TOP swimming coach Jon Rudd has announced he is to leave Plymouth after nearly 30 years in the city.
Rudd has been offered the chance to become Swim Ireland’s new national performance director.
The 46-year-old, who has developed the swimming programmes at Plymouth Leander and Plymouth College and coached Ruta Meilutyte to Olympic gold, admitted the Ireland job was just too good to turn down.
However, he admits it will be very tough to leave Plymouth and his swimmers in Devon. He has been involved with Plymouth Leander since 1989.
“After nearly three decades doing the same thing this is probably quite a surprise to a lot of people, including me, to be fair,” said Rudd, who will take up his new role in February.
“I really enjoy what I’ve been doing and it’s grown into something really special. I didn’t have an agenda to get out, but this was just a great opportunity and a great career progression for me.
“I’ve got an opportunity to run and organise a nation – that’s a really difficult opportunity to turn down.
“I am honoured to take on this role for Swim Ireland as it is an exciting opportunity for both them and I.
“I am obviously sad to be leaving something that I have created and built over what is almost three decades and it also hurts to be leaving behind such great athletes and a wonderful workforce.
“But Plymouth Leander is way bigger than any one man and my thoughts will soon be with my colleagues and athletes in Ireland, where I will now build a world class team around me that can help Ireland find that elusive podium finish at World and Olympic level.”
Rudd has worked as head coach of both Great Britain and England swimming teams in recent years as well as working closely with the Lithuanian national team.
His role in Ireland will be more strategic rather than day-to-day coaching.
Swim Ireland say they are delighted to have secured his services.
Their CEO Sarah Keane said “I am really excited by the appointment of Jon.
“He is very driven and determined and I think that he will be a strong leader. Jon has the relevant skills and experience to be our national performance director and has the ambition to help us attain our vision.”
Rudd has been Plymouth College’s director of swimming for the last 11 years and has helped make the college one of the top swimming schools in the world, attracting athletes from 30 different nations.
Plymouth College headmaster Jonathan Standen said: “Jon has a wealth of experience in coaching world class athletes, having been part of the Plymouth College high performance swimming programme for over a decade.
“A performance director for a national team is the natural progression for Jon and we wish him all the success.”
Plymouth Leander chairman Neil Glasson added: “It is clearly not going to be a happy day for us when Jon gives his final farewells, but we are so grateful for all that he has done to make this what it is and we can celebrate his work over the next weeks as he makes this transition to Ireland.
“They will be aware how fortunate they are in recruiting him to this role and I’m also sure that we can sit back and watch Irish swimming very much come to the fore over the ensuing years.”
Rudd admitted telling his main Plymouth-based swimmers on Monday evening was hard.
He was able to inform double Commonwealth Games champion Ben Proud face-to-face, but he had to talk to world breaststroke record holder Meilutyte over the telephone as she was out of the country.
Both swimmers have praised Rudd for the impact he has had on their careers and say they will miss working with him.
Meilutyte said: “I’ll very much miss working with Jon, as we’ve been through so much together over the last seven years.
“I really hope that we get the chance to work together in the future and I know that he’s always on the end of the phone if I need support and guidance.
“I’ll now evaluate what I want to do with my swimming from this point as there are a number of world class swimming programmes out there that I can consider for my own future.
“I sincerely wish both Jon and Swim Ireland all the very best for the times ahead and thank him for the massive part that he has played in my life”.
Proud added: “The start of every Olympic cycle is always the time to hit the reset button, so although Jon’s move is quite sudden, it is probably the best time for these changes to happen.
“In the five years that I have been working with Jon, I have learnt everything I need to know in order to improve myself going forward. He has easily been the most influential man in my career and will undoubtedly continue to make his mark in the swimming world throughout his career.”
Rudd is the second international coach to announce their departure from Plymouth within a week.
Plymouth Diving’s Marc Holdsworth is leaving the city to take up a role at Leeds, where he will join Dan Goodfellow.