Thu, Feb 22, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Officials say UK's olympic athletes need to improve

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The British Olympic Association (BOA) on Tuesday demanded that the country's athletes deliver improved performances so that the target of fourth place in the overall medal table for the 2012 Olympics can be achieved.

Speaking at the launch of the BOA's progress report on performance across the Olympic sports, the chief executive, Simon Clegg, described the recent performance of the athletes as "modest" and called for a greater contribution from track and field as the London Games approach.

Ranked 34th

According to the BOA's research, which projects the place of each Olympic sport in a medal table on the basis of last year's performance, British athletes ranked 34th in the world, level with Eritrea, Latvia and Qatar but behind Mozambique and Ghana. Athletes ranked lower than any of the other British Olympic teams and were down 18 places from their 2005 ranking of 16th, though the research focuses on world performances and excludes the European Championships, in which Britain won eight medals.

Britain ranked seventh overall in the projected medal table but Clegg called for an improvement from underperforming sports.

"There is much scope for improvement, particularly from sports with multi-medal-winning opportunities such as athletics, swimming, shooting, taekwondo, boxing and weightlifting," he said.

"We were able to secure seventh place overall with what could only be called a modest contribution from athletics, but they are exceptionally focused and understand that they have to turn the sport around. We would like to see them step up to the plate," Clegg said.

Overhaul

UK Athletics has undergone an overhaul with a new chairman, Ed Warner, and chief executive, Niels de Vos. BOA chairman Colin Moynihan said he had faith in their ability to turn around the sport but Warner said the target of fourth place was unhelpful.

"I am not going to get hanged on a medal target. Its not the right way to run the sport for the athletes," he said. "We are not answerable to the BOA, we are answerable to the athletes up and down the country who compete in the sport."

Warner did acknowledge that the sport faced huge challenges.

"For whatever reason -- it may be underinvestment in coaching or it may go back further to athletics in schools -- but it is almost like we have skipped a generation of elite athletes," he said.

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