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UK Athletics

Combined Events and Throws Conferences report

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Mick Hill
Mick Hill demonstrating

The coaches who attended the UK Athletics Combined Events and Throws Conferences at Loughborough University on Sunday 15 October received quality advice on techniques – and comforting pledges that they will receive more thorough help in the future.


Andy Paul, UKA Head of Athletics Development, explained that he and Michelle Dunkley, the former international high jumper who is now the UKA Senior Coordinator – Jumps, Throws and Combined Events, were working closely with staff in the nine English Regions and the Celtic nations “to establish a network as close as it can be to clubs, coaches and athletes at local level.”


The message was reinforced by the event specific lecturers. For example, former Olympian Mick Hill told the javelin coaches that mentors such as he, Peter Yates, Ken Holmes, Mark Robison and occasionally Steve Backley would aim to “get to where you are training with your athletes and see if we can be of any help.”


In addition, personal coaches will be invited to join their athletes at national and regional event specific squad days and weekends throughout the winter to pick up advice.


And practical advice was available in abundance at Conference workshops dotted around the UK Athletics East Midlands High Performance Centre and, in the case of javelin and discus, on the track in-field.


Ex-Olympian Shaun Pickering led what he called ‘An idiot’s guide to the spin’ in an indoor shot circle with the balletic help of Alison Rodger. Knowing he was talking to combined eventers a well as specialist putters, one key piece of advice was: “Don’t get into positions you are not strong enough to get out of. Most of the top shot putters in the world aren’t strong enough to get out of most of the positions combined eventers get into.”


Martin Green from Cambridgeshire, who coached Caroline Pearce and Jenny Lacey to combined events international standard, said: “Watching a coach work, you always learn something. It was fascinating to see something new like Shaun’s presentation. I wish I’d known that several years ago for one of my girls in particular!”


And English Schools’ and UK School Games javelin champion Sarah-Ann De Kremer (Corby AC) turned up for the conference with her father and coach Peter, a former international in his own right, to “listen and learn” – and found herself lining up alongside former World Junior Champion David Parker (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) and Scottish Senior record holder James Campbell (Cheltenham and District Harriers) to demonstrate for Mick Hill on the javelin run-way. She said afterwards: “I have learnt a lot of different ways of training and gym work.”


She and Peter also spent an hour or more in a different part of the HiPAC listening to advice lined-up by Carolyn Franks at the Midland Counties Coaches’ Conference – a gathering that brought to life Paul’s promise of closer working relationships between UKA and the regions.


Ian Grant brought gasps of astonishment from combined eventers when he rated this year’s performances “average” – even though Dean Macey and Kelly Sotherton won Commonwealth titles; European Junior Champion Jessica Ennis led the Norwich Union GB Women’s Team to its best ever placing at the European Cup of Combined Events; and there were many outstanding performances down the age groups. Even his fellow GB Team Leader Darrell Bunn began to barrack him. Then Grant added: “Better than last year.” And concluded with: “Not as good as next year…”


“That seemed to gain general approval,” commented Grant at the end of a day when coaches were left in no doubt that performances must improve all the way to London 2012.