21 October 2008
Article by Ed Warner as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine
The last time I wrote an Official Line column for AW I said that our review of the Beijing Olympics was sure to lead to changes in UKA's elite performance process. Well, those changes are now firmly in train.
Charles van Commenee's appointment to the new - some will say, traditional - role of Head Coach has been followed by last week's announcement of Bob Weir's return to Britain to head our drive for success in heavy throws at London 2012.
I've been hugely impressed by Charles in my meetings with him leading up to his appointment. More striking, though, was a conversation with a leading athletics journalist who said that however well or badly we did in 2012, we'd be cut a lot of slack as it was universally recognised that we'd hired the best man for the job.
I'll bank that comment as a personal reassurance for the tough periods that will surely ensue at times over the next four years. No-one at UKA, not least our Head Coach, is so naïve as to believe that a few coaching appointments will of themselves guarantee a big medal haul.
However, the combination of fresh coaching leadership and talent with the high performance centres built up over recent years will I believe enable our elite athletes to get the best out of themselves in London - and indeed in the major championships before then.
I am pleased that in our funding discussions with UK Sport, whose final results will not be made public until December, our progress and prospects are recognised. We 'enjoy' greater scrutiny than some other sports because athletics forms the centrepiece of any Olympics. But you'll never hear me complain on that account!
Lottery funding is an emotive subject, both within athletics and more widely. Many critics, who'd rather keep athletes hungry than award them lottery cash, miss the point I feel. Most funding we receive is devoted to supporting athletes in kind rather than in cash - paying for coaching, medical support, facilities and the like. While we all want athletes to be highly motivated, it seems implausible that forcing them en masse to find and fund such support structures would boost their medal chances.
While change has been taking place at the top of our coaching structure, we've not forgotten the need to ensure that London's hosting of the Games provides an enduring boost to the grassroots of athletics. There has been much work behind the scenes with the Home Countries to just this end - and much more still to do.