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UK Athletics

World Class Performance back up for Euro medallists

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Phillips Idowu
Phillips Idowu

Phillips Idowu and Nicola Sanders have both paid tribute to the backroom teams that helped them strike gold in record-breaking fashion for the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham.


Idowu described the latest UK Athletics Performance Centre at Lee Valley, London, as “a God-send” after winning the triple jump with a championships record 17.56m while Sanders praised the physiotherapists who cured a back problem so successfully that she lowered Katharine Merry’s Commonwealth and UK indoor 400m record to 50.03 seconds.


Idowu, who lives in the East London neighbourhood in which the 2012 Olympics will be staged, explained: “I could barely walk three or four weeks ago. I’d bruised my heel at the Norwich Union International in Glasgow and aggravated the problem at the European Trials in Sheffield.


“I have to take my hat off to the team that got me here” – and he singled out Mark Young, the EIS physiotherapist at Lee Valley; Dr Paul Dijkstra, who is one of the UK Athletics medical team; and John Herbert, the highly respected UKA performance coach who has looked after him for the last 10 years.


“I practically lived in that physio room at Lee Valley,” added Idowu, whose backroom team is overseen by the Senior Performance Manager (SPM)for field events Aston Moore. “I had the belief through this indoor season that I could win if I could put my foot down and not feel any pain. And I nailed it in the first round.”


Sanders, one of the sprinters overseen by UK Athletics SPM for sprints and relays John Trower, revealed that physios Matt Lancaster and Neil Black had “been fantastic, working to put me together.”


“You are always on the edge,” she added, explaining that UKA performance coach Tony Lester had gradually toughened her training since she joined him three winters ago while she had toughened herself by working with strength and conditioning coach Harry Brennan at Bisham Abbey.


And she explained how life changed when she earned a place on the Lottery-funded World Class Podium Programme: “When I first went to Tony, I had to work part-time in a shop, wait a month to see a physio if I got injured – assuming I could afford an appointment. Now I can train full time and get back up when I want it. That means Tony can set harder and harder performance targets – and I get the results, in the end, like this one.”


Triple jump silver medallist Nathan Douglas, who achieved a lifetime best 17.47m to move into the European indoor all-time top 10, also paid tribute to his own UK Athletics performance coach: “When Ted King started coaching me, I was a bit of a dirty diamond. My first coach, Steve Hill at Oxford, got me a long way – 15.50m at the age of 18 – and then had the bravery to move me on to Ted. His expertise has taken me on.”


And 400m bronze medallist Rob Tobin praised “an incredible job” by physiotherapists James Moore and Matt Lancaster – who are based at the UKA High Performance Centre at Brunel University in West London – in getting him over a calf injury suffered at the start of the year.


He said: “Without them, I would have gone to the Trials, pulled up in the heats and probably put myself out of the outdoor season as well.”


And then there was the expertise of Tobin’s coach, Todd Bennett, who won the European Indoor 400m title in 1985 and 1987, and has recently been a valuable member of GB Junior/Under 23 team leadership, as well as the performance coach for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s 4x400m relay squad.


Tobin added: “I was able to do only five sessions in five weeks yet Todd gets me in shape to run Championships even when my preparation is not perfect. The race even went exactly as he predicted.”