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Jodie Williams
Williams - up for Young Sports Personality gong


11 December 2009

Ed Warner previews this weekend's celebrations at the BBC Sports Personality awards

Last week the BBC announced its list of contenders for Sports Personality of the Year, ahead of this year’s programme this Sunday. Not surprisingly both Jessica Ennis and Phillips Idowu have made the final list of ten, continuing athletics’ rich heritage in the award stretching back over its 45 year life.

As ever, competition for the top prize is fierce, with the likes of Jenson Button and David Haye featuring prominently with the bookmakers. Whatever the outcome, it will be great for athletics in Britain – and not just for Jessica and Phillips – that their gold medal success in Berlin is once again celebrated before a nationwide audience.

And let us not forget Jodie Williams, double sprint champion in the World Youths this summer, and shortlisted as one of three candidates for this year’s Young Sports Personality of the Year.

Jodie’s was a stunning achievement in Bressanone. I’m delighted, though, that hers was but one of a string of excellent performances at age group championships by British athletes in 2009. The British senior team’s renaissance, marked by its best World Championship performance since 1993, may have captured the headlines in the national press, but the performances of our younger athletes suggests that the future is bright not only up to 2012 but also to major championships beyond.

Each of our successful athletes will be quick to acknowledge the influence of their personal coaches. Jessica Ennis has worked with Tony Minichiello since she was a young schoolgirl and the accolades she now receives must rightly give him great satisfaction. Phillips, by contrast, has worked with three celebrated coaches through his career. His switch to Aston Moore and move to Birmingham clearly paid dividends in 2009, but each of the coaches who have shaped his career are parties to his recent achievements.

Investment in the coaching fabric of British athletics is central to UKA’s strategy. In the past few weeks I have spent time at both our HiPAC’s in Lee Valley and Loughborough and have seen both of our new centre directors, Dan Pfaff and Derek Evely, at work. It is our intention that the knowledge they bring from overseas to the UK adds to the expertise of British coaching generally, so that a key legacy of the investment we are able to make because of a home Olympics and Paralympics is an excellent long term future for coaches and coaching in Britain.