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Guest Blog: Olympic Success Highlights the Achievements of British Coaching

The success of British athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was simply staggering and still, two weeks on from the closing ceremony, we are basking in the glory that comes from enjoying our most successful away Games ever, and at becoming the first country to eclipse their medal total from a home Games four years later.

With our Olympic stars set to receive the recognition they rightly deserve in the form of honours, knighthoods and damehoods, and following on from the Sports Coach UK post calling for our British coaches to be recognised for their success, there have been a number of former athletes coming forward to recognise the role a coach plays in the performance of an individual or team.

After Team GB’s success in the pool at this summer’s Olympics, former Olympic swimmer and renowned Olympic speaker Mark Foster was quick to praise the efforts of the coaching team behind the scenes to move performance forward after London 2012.

“Some people said London was disappointing, and it was so far as medals. This time we came away with six medals and had seven 4th place finishes, so potentially it could have been more,” Mark said.

“In the last four years we have made a huge shift, first of all in talent, as we now have a team of world class swimmers, but also we now have world class coaches. With the two groups working together, we enjoy world class performances.”

With the stand-out performance coming from Adam Peaty, the 21-year-old who took gold in the 100m breaststroke and broke his own record twice during the competition, Mark had a special mention for Performance Director, Chris Spice, and British Swimming Head Coach, Bill Furniss, and the roles the two had played in shaping the team for success.

“What Chris Spice and Bill Furniss have done is create the right environment for people to perform, with the right support structure in place to help them achieve this.

“People are able to express themselves on the world stage, with the two of them looking at what both the coaches and athletes need before making it available. It now all works in unison, with the person at the top and person at the bottom communicating so they know what is expected of one another and can take responsibility for this. This is the reason why we are getting the results we’ve seen.”

Mark also went on to explain how the framework for success was now in place across many different sports, hence the reason why Team GB were so successful in Rio.

“The performance from Team GB was amazing. What they did was above expectations and that all comes down to having the talent, coaches, support network and ultimately everyone working together as a team.

“We obviously couldn’t do it without the funding, but good performance only happens with the right work ethic and teamwork.”

Badminton was another sport Team GB saw considerable gains in at Rio, with the men’s doubles pair of Chris Langridge and Marcus Eliis becoming the first Brits to win an Olympic medal since Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson at the Athens Games in 2004 when they took home the bronze.

After their third place finish and the outstanding medal achievements of Team GB as a whole, Gail Emms expressed how a great deal of investment, including into coaching, had really come to the fore during the Rio Games.

“We knew it was possible (Team GB’s final medal total), but just didn’t know if the team could actually go out there and do it,” Gail said.

“It just show how much we have invested in elite sport as we’ve put everything into trying to find those marginal gains, into sports science and this group showed what we do with it. We showcased to the world what we can now achieve in any elite sport.”

Alongside the great stories of our competitors winning medal after medal, there have also been a great number of coaches behind the scenes who, after many years of hard work, are reaping the rewards as they see their athletes succeed.

There are the likes of Jurgen Grobler, GB’s Chief Rowing Coach for Men who, since 1992, has led crews to gold medals in Olympic Games, Danny Kerry, Head Coach of Team GB’s women’s hockey team who beat the Netherlands to win gold and Scott Hann, the man who helped Max Whitlock become Great Britain’s first ever Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics.

Without the knowledge, guidance and training provided by highly skilled coaches, it’s fair to suggest that Team GB’s final medal total might not have been so high as our coaches continue to push their athletes to the maximum in order to see the biggest possible end gains, with it all coming together perfectly across the board at Rio 2016.

Mark Foster and Gail Emms were both speaking to Champions Speakers, a leading after dinner speaker’s agency supplying speakers from the worlds of sport, business and TV.


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