British Athletics performance director explains background to harsh email sent to discus thrower Lally

Neil Black stands by his decision to turn down invitations from the IAAF for more British athletes to compete at the IAAF World Championships in Doha and the British Athletics performance director adds there is no bad blood between himself and discus thrower Jade Lally.

Lally is one of half a dozen British athletes who had IAAF invitations rejected by British Athletics and she posted part of a seemingly insensitive email written to her by Black on Instagram last week (see below).

Black’s email said Lally was “very unlikely to medal in Doha or Tokyo” but he told the media on Thursday in Doha that it was just part of a much longer and balanced message that contained a number of positive points.

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Got an email this morning saying British Athletics had received an invitation for me to compete in Doha at the World Championships (which starts in about a week!). It then goes on to say they have declined because according to their "what it takes to win" statistical information, I am "very unlikely" to medal at both these Champs, and Tokyo next year. . . Hmmm…. where to begin! 😄. Firstly, if you don't take people to Champs that have qualified (outright or via invitation), then you hand zero chance of medalling. Secondly, I can't help but think, the main reason I shouldn't have my invitation accepted, is more to do with the fact I gave birth 9wks and 1 day ago… 👀. . . Nevertheless, I'm glad to have been invited! I didn't think I was high enough on the list to even be in with a chance! What a huge motivational thing to read. I'm so glad the IAAF invited me, and I'm not surprised my federation declined because of their future predictions. It was only recently the British Olympic Association posted something on Jonathan Edwards about developing late and coming from finishing 32nd (or similar) in a World Champs and Olympic Games, to winning it. Same with Kelly Holmes. . . I look forward to getting that Automatic place in next year's Olympic Games, and avoiding reading about your opinion on what I can't achieve 👍😎. ________________________________________ #Athlete #Discus #Throw #DiscusThrow #Pregnancy #PostPregnancy #Postpartum #TrackAndField #TrackLife #Motivated #Haters #CrystalBall #WatchThisSpace #HoldMyBeer

A post shared by Jade Lally (@jadelallyoly) on

Lally’s post drew uproar from athletics fans but Black explains: “The section that Jade put out there was one small paragraph. That was the factual paragraph within a broader email, which started with pleasantries and ‘congratulations on’ (having a baby this summer) and went on to discuss a number of other things. Jade replied to my email thanking me for it and we had quite a nice little chat.”

Black says he has known Lally for years, gets on with her well and would probably greet her “with a hug” if he saw her now. The performance director adds that development opportunities for athletes are restricted to non-global events like the European Championships, whereas World Championships and Olympics were more focused on medals.

Does he feel it is inappropriate to tell an athlete they are not good enough to win a medal at a major championships? “No,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s a performance sport.”

He continues: Nothing in the email suggested we were giving up on any of the athletes. All of the emails said, in some variation, ‘we don’t have a crystal ball but all the information that I’ve got at this point suggests to me that you are unlikely to win a medal in Doha and/or Tokyo’.

“All of the emails went on to say, but ‘positive, positive, positive’. We have to stick to the policy as it’s written.”

Shot putter Amelia Strickler and steeplechaser Phil Norman were among others who had IAAF invitations turned down by British Athletics.

On the eve of the biggest event of 2019, Black also talked about Laura Muir’s fitness after being hampered by a calf injury this summer. The performance director said Muir was usually in good shape all year around and did not need much racing to get race fit.

“Everything suggests that she’s in good shape, progressing towards great shape,” he added.

The British team generally, too, is ready for battle and Black says the preparation period has been smooth and trouble free. “It’s been the best preparation that we’ve had as a team,” he says.

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