Gathered at Loughborough University at the weekend, 400 potential future Olympians were put through their paces as they trialled for Power2Podium, the latest UK Talent Team (UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport (EIS)) campaign.
Power2Podium is aimed at attracting athletes with speed and power into fast-track talent development programmes in the sports of athletics, sprint canoeing, sprint cycling, weightlifting, skeleton, bobsleigh and rugby sevens, who may contribute to the Great British medal haul in Rio in 2016 or Pyeongchang in 2018.
UK Sport’s Head of Athlete Development, Chelsea Warr, explained: “We are working in partnership with seven of our summer and winter Olympic sports, to try and systematically identify athletes who have the potential to get to the very highest level in those respective sports, and ultimately win a world or Olympic medal.
“The whole campaign is focused around strength and power, so we are looking for athletes that have a natural disposition to be very strong, very powerful and very quick. We spend quite a lot of time looking at their past training histories and competitive histories to try and understand their future potential or the head room they would have to improve.”
Having been selected for phase one based on their sporting backgrounds and basic physical attributes, the athletes were assessed over a range of speed and power based tests, along with a detailed analysis of their training and competitive biographies.
Nervously awaiting her turn, 26-year-old heptathlete Helen Morton, said: “I participate in power sports at the moment so I thought I would give it a shot, to see if my body type and strengths would be suited to other sports as well.
“I’ve been doing heptathlon for ten years so it will be nice to see if what I’m doing now could be put into another sport at a higher level.”
Observing at Loughborough University, Midlands Talent Development Officer for the RFUW, Matt Ferguson, explained what he was looking for: “The physical baseline is very important, the ability for athletes to then put that into a game sense, along with hand eye coordination when we put a ball in their hand, is crucial.
“The pathway will be open to athletes as quickly as they can develop, there’s no reason why we couldn’t see somebody here today, who has never touched a ball before, being part of an Olympic gold medal winning team in Rio.”
Loughborough University was the fourth of six phase one assessment events taking place around the UK, with upcoming trials at Leeds University (22-23 October) and SIS Stirling (29-30 October). Athletes selected for phase two will be notified by the end of November and will be invited to trial in a more sport focused environment.
UK Sport Director of Performance, Peter Keen, said: “There are so many success stories in Olympic and Paralympic sport now, but our pathways to those medals are still developing in most sports.
“The complexities of the eight to ten years it takes an athlete to get to the top are still being understood, and what programmes like Power2Podium do so well is raise awareness of the need to understand what talent is and how to spot it better.”
Find out more about Power2Podium