Paralympic guru Eriksson wants to build on London 2012
19:28 29 October 2012
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Peter Eriksson was unveiled as UK Athletics’ new head coach today before immediately setting his sights on exceeding the London 2012 achievements of Team GB’s “golden generation”.
The Swede has been charged with filling the considerable shoes of Charles van Commenee, who has opted to walk away when his contract expires in December after his team were unable to meet his lofty target of eight medals at this year’s Olympics.
Eriksson, 59, is reluctant to name a figure to aim for at Rio 2016 but wants to at least out-do the celebrated class of 2012.
The Scandinavian, who led Team GB to third in the medal table at the London Paralympics with 29 golds and 65 medals in total, said: “I think it’s a fantastic privilege to be appointed to this position and I’m really thrilled about the opportunity.
“The team did so well at the Olympic Games and it’s something we can build on.
“I think we have in front of us a golden generation going forward to the 2016 Games and 2017 World Championships, where we can perform even better.
“I think the next five years and beyond are going to be really exciting for the British athletics community.”
Eriksson believes there is potential to achieve even more in Rio de Janeiro.
“The vision is to do better and better and take more and more medals,” he told Press Association Sport.
“We’ll set a target - we’re in discussions right now with UK Sport about funding going forward and what the target is going to be.
“Am I going to set a target and then resign if I don’t meet the exact numbers? I don’t know today. That’s not what I’ve done in the past. If you look at the numbers Charles did, he did a fantastic job with four gold medals. So no, I don’t think so.
“The natural target after six medals is seven or more next time. I think we can do better and better.
“What the numbers are going to be is hard to predict today and we’ll find out shortly, when we start the World Championships and the big events.”
Eriksson acknowledges the new role will bring more responsibility.
“There will be more pressure because of the media attention but that’s not something that worries me,” he said.
“What worries me is to have the athletes in the right place and the coaches in the right place to do the best we can do.”
UK Athletics performance director Neil Black was similarly non-committal over targets for the future, but echoed Eriksson’s belief that Van Commenee’s achievements can be built on.
“We’ll always have targets associated with funding,” he said. “Whether we set a head coach or UKA target, there are still ongoing discussions which are needed between myself and Peter.
“Without doubt the dream is to exceed the medal haul of London 2012 and that’s what we’re looking for. Our job is to transfer that dream into a reality and we believe it can be done.”
Eriksson’s appointment was quickly welcomed in athletics circles.
Triple jumper Phillips Idowu, who had a long-running feud with Van Commenee which dominated the build-up to the Olympics, gave his backing to the appointment.
He Tweeted: “Happy 4 Peter Erikkson, met him in Italy a few yrs ago & he was actually coaching (not just a title). We had a nice convo about his kids.”
Former Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, who won silver under Van Commenee this summer, said: “I have such a lot of respect for Peter and what he’s achieved.
“I’ve been in the fortunate position where I was with him over the summer at the Paralympic Games holding camp and I was struck by the fact he did whatever he could do to get the best out of the athletes - he had a real no-nonsense approach and was totally focused on winning medals.”
Eriksson will move immediately from his role as UKA’s Paralympic head coach, with a replacement now being sought for that position.