With some of Britain’s biggest track and field stars ending or nearing the close of their careers, the British Athletics performance director highlights the next generation’s potential
British Athletics performance director Neil Black says he has no concerns over the next generation’s ability to achieve success similar to the current big names in the sport who recently have or will hang up their spikes in the coming years.
Olympic and world heptathlon gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill announced her retirement last month, while four-time Olympic and five-time world gold medallist Mo Farah has indicated that 2017 will be his last year competing on the track. Speaking after the announcement of the national governing body’s funding lists for 2016-17, Black insisted he is excited to see what the future holds as other athletes start to step up.
The top tier of British Athletics support for ‘Olympic’ athletes on the World Class Performance Programme (WCPP) has been cut from 21 in 2015-16 to 15 for this coming year, and Black explained the focus remains on converting top-eight finishers to medallists.
“If we look at Sophie Hitchon and the amazing things she has done over the last two to three years, clearly she is a contender for ongoing podium positions in the future,” Black said. “We all know how close Adam (Gemili) was to the podium, how close Dina (Asher-Smith) has now been a couple of times to the podium at only 20 years old, and we’ve got Katarina (Johnson-Thompson), Laura Muir, Zharnel Hughes, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake.
“Some people seem to think that Robbie Grabarz is the forgotten man,” he added. “I don’t think it was that bad to have world indoor and European medals and then be fourth in the Olympics! That’s just to mention but a few.
“We have got to get better at converting the top eight to medallists. We know that, we’ve got a really clear plan to do that. I’m excited about what the future looks like.”
Among the athletes to have been dropped from funding this year are Britain’s second fastest-ever 100m sprinter James Dasaolu, 2011 world 400m hurdles gold medallist Dai Greene, two-time world indoor 800m medallist Andrew Osagie, two-time Commonwealth 110m hurdles silver medallist William Sharman and 2014 European and Commonwealth 1500m medallist Laura Weightman.
Olympic and world 400m gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu is no longer listed for individual support but forms part of the 4x400m list, while Eilish McColgan was dropped from 2015-16 funding and has not been re-added after a year which saw her switch from the steeplechase to 5000m following injury and place 13th in the Olympic final in Rio.
“This programme has an emphasis on winning medals at the Olympics and the Paralympics as its primary goal, with a particular interest in the World ParaAthletics Championships and the IAAF World Championships in London in 2017. That’s what we’ve got to focus on,” Black continued.
“There are always going to be circumstances where athletes who have had brilliant performances in the past, have shown lots of potential, but then for various reasons they haven’t progressed forwards. Sadly sometimes there are implications of that.”
» See the November 10 edition of AW magazine for further news following the British Athletics funding announcement