.British prepare to go to Jamaica and Bolt’s guru to build success·
.Collins forced out as focus shifts to coaching
.Glen Mills to oversee next generation of sprinters
Michael Phillips The Guardian, Tuesday September 2 2008
UK Athletics is ready to call on Usain Bolt’s coach, Glen Mills, to help spark a revolution in the sport that will carry it to the Olympic in London in 2012 and beyond. Mills has made Bolt into the greatest sprinter in history, with the Jamaican winning an unprecedented three sprinting gold medals while setting three world records at last month’s Games in Beijing.
Officials at UKA have spoken to Mills about sending sprinters and coaches from Britain to Kingston to have their skills developed by the most sought-after guru in track and field. The idea is part of a major structural change at the top of the organisation that yesterday not only saw Dave Collins officially relieved of his position as national performance director but also saw his job title ditched.
In the next fortnight, possibly after the Paralympics which will bring an end to the four-year Olympiad cycle under which Collins was contracted, UK Athletics hopes to announce the Dutchman Charles van Commenee as his successor but in the role of head coach rather than performance director.
Niels de Vos, UKA’s chief executive, yesterday revealed that Collins’ contract, which was due to expire in six months’ time, would not have been renewed even if British athletics had celebrated a glut of medals in Beijing.
They had a target of five, but left China with just four and only one gold, from Christine Ohuruogu in the 400m.
“It’s not a sacking,” said De Vos. "It’s a guy who is coming to the end of his contract, who I have had conversations with over a long time about what needs to be done going forward and we have agreed it’s not him. Nor is it a reaction to Beijing. Genuinely, if we had won none or 20 medals, the changes I want to make would have happened anyway.
"The rationale behind it is that ‘performance director’ is just too broad and wide a job in a sport as complex as athletics. We are gearing up very much towards ‘coaching’ and ‘director of coaching’. There will be somebody stepping into the role of head coach."
UKA wants to ensure that any foundation set for the Olympics in 2012, where British athletics will be under its greatest pressure to succeed, is taken on to the Games in 2016 and beyond by both athletes and coaches. That is where the likes of Mills come into the picture.
In Beijing, Bolt won almost as many medals as the whole British track and field team managed between them, having been coached by Mills, a fellow Jamaican, since the end of 2004. One of the reasons behind Jamaica’s growing success has been an investment in their coaching system, an area that has been given priority at places such as the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport in St Catherine.
Mills has helped transform Bolt into a phenomenon who ran 9.69sec to break the 100m world record as he won Olympic gold in Beijing before his equally amazing 19.30 to break Michael Johnson’s 12-year-old 200m world record. Bolt finished his Games by helping Jamaica to gold in the 4x100m relay, in another world-record time.
Yesterday De Vos refused to confirm or deny that Van Commenee is their main target but sources close to the hierarchy in the sport have stressed that not only is he the top choice, but that a deal has been struck with him. The Dutchman was UK Athletics’ multi-events director but was strangely discounted from the job as performance director when Collins was appointed by the UKA’s old regime in 2004.
Van Commenee, who now works for the Netherlands Olympic Committee, is an athletics coach with a high-class reputation. In Sydney in 2000 he guided Britain’s Denise Lewis to Olympic heptathlon gold. Four years later he coached Kelly Sotherton to Olympic bronze. Collins, by contrast, was a sports psychologist at Edinburgh University when he was appointed.
De Vos said: “Dave did very good job at putting systems in place but at the end of the day systems don’t win medals. It’s not about me saying Dave was 100% wrong - 75% of what he did was right. But I knew where I wanted to go. It has been an ongoing process since about January. I said at the time that the performance director role was too big.”
Going nowhere fast
Since Linford Christie’s gold in Barcelona in 1992, Britain’s performances in the men’s 100m at the Olympics paint a picture of sprinting decline:
Jason Gardner and Mark Lewis-Francis
Dwain Chambers, 4th, and Darren Campbell, 6th
Linford Christie, DQ