Cycling and Rowing have been among the most consistent performers for Great Britain at Olympic Games in recent years, delivering 56 medals between them at the past four Games.
The two men at the helm of these sports, Dave Brailsford and David Tanner, both have a very clear idea of what it takes to achieve and maintain this kind of success and they were willing to share their vision at the UK Sport World Class Performance Conference.
For the second Games running, GB’s cyclists topped the medal table at London 2012, winning eight gold medals and doubling the medal count of their nearest rivals, Germany. Following that showing, Performance Director Dave Brailsford is keen to keep his work force grounded as they look ahead to the next Olympic cycle.
He said: “One of the key things about sustainability is how you look after the people within the system. We’re so good at working with the athletes, but I would very much try and encourage everybody to come back to work completely task focused, regroup, and get their energy levels back up, and also look outside the sport for inspiration.”
For David Tanner, whose rowers won nine medals at London 2012, four of them gold, to top the medal table, the key is keeping focused on the task in hand.
He said: “I think we really need to move on quite fast. We need to make sure the physical landscape stays as good as it looks at the moment and make sure we don’t get side-tracked.
“The coming season will be challenging, but we don’t have to deliver the top goods, we need to make sure we peak at the right times.”
For both Tanner and Brailsford, the on-going support of the National Lottery has been vital. Over the past four Olympic cycles, cycling and rowing have received over £135 million of investment from UK Sport between them, made up of National Lottery and Exchequer funds.
For Brailsford, it has been the “single biggest factor” in enabling cycling’s maintained success.
He said: “If there’s one thing that has allowed us to, quite uniquely in the world of sport, plan for the long and medium term, as well as for the next race, it’s Lottery funding.”
Tanner added: “I would not have come into this career had Lottery funding not been on the horizon; that was the big attraction. The fact that it’s still there and is better than ever, makes a huge difference.”
However, both men were quick to explain that this money must be invested wisely to make a difference, with Tanner adding: “If you put money where it isn’t going to work, you have wasted public money, and that doesn’t help the top end at all.”
Discussing how the UK can continue to build a sustainable high performance system, Brailsford also cited the importance of coaching.
He said: “The coaching system is ever improving in Britain and now we have a wealth of very good coaches, and the more we can continue to invest in coach education and development, the more sustainable the system will become.
Tanner credited the work of UK Sport’s Elite Coaching Apprenticeship Programme (ECAP), saying: “I am on the steering group for ECAP and what is going on there with the Head of Coaching at UK Sport, Graham Taylor, is really very good. There are some good nuggets in UK Sport at the moment. We are well placed to move on from here.”