28th September 2009

Official Line


28 September 2009

Article as featured in Athletics Weekly Magazine

I am not really one for slogans or sound bites, but “the same, the same, the same” neatly captures my philosophy for Paralympic Success – it requires precisely the same things as Olympic (non disabled) success.  Whether it be coaching, competition opportunities, performance support, training partners, medical back up or specialist equipment, the needs of the athletes are “the same”.

It is a simple rule but it is now becoming the norm and ensures we are consistent in our decision making, and that we take every opportunity to maximise efficiencies across our programmes.  For example, from this winter onwards members of the Paralympic squad will have the opportunity to attend ‘the same’ warm weather training camps as the Olympic athletes.

Similarly, our Paralympic athletes will source their specialist performance support services from our new 2012 Performance Centres at either Loughborough or Lee Valley.

The philosophy also extends to my role as Head Coach (Paralympics) which precisely mirrors that of Head Coach (Olympics) – we are both focussed on working closely with the elite athletes and coaches whom we believe have the ability to medal in London 2012.

But just as UKA is also committed to ensuring a strong development strategy is in place for athletics working alongside the Home Countries, Clubs and Schools, so too now Paralympic and disability athletics is now being included in these plans.

Aviva Parallel Success is our talent identification programme which after a successful pilot in London is now being rolled out nationwide with the assistance of England Athletics and Sport England. A second scheme – again operated in cooperation with Sport England and England Athletics – called Playground to Podium is seeking out new talent that could be fast-tracked into elite athletics,

Whether they enter these two schemes from school, from an open event or direct from rehab, the process will be to place them with clubs and coaches (note – not ‘Paralympic’ clubs, not ‘Paralympic’ coaches) and to direct them towards talent assessment days. Those identified as a future talent will have further opportunities via training camps and weekends and become part of a wider pool of talent we are seeking to develop at the sub elite level.

At the apex of this performance pyramid we will be working with UK Sport’s own dedicated talent scheme which looks to identify disabled sportspeople with the attributes to feature in 2012.

In every case however, UKA will seek to ensure that any athletes who is introduced to athletics at whatever age or level or ability is assisted with finding a club and a coach who can improve their abilities and keep them in the sport.

Again, this will need the help and support of the athletics family but the response I have met to date has been very encouraging indeed.

I believe that Great Britain – the birthplace of the Paralympics  – can become one of the top three athletics nations by 2016 and that through working to integrate disabled athletes into the fabric of athletics we can build a legacy of participation to be proud of.