Eriksson ‘disappointed’ to be quitting as UK Athletics head coach

Peter Eriksson to leave UKA just seven months after taking over from Charles van Commenee

Peter Eriksson (Mark Shearman)

Peter Eriksson is to stand down as head coach of UK Athletics after only seven months of holding the position.

UKA confirmed the news on Wednesday, adding that the 60-year-old had asked to be released from his contract in order to return to Canada to be with his family.

Eriksson, who led the Paralympic programme to third finish on the medal table during the 2012 Paralympic Games before replacing Charles van Commenee as head coach for British Athletics, explained that he was ‘disappointed’ to be making the move, but that personal circumstances require it. He also added that he currently has no plans to take on a role elsewhere.

“Words cannot describe how disappointed I am to take this step,” he said. “There is no bigger job in athletics anywhere in the world. At present I have no plans, but accept that if I am to take any other job in sport it will be a step down.

“Athletics in Great Britain receives the best possible support through the National Lottery, and that, coupled with the performance structure here means it is every coach’s dream to hold this position.

“However no job is more important than family and children, and personal circumstances mean that mine need me to be back in Canada.”

Born and raised in Sweden, Eriksson began his sporting career as a speed skater, competing in the World Championships of that sport in the Seventies before switching his focus to athletics. He attended the 1980 Olympic Games as an apprentice team coach for the Swedish athletics team and two years later began coaching disabled athletes and that soon became his area of expertise.

He moved to Canada in the Eighties and became head coach for track and field athletes in the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, where one of his most successful charges was multiple Paralympic champion Chantal Petitclerc.

In 2009 Eriksson was hired by UK Athletics as head coach and performance director for the Paralympic programme. As part of that role he has coached a handful of the country’s top disability athletes, including Hannah Cockroft who won two gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

He had signed a five-year contract with UKA as head coach, which would have see him through to the 2017 World Championships in London, but he will now continue in his position until just the end of June, leading the GB & NI team to the European Team Championships in Gateshead.

Performance director Neil Black will then oversee head coach duties for the remainder of the summer, leading the GB & NI team at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.

Also describing Eriksson’s move as disappointing, Black said: “This is a big disappointment but it could not have been foreseen six months ago, and Peter has been open with us on the personal challenges he faces.

“Working with Peter we have put together a team of elite coaches leading each of the event groups based at the Institute and they will able to help me cover the head coach duties for the summer with minimal disruption. But for now we are looking forward to a strong team performance in Gateshead and I look forward to working alongside Peter towards this goal.”

UK Athletics chief executive Niels de Vos added: “This is very much about the human face of performance sport, it is easy to talk about what it means for us but this is a personal issue and whilst we would love for him to stay, we can only be supportive and wish him the best.

“He did a superb job as the Paralympic Head Coach, having joined us four years ago and built a strong team around him. The signs were there that he could make the same impact on our Olympic programme, and I know that he will want to sign off with a successful team performance in Gateshead next month.

“Neil Black will ensure stability for the ongoing programme, and we will review the structure at the end of the season, but what is most important right now is we continue to focus on Moscow and the job in hand.”

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