Team GB recorded their first three gold medals of the Tokyo Olympics on Monday – and female coaches were instrumental in the winning of two of them.
UK Sport is committed to more than doubling the representation of female coaches in the Olympic and Paralympic high-performance community by the time of the Paris Games in 2024.
And two of the most high-profile exponents of their art gave an inspirational reminder of the quality of their work as their athletes reached the top step of the podium in Tokyo.
Mel Marshall, one of eight female coaches who provided key support to the next generation of elite coaches via UK Sport’s female coaches leadership programme this year, saw Adam Peaty become the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title as he won the 100m breaststroke.
Jane Figueiredo, meanwhile, who was also involved in the six-month UK Sport programme, saw Tom Daley and his partner Matty Lee win 10m synchro diving gold.
Marshall spoke out on International Women’s Day this year, saying: “There are three things that can make a difference to the shape of gender equality as we move forward. Role models are really important, as are women having faith and confidence in themselves that they can do the role. And then there’s organisations providing opportunities.”
Her status as the coach of a repeat Olympic champion firmly establishes her as the type of role model to which she referred.
She has also given a fascinating insight into her role with Peaty: “There’s a preparation coach and an arena coach and if you’re doing a good job as a preparation coach, your athletes should arrive at these events responsible, independent, confident and capable.
“When you’re actually in the environment in the arena, it’s your job to quieten down the noise and flatten the waves. It’s about making sure athletes know it’s the same job, the same business they’ve been doing every day since they were a young kid.”
Figueiredo has been working with Daley since 2014 and said in Tokyo: “Our journey has always been about winning a gold medal.”
She told the British Swimming website last year: I’ve had people who’ve come to the pool and interviewed me and said, ‘Do you feel as a woman coach that you’re a minority?’ I say, ‘I’ve never looked at it like that, because I never believe you should be using that as a crutch’.
“I’m sure Mel gets the same question. As a strong, passionate, female coach, we don’t see it like that. We see it as, ‘I’ve got the tools, I’m good enough’, therefore if somebody, a man or a woman, comes knocking on my door, that’s not something I actually notice.”
The day before Marshall and Peaty and Figueiredo and Daley and Lee’s success in Tokyo, another coach leader on UK Sport’s female coaches leadership programme was celebrating.
Kate Howey is Head Coach at British Judo and two-time Olympic medallist watched on as Chelsie Giles claimed Team GB’s first medal in Tokyo with bronze in the 52kg.
With nearly two weeks of competition still to be played out in Tokyo, there will undoubtedly be further reminders of the quality of female coaches operating already at the very highest level of Olympic sport.