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18 November 2009

Dr Andi Drake, Director of Race Walking discusses developments taking place at the UKA National Race Walking Centre.

Like many students I took my level one coaching qualification prior to going to University (twenty years ago). I’ve since worked through to level four and developed a career as an exercise physiologist working in academia – an environment which I found conducive to being an athlete and developing my coaching.

Life as an athlete and coach had always been linked to Coventry – Godiva Harriers and the City’s University but in April I gave it all up for life in Yorkshire following the designation of Leeds Metropolitan University as the UKA Race Walking Centre and my appointment as Carnegie Director of Race Walking.

Our objectives at Carnegie are driven by a passion for developing talent towards championship level competition, e.g. working towards qualifying athletes for international teams and helping to fulfil their potential. The pinnacle of such a strategy would be to see an athlete to the Olympic podium and race walking is one area of endurance where European athletes retain dominance. 

The environment in which athletes can thrive is fundamental: there is an established team in place at Carnegie expert in working with talented athletes in sport science/medicine support and coaching. In this way, we look forward and focus on the developing demands of the event rather than looking back. I have joined a focussed coaching team headed by Mick Hill the Director of Athletics and supported by Malcolm Brown, the University’s Director of Sport. The Centre also has a secondary objective - mentoring coaches through the England Athletics National Coach Development Programme. In September Carnegie also hosted a race walk symposium within the British Association of Sport & Exercise Sciences Conference; and the IAAF Race Walk Judges Evaluation Course.

The final phase of the Carnegie programme has been to work with the athletes - often seen as the starting point of a programme. However my work since April has been to establish the objectives and develop the environment. Johanna Jackson has used the Centre for training camps throughout 2009 and is now based on site in Carnegie Village and enrolled on our Sport Performance undergraduate programme (supported by lottery funding through the World Class Performance Programme and a Carnegie Sports Scholarship). She has been joined on campus by Tom Bosworth, Brendan Boyce and Alex Wright together with Mark O’Kane (University of Leeds) and Lauren Whelan (Park Lane College). We are also working towards 2013 with a UKA Futures Training Group comprising ten athletes selected for training camps and biomechanics support at UK Challenge events. We will also actively seek new talent, as our event group requires more depth – I’m looking for 18 year olds to tackle the event as I see 2012 team places up for grabs.

In the coming seasons Carnegie will drive race walking performance and challenge the culture of the event in the UK. In summary the Centre provides athlete and coach opportunities; research and  support opportunities for other practitioners; and can be a template for other (technical) events.