"We want to spend next year inspiring the nation at the Olympic and Paralympic Games"

Published 6 January 2020

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As the New Year dawns, we sat down with UK Sport CEO Sally Munday to talk about her first three months in the job, the challenges she has faced so far and her belief that the British high-performance system is in a good place to once again enjoy success at this year's Olympic & Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

On her first three months in the job and lessons learnt so far…

It’s been fantastic and hugely interesting. I’ve been spending my time getting to know the team, what we do, our systems, our processes. But I’ve also spent a fair amount of time getting out and about and meeting the sports. I didn’t have huge knowledge of Paralympic sport but I’ve been fortunate to have already spent time with Para Table Tennis, Para Archery and Wheelchair Basketball which has been fascinating. It’s just been interesting to get a better understanding of the challenges faced by each sport. It’s been a huge learning curve, with lots of things I haven’t experienced before, but I’m really enjoying it.

On the personal challenges faced…

The main thing for me has been keeping an open mind. When you work in this industry you develop your own views and opinions. But I’m conscious that my views and opinions come from having worked in hockey. Despite being on the EIS (English Institute of Sport) board and being involved with other sports, you’re naturally focused on your own sport. I’ve had to say to myself, don’t make judgements too quickly and don’t jump to conclusions. I’ve enjoyed being in that space of learning and meeting sports and the team here. The challenge for me is making sure I listen and understand what’s beneath the surface and not just what’s immediately in front of me.

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On UK Sport’s role within the high-performance system…

I very much see our role as an enabler and as a supporter. What’s interesting is as the body that works across all Olympic and Paralympic sport, we generate a huge amount of knowledge, expertise and understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in sport. Our ability to share this information across the system and bring together different sports to share knowledge and best practice is essential. It’s obvious to me having met some of the sports that we’re able to do that in a way that really adds value. So many of the sports have talked to me about how individuals in our organisation have added value to what they do, and I think it’s important to carry this on.

On the belief that British Olympic & Paralympic sport is in a good place to inspire the nation once again at Tokyo 2020…

There’s no question. The energy, commitment and focus that the sports have ahead of Tokyo is palpable. It’s obvious when you go into the sports and their training environments. A lot of the sports are still qualifying so you can sense the pressure that’s on, but there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be leaving no stone unturned to give the athletes the best chance of success to inspire the nation once again.

On the responsibility felt personally and organisationally towards our funded athletes as we head into a Games year…

I think it’s a huge responsibility but also I feel a huge sense of pride that we can support so many athletes and allow them to try to achieve their dreams of becoming a Paralympic or Olympic champion. The athletes bring the talent, the drive and the commitment and we wrap so many things around them to ensure they have the best chance of success. I feel that sense of responsibility but then so do the sports and it’s obvious when you meet them just how committed they are to doing this right.

On the importance of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, beyond the big medal moments…

There’s no doubt that those big medal moments inspire the nation. When I think back to 2016 when the women’s hockey team won gold in Rio and it stopped the 10 O’clock news. Almost ten million people watched that, and it captured the imagination of the British public. That’s what iconic sporting moments can do.

I also think the British public love seeing sports they don’t see every day and hearing the back stories of the athletes and their journeys to becoming an Olympian or Paralympian. The other thing that is amazing about the Games is how the sports all come together which creates a sense of belonging around the British team which I think people really like.

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On the impact British success and medals has on communities across the UK…

Those moments when athletes and sports win medals give that sense of real happiness and one of the great things about sport is it makes people happy. But the impact is so much greater than those medal moments. The role our athletes play in their communities, going into schools, businesses and sports clubs, sharing their experiences and championing issues such as the environment or participation in sport has such a huge impact that goes way beyond winning medals. The things I’m most excited about in 2020 and beyond is how we can amplify some of those things. There is some incredible work that the sports and athletes do that we can promote.

I also think there’s more that we can do with the home nations’ sports councils and other partners to utilise the platform our athletes generate from their success to grow the social impact that we have.

On what would make a successful year for British Olympic and Paralympic sport…

We want to spend July, August and September inspiring the nation at the Olympic and Paralympic Games and I’m confident that we will do that. If we can get to the end of 2020 having inspired the nation again through the electrifying performances of our British athletes I think we’ll be able to reflect on a truly successful 2020.

I’d love to be sitting here in 12 months’ time not only having made the nation feel proud through the achievements of our wonderful athletes in Tokyo, but also to have the government backing to allow us to continue this journey and for our Paralympian and Olympians to make the nation proud at Beijing, Paris and beyond.

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Funding Partners
  • DCMS
  • TNL partners
Official Partners
  • BAES logo
  • BUPA
  • IHG logo
Strategic Partners
  • British Olympic Association
  • Paralympics GB
  • Sport England
  • Sport Northern Ireland
  • Sport Wales
  • Sport Scotland