OTTAWA – One of Canada’s best-known and most accomplished leaders in aquatic sports is diving into a new challenge.
After five strong years at the helm of Water Polo Canada, Ahmed El-Awadi will become the new CEO of Swimming Canada, the two organizations announced today.
Swimming Canada’s Board of Directors has chosen El-Awadi to lead the organization after an extensive search process. No stranger to the water, the Beaconsfield, Que., resident was an Olympic water polo coach and has been executive director of Water Polo Canada since 2008.
“My sports journey began with swimming many years ago and I am thrilled to reconnect with these roots,” El-Awadi said. “Even though it feels strange to leave behind my water polo family of fifteen years, I could not be more excited to join Swimming Canada’s team.”
El-Awadi was assistant coach and manager of the women’s national team through the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and the 2005 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Montreal, where they won a bronze medal on home soil. On the business side, El-Awadi has been instrumental in developing and carrying out Water Polo Canada’s strategic plan and establishing a sound organization from a structural, financial and ethical perspective. He has also served as chair of the Canadian Team Sport Coalition since 2012.
“We are really excited by the hire and about where Ahmed can take us,” said Swimming Canada President David de Vlieger.
After years of a combined CEO/national coach leadership model, Swimming Canada made a decision more than a year ago to split the roles. El-Awadi will work as the organization’s top executive, while John Atkinson, who was hired as high performance director in January, will oversee Canada’s competitive teams.
“We are very pleased by the hire of John Atkinson to lead us on the high performance side and Ahmed will provide strong leadership on the business management side,” de Vlieger said. “Having capable people in both of those positions should allow us to meet our future goals.”
El-Awadi, who is fluently bilingual in English and French, is also an accomplished large enterprise software and services sales executive, most recently with SAP Inc.
His official start date with Swimming Canada is Aug. 19. He plans to conduct an internal business review during his first 90 days on the job.
“I’m confident the organization is healthy and strong and will be looking to see where we can build on those strengths,” El-Awadi said.
Swimming Canada’s Board of Directors undertook a five-month search to hire the new CEO. A committee was formed including members of the board who worked in conjunction with such partners as Own the Podium and Sport Canada to identify top candidates. The board interviewed the final candidates and de Vlieger said El-Awadi stood out due to his passion for swimming and his knowledge of the Canadian sport system and aquatics world.
“Hiring a leader is one of most important things a board does,” de Vlieger said. “We’re very pleased with the results and confident we were able to identify the best candidates for the position.”
El-Awadi will remain with Water Polo Canada through the end of the FINA World Championships, which run from July 19 to Aug. 4 in Barcelona.
“Ahmed has been a cornerstone of Water Polo Canada in the last five years and will be greatly missed. We would like to wish him continued success in his new role and are convinced that he will dedicate the same energy, organizational skills and talent to significantly contribute to Swimming Canada,” Water Polo Canada President Conrad Hadubiak said.
“I would like to thank the board, staff, athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and partners with whom I had the privilege to work at Water Polo Canada over the years,” El-Awadi added. “The sport of water polo is moving toward a bright future and I am honoured to have been part of that community for such a long time.”
Interim CEO Ken Radford will return to his role as Director of Swimming Operations.
“We very much appreciated Ken Radford stepping into the breach to handle the reins as interim CEO and we thank him for his contributions and hard work on behalf of the organization,” de Vlieger said. “Swimming Canada is fortunate to have a strong team dedicated to excellence in Canadian swimming.”