov from all activity.

As the affair was revealed Tuesday, the association immediately announced that Loquet had been fired.

“In a conversation with the coach and the surfer, both confirmed their relationship. Therefore, and in accordance with the ethical code and rules of the Sailing Association, it was decided to end the coach’s employment after three years,” it said in a statement.

The association has formed a committee that will now discuss how to determine whether Spychakov’s relationship with Loquet had positively affected her professional achievements at the expense of the other windsurfers.

The committee is expected to question all the relevant parties. If it concludes that the affair had affected the race for the Olympic ticket, it will advise the Sailing Association on what action to take for the contest to be fair.

Meanwhile, the association is scrambling to find a new coach within seven days to replace Loquet. “It is hard to bring a new coach quickly, especially when we are nine months before Tokyo and all the good coaches are employed. This saga has definitely caused damage,” an unnamed source within the association told the ONE sports website.

Spychakov was born in Eilat to Ukrainian-born parents, and had originally been an aspiring triathlete before switching to windsurfing at the age of 10.

She gave an interview Tuesday to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, saying: “Last February a romantic relationship developed between me and Pierre, and both of us are happy with that. We are totally in love. In recent months no athlete was harmed or discriminated against due to our relationship. The coach can’t change the wind, and we are alone at sea.

“We weren’t aware of the ethical code and that is now having consequences,” she added. “I understand the criticism, I get the rules, but we didn’t choose to fall in love. We chose to take the risk. I definitely am not sorry for the beginning of the affair and where it has led us.”

She said there had not been a single complaint about preferential treatment until the affair was revealed, adding that she was “very hurt” by her fellow surfers’ reaction.

She said she would “do everything” to keep training with Loquet, “even if that means I have to fund it by myself.”

Spychakov in September took the silver medal at the RS:X World Championships at Lake Garda in Italy. The achievement marked the first Israeli medal in the global competition since 2014 and followed a very successful year for the young surfer, with many expecting her to be a serious Olympic medal contender.

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