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UK Athletics

The World Indoor Experience

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11 March 2008


Column by Dave Collins, UK Athletics Performance Director, as seen in Athletics Weekly Magazine



For a number of reasons the athletics performances over the next three days have become the secondary story, but for me this weekend is rung one of the 2008 ladder culminating in the Olympic and Paralympic Games and will return our minds to the excellence of athletics achievement.


The World Indoors is an important competitive opportunity, but athletes have been split as to whether to include it in their plans during an Olympic and Paralympic year. For some it will be a big ask, where everything is geared towards an outdoor season, to others it forms part of that essential preparation, ensuring they perform with excellence later in the summer.


Whatever their decision, they will have worked closely with their coaches and performance managers to ensure it is the right one for them.


For those that are going as part of the Norwich Union GB team, I am convinced the World Indoors will be a great experience and serve them as it has many athletes in the past.


For example – cast your mind back to 2006, where a smaller than usual squad made their way out to the minus-thirteen icy blasts of Moscow, as many athletes chose to focus on their Commonwealth Games preparation. Statistics will show we did not win any medals that year, but on a performance note it was far more significant than it may appear.


I recall Jenny Meadows competing in only her second major championship at 800m and despite her disappointment at exiting at the semi final stage, stating in the mixed zone “I need more races of that class, that’s what I need.” Two years on and she is able to control most 800m fields with the experience she gains with every race.


I remember a slightly depleted but massively determined women’s 4x400m squad surprising even themselves by running a National record in qualifying for the final, Nathan Douglas jumping an indoor PB in his first major competition following surgery and in the same few days, Katrina Wootton making her senior track debut in the 1500m, and right now she is maturing into a fine endurance prospect.


Finally, it is not only a competition for developing physical performance but the mental and psychological strength required to put in those top performances on the big stage and not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the occasion.


Over the last couple of years I have had the pleasure of watching some GB athletes make a championship and thrive on the competition opportunity they are given. You know who they are – the sort that consider themselves in every way an equal at the start of the event, regardless of whether it is their GB debut or that they face the current World champion in the field.


Those athletes demonstrate exactly what can be achieved with the right mental approach, against world class athletes, even if the legs are a few second slower over the same distance.


All in all it will be a fascinating weekend, and I hope for some athletes the moment they look back on as just the start of a very successful 2008.