Brit Coach To Skip CWG

Collins stays at home to fuel Olympic fires
By Tom Knight
(Filed: 05/01/2006)

If British athletes go some way to redeeming themselves by winning medals at the Commonwealth Games in March, Dave Collins, the sport’s performance director, will not be in Australia to see it.

Collins, who took up his role with UK Athletics last March, has decided to carry on working in this country for the duration of the Games, which begin in Melbourne on March 15.

It may seem odd that Collins will not be at trackside in the specially-converted Melbourne Cricket Ground to witness what, it must be hoped, will be the start of an upward surge in Britain’s athletics’ fortunes. That is especially so since he is working hard to correct the faults in the system exposed by some dreadful performances at last summer’s World Championships in Helsinki.

Instead of going to Australia, Collins will travel with a small British team to the World Indoor Championships, which take place just before the Commonwealth Games, on the weekend of March 10-12 in Moscow.

There is a reason for Collins’ decision and it has nothing to do with the horrendous timing of the two events, which has come about because the International Association of Athletics Federations do not recognise the Commonwealth Games as a major championship.

That is why the Games are sandwiched between the World Indoors and the World Cross-Country, in Fukuoka, Japan, on the weekend of April 1-2.

No, Collins is staying at home because British athletes in Melbourne will be competing for their home nations.

Collins said: "I would not have any role at the Commonwealth Games and my going there to watch did not seem the best use of my time.

"I will remain in Britain, putting in place the systematic changes to the sport that are necessary in our long-term plan for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

“There will be enough people from UK Athletics, coaches and medical staff, watching what athletes are doing and reporting back. I think my presence would amount to micro-management gone mad.”

In fact, up to 10 of UK Athletics’ senior performance, coaching and medical staff will be in Melbourne in some capacity. Among those they will be watching with interest will be the athletes Collins has taken a particular interest in since Helsinki.

Most notable among them will be Mark Lewis-Francis, the once-promising sprinter whose poor form prompted a change of home and coach at the end of the summer.

Having moved from his native Birmingham, the 23-year-old Lewis-Francis is living in the South-East and working with Tony Lester, one of UK Athletics’s senior performance coaches.

Lewis-Francis has reportedly lost weight since the move and Collins added: "I’ve been keeping tabs on what athletes have been doing since the summer.

“It’s important not to crowd people but to make sure there is progression in what they are doing. I’m happier with what I’m seeing.”

With so few British athletes deserving star billing, Fast Track, the promoters of the sport in the UK, have rightly lauded the appearance of Carolina Kluft in the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow on Jan 28.

Kluft, the Olympic, world and European heptathlon champion, competes for Sweden in an international match also featuring Italy, Russia and a Commonwealth select.