£1m scientific support for UK Athletics

Published 25 May 2001

A ONE million pound four-year plan was unveiled this week to give the UK's leading athletes unprecedented scientific support through to the 2004 Olympic Games and beyond.

Members of the first UK Athletics Sport Science Panel, tasked with improving the services to athletes on the Lottery-funded World Class Performance and Potential Programmes in the fields of biomechanics, nutrition, physiology, psychology and strength conditioning were announced.

"They are not just another committee but a working group that will give our athletes a level of support they've never previously been able to even dream of," said UK Athletics Performance Director Max Jones.

"This is the start of a new era of sports science. We don't want people sitting in committees day and night; we want them out on the athletics tracks, influencing athletes and making a difference to performance. Although we were very successful in Sydney, our team was much more art-based than science-based. We want a touch more science in 2004 and 2008."

David Lasini, Sports Science Co-ordinator at the UK Sports Institute, added: "It's a great initiative for UK Athletics and will help to move them forward to 2004 and beyond. It's an exciting time for sports science and we hope this will be a model for other sports."

THE PANEL evolved during a series of meetings throughout the winter following an independent review of existing services carried out by Steve Lawrence, Sports Science Manager of the world-renowned Western Australian Institute of Sport.

The need for the review was highlighted by UK Athletics' funding agencies during the debate on how to improve on the performances at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Lawrence visited the UK twice - in October to meet existing providers of science services during a whistle-stop tour of the country and two months later to present his formula for taking sports science support for athletics into the new millennium.

His warning was stark: "If this opportunity is not taken, scientific support for UK sport in general, not just athletics, will suffer. Australia has taken 14 years to reach the point we are at now. Learning from the Australian experience, the UK should take only six or eight years to reach the point Australia is at now."

"THE SURVEY left us in no doubt that we needed to do something fairly drastic," said John Trower, UK Athletics' Technical Director for Throws, who will coordinate the work of the Panel. "UK Sport has granted us extra funds that amount to a massive stamp of approval for what we are intending to do.

"The expert panel will be fundamental to the improvement in sports science support to the athletes in the home countries. We have already begun to deliver the services, but the High Performance Centre network that will be established in the UK within the next four years will be integral to the success of the Sports Science Support Programme.

"In addition, we will be reviewing the provision for sports science in the Disability World Class Performance Programme in order to consider how best the two programmes might eventually come together."

Brian Miller, Chair of the new Panel, added: "Because of its successes internationally, athletics is hugely influential in the UK. The services we deliver regionally will be Quality Assured to help our athletes be even more successful, starting with this summer's IAAF World Championships. In short, we've hit the ground running!"

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