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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2007, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
Steve Backley Q&A on British athletics
Allan WellsColin JacksonDarren CampbellJonathan EdwardsKelly HolmesKriss AkabusiMary PetersEnter alt textSally GunnellLord CoeSteve BackleySteve Cram

Q: How many athletics medals are the British team going to win in Beijing?

A: I think at this stage we are starting to clutch at straws. Two would actually be OK at this stage, and one of those might have to be a relay medal.

Q: Which events are our best hopes of medals?

A: We've got some great competitors in the men's jumps. (Long jumper) Chris Tomlinson showed again at Crystal Palace (last week) that he is a great competitor, winning with his last jump and he was fifth in Athens. Greg Rutherford, the European silver medallist, if he gets himself healthy again he could have a little tussle with Chris and they could urge each other on. In the triple jump you've got Phillips Idowu and Nathan Douglas.

OK, you've got slight injury issues, but that's athletics. In world terms, they're about as good as we've got.

The only other event is probably the women's 800m - it's very strong, it's probably the hardest event for selection right now. It was great to see Becky Lyne back on form at Crystal Palace, she's run 1:58 in the past, that's knocking on the door of properly world class.

Nicola Sanders showed she was world class indoors in the 400m but hasn't quite converted that outdoors. If she can do that she's in contention, although with (American) Sanya Richards out there it's unlikely to be the top spot. There are chances out there but they don't always come off. Three medals would be a result.

Q: With London 2012 now just five years away, are you optimistic or pessimistic about British athletics? And why?

A: I'm more optimistic about London than I am about Beijing. The names I've mentioned already are young, the majority of those will still be around in London and they'll be more experienced. That's young talent that we can nurture.

And athletes always perform better at home, as they do in any sport. So I'm looking forward to London.

Q: Who are our best hopes of a gold medal in London?

STEVE BACKLEY
Steve Backley
Born: 12 February, 1969 in Sidcup
Olympic record: javelin silver (1996, 2000), bronze (1992)
Other medals: World silver (1995, 1997), European gold (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002), Commonwealth gold (1990, 1994, 2002), Commonwealth silver (1998)
A: We don't have anybody that we can say is a great chance for a gold medal. I've got to be brutally honest about that. But can we convert that? Yes, of course we can.

In world terms, even the events we're strong in, there are others doing better. Look at the times Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay are doing in the 100m, Sanya Richards in the women's 400m and Jeremy Wariner in the men's 400m. It's tough.

Andy Baddeley might have a chance in the 1500m. He could get down to the low 3:30s, which would put him in the mix. He can shift over the last 200m and he's perhaps the sort of athlete who could convert to a gold medal.

I mentioned the jumps but the triple jumpers are going to have to find 10s of centimetres to get out to 18m, that's where the business end is, and the long jumpers are going to have to get to 8.60 and 8.70 - that looks beyond Greg Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson at the moment.

Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon is continually improving and is a really exciting athlete. Carolina Kluft is unbeaten in years but she hasn't been looking quite herself of late. That said, I hear a young Russian has just come out of the woodwork. On the world scene it's tough, but Jessica has a chance.

Q: If you could make one change to improve the performance of our athletes what would it be?

A: I think there's a great argument to think about bonuses, let's put some carrots out there. Lottery funding is great and it helps people out. But what about the next stage up? There is a carrot with a gold medal and what that brings in the commercial world, but I think that needs to be made more obvious.

I think it would entice people to say, "I'm quick and West Ham want me to play on the wing but I want to win that 2012 Olympic final". What if there was a 1m jackpot for winning a 2012 gold?

Lottery support is absolutely vital because it creates stability. For example, you need to know that if you get hurt you are going to get the best possible help. But you also need a little bit of instability too, so you get the right type of motivation. I just think it would be interesting to create a more obvious pot of gold at the end of the journey.

Q: If you could make one change to boost the sport's profile and participation levels, what would it be?

A: Better and more athletics at school. I want to see more kids taking part and being encouraged to compete. I've seen at first hand people being discouraged from competing. Winners and losers in sport is fine, because you live to fight another day.

Non-competitive sport? What a waste of time. While schools encourage that it will impact on our athletic performances. The more we can encourage athletics and competition in schools the better our athletes will become when they live school.

Club athletics is getting a shake-up, which is good, and I think it has an exciting future. I also think the shop window is good - the events at Crystal Palace and Sheffield are important - but we just need lots and lots of people doing it. And that starts at school.



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