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Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 12:31 UK

GB athletics coach targets 2016

by Elizabeth Hudson

British wheelchair racer David Weir
David Weir was one of the stars of the GB Paralympic team

UK Athletics's Paralympic head coach Peter Eriksson believes it may be 2016 before Team GB make a big impact in the sport at the Paralympics Games.

Athletics had a poor Beijing in 2008 but plans are well advanced for 2012.

"There are still a lot of gaps in the sport and it will take time to bridge those," Eriksson told BBC Sport.

"I think we can do better in London than in Beijing but the real thing will be 2016 and I predict by then we will be in the top three nations."

Although Great Britain finished second to China in the overall table with 102 medals, including 42 golds, the athletics squad had a disappointing time in the Bird's Nest stadium.

Wheelchair racer Dave Weir was the sole gold medallist, winning two, and the team's total of 17 medals was only enough for 18th in the athletics medal tally, behind the likes of Tunisia, Kenya, Cuba and Mexico.

Eriksson took up his post earlier this year and the Swede, who has guided athletes to 119 medals at the Paralympics since 1984, is relishing the challenge of raising standards, working in tandem with UKA head coach Charles van Commenee.

"We have to rebuild the sport and look at it from a longer-term perspective but although it is slow at the moment, I think the team is heading in the right direction and I have seen a lot of changes in attitude," he said.

"We now do the same as the Olympic programme, and that is something hard to find in many other sports, but we also need to show that the changes we have made are for the better.

Our established performers need to show that they are moving along

UK Athletics Paralympic head coach Peter Eriksson

"We now don't reward for past performances. It is all about investing in the future for medals.

"With a better team spirit and higher requirements and expectations, I think we will see improvement."

Eriksson was a keen observer at last weekend's inaugural London Disability Athletics Challenge in Crystal Palace but at the back of his mind is the team for the 2011 International Paralympic Committee World Championships in New Zealand, which will form a key part of the build-up to 2012.

He added: "I think there were some highlights at Crystal Palace, both from some of the younger athletes and also some of the Beijing medallists, and I have seen a lot of athletes who need work and change so that they can move up the ranks.

"I think we are going to see very few new stars coming through and taking gold for GB in 2012. I have to count on the established performers but they also have to show that they are moving along on schedule so they have better performances as we move towards the Games.

"The World Championships are important because how we perform there will determine the size of our team for London, so it is not just about winning medals. We need to be well prepared and perform well.

"We have to bring a bigger team than normal, so it will be a costly venture for us, but hopefully worthwhile."

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see also
Getting set at the Palace
28 Jul 09 |  Disability Sport
Danny Crates
25 Jul 09 |  Disability Sport
Pistorius & Weir claim Cup golds
24 May 09 |  Disability Sport
Eriksson gets UKA disability role
17 Dec 08 |  Disability Sport
Weir storms to second Games gold
16 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
Gold for Weir after appeal U-turn
14 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
A-Z of Paralympic classification
28 Aug 08 |  Disability Sport
Disability Sport on the BBC
02 Nov 09 |  Disability Sport

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