17 January 2001A £2.2million a year plan was unveiled on Wednesday 17 January to provide Englands future athletics stars with stepping stones from the cradle to the podium over the next decade.
The World Class Potential Plan - spearheaded by a vastly experienced group of Regional Performance Managers, including former Olympians - will initially help up to 140 athletes considered capable of winning medals at Olympic Games, World Championships and European Championships by 2008. This will bring to around 400 the number of athletes throughout the UK who are receiving assistance from Sports Lottery Funds throughout the four home countries.
The World Class Potential Plan is a programme to support athletes who are resident in and eligible to compete for England. There are parallel programmes in the other Home Countries. The Sport England Lottery Fund has committed up to £2m a year for four years to establish and make the programme work, with partnership funding from UK Athletics worth an extra £200,000 per year.
The Plan, written by UK Athletics Performance at the request of the AAA of England and Sport England, will concentrate on identifying talent, nurturing talent and smoothing the transition up to the World Class Performance Plan, which was credited with playing a huge part in Britains successes at the Sydney Olympic Games.
Athletes on the Potential Plan will have access to support services similar to those available to the best of the UKs athletes through the Performance Plan. They will be assisted with payments for sports clothing and equipment as well as being able to use all the specialist services - physiotherapy, medical, sports science and coaching advice - available at High Performance Centres already up and running in Bath, Birmingham, Loughborough and Sheffield, and opening later this year in London and Manchester. These High Performance Centres are key centres in the English Institute of Sport network.
They will also be able to call on the advice of seven Regional Performance Managers - all experienced at international level - placed in Gateshead, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bath and three sites around London.
The Head of Potential will be Tudor BIDDER, who as UK Athletics Technical Director for Jumps and Combined Events watched with pride as Jonathan EDWARDS and Denise LEWIS won Olympic Gold medals in Sydney. The Regional Performance Managers all have international experience as athletes, coaches and/or managers - Ralph IWAN (who will be based in Manchester), Ted KING (Birmingham), Tony LESTER (West London), Terry LOMAX (Gateshead), Jackie McKERNAN (North London), Mark ROWLAND (South London) and Martin RUSH (Bath).
Bidder said: "Most of the athletes in the plan will be aged between 16 and 23, but that does not preclude anybody who is older because there are late developers and in some events, such as endurance and the throws, the best take longer to mature.
"We are basically setting out to help athletes who are in the World top 20 for their age in their event, though the standards will be refined on an annual basis until they suit the sport of athletics. As the purpose is to generate more medallists at World and Olympic level, the athletes must continue to improve annually to remain on the Plan."
Bidder, who worked on the Australian Talent Search before moving to UK Athletics three years ago, added: "The basic plan is to identify raw talent and nurture it. It has worked down under - and, from what Ive seen at meetings such as the English Schools Championships, it will work up here, too."
UK Athletics Performance Director Max JONES said: "The English World Class Potential Plan is the last piece of the Performance jigsaw. For the last three years, we have had the roof of the Performance house but not the rooms or foundations. This plan now complements the excellent work being done in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and we now have a true World Class Performance Plan for the whole UK. Onward to 2004 and 2008!"
AAA of England Chairman David CROPPER said: "The introduction of support to the more talented younger athletes is a much-needed and most welcome development. The investment made by Sport England in funding this plan, and for which we are most grateful, will provide clear pathways and assistance for these athletes to achieve their full potential. This is a bold initiative that will improve performances at all levels while maintaining our world prominence as a leading athletics nation."
Sport England Vice-Chair Tessa SANDERSON, who won the javelin Gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games, said: "We have already seen the marvellous results achieved by athletes who have received support and funding through the National Lottery from the exploits of our Olympians and Paralympians in Sydney. Now we can make the same commitment to the next generation of sportsmen and women who are eager to follow in their footsteps and take on the best in the World. World Class Potential is really the stepping stone to developing our future Olympic and World Champions and will provide an enormous boost to our sporting profile around the world.
"For the first time we have produced a programme that will identify our most talented young people and offer them a golden opportunity to reach their full potential in their chosen event. For these athletes, World Class Potential will allow them to dream the dream."