UK Sport guest blog: Peter Eriksson, UK AthleticsSubscribe
Peter Eriksson 23 January 2012
Part one: Making progress
Reflecting back on the last 12 months I can confidently say that 2011 was a long, but hugely successful year, mainly due to the IPC World Championships taking place out of season in New Zealand in January. I can’t actually believe that this time last year we were coming to the end of a month long stay in the southern hemisphere. Time certainly flies when you’re having fun.
We can’t just sit back and relax though. As we moved into this Paralympic Games year it was important that we increased the base level at which our athletes were competing and I’m confident that we’ve now done that, partly through more competition opportunities - we’ve now got high quality international Disability Athletics Grand Prix events in Knowsely (Liverpool) and London - but also due to the commitment from the athletes and the no-excuses environment in which we’re operating. Not only did they deliver on the global stage, but they continued to deliver high quality performances throughout the summer. Overall, our achievements over the past 12 months have been outstanding, and our results, both at junior and senior level, are evidence of that.
We finished third in the medal table at the IPC World Championships in 2011 with 38 medals made up of 12 gold medals, 10 silver and 16 bronze. As a comparison, we won 27 medals in the same event in Assen in 2006 including nine gold, and perhaps most notably going into a Paralympic year, we finished 18th in the medal table at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008, so our performance progress is significant.
This is not a short term project however, and while the support we have from UKA, National Lottery and our key sponsors Aviva gives every athlete the opportunity to demonstrate their ability and prepare in the best possible environment, the medal targets set by UK Sport ensure that once on funding, they must maintain that exceptionally high standard going forward.
2012 is my third full year at UKA and we’re now starting to see the gradual transition to a much more professional squad with a fantastic team spirit and it’s paying off. I’m confident that our success will now continue through to London, although it will take a lot of hard work to match our performance in New Zealand in front of capacity home crowds where our athletes are expected to perform to their maximum. Not only that, but every other nation will have stepped up their preparation and performance goals in this quickly evolving and fast-improving sport.
Overall the strength and depth of the squad has improved and that’s a huge positive. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the number of new athletes coming into the sport and in particular, those that we’ve been able to fast track from development through to Aviva GB & NI representation at junior and senior level. Much of that is thanks to the Aviva Parallel Success and Talent Programmes driven by Paula Dunn and Katie Jones at UKA. Paul Blake, a T36 400m, 800m and 1500m runner is a great example. He made his full international debut at the IPC Athletics World Championships in January 2011 and won 400m gold and silver in both the 800m and 1500m. He then broke the T36 World Record in the 800m - one of several World Records for our athletes in 2011 - at the London Disability Athletics Grand Prix in August 2011 (2:08.02).
Importantly however, our athletes were competitive throughout the whole year, and following the IPC Athletics World Championships David Weir went on to win his record fifth London Marathon title in London in April, the Aviva GB & NI juniors won a record 45 medals - including 23 gold medals - at the IWAS World Junior Championships (also in April) and Shelly Woods finished second in both London and also New York Marathon in November.
Part two of Peter's blog, How progress was made, will be available next week