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Woodward's Olympic challenge

By Matt Slater

Melissa Reid
Reid has benefited from Woodward's "no excuses" approach
Melissa Reid might not be a household name to many outside the world of female amateur golf - not yet, anyway - but she could lay claim to being the most significant "Olympic" athlete in Britain right now.

No, the sport of Tiger Woods and Ronnie Corbett has not suddenly been granted Olympic status, and Reid is not a part-time pentathlete.

She is, however, Sir Clive Woodward's template for golden glory in 2012.

The British Olympic Association's performance guru has spent much of his first year in the job working with the 20-year-old from Derbyshire to prepare a "live example" of what he wants to do for Olympic sport.

"Everything I have done with her would be no different to what I would do with a boxer, judo player, swimmer or any world-class athlete," said Woodward.

"It's a work in progress but it's been really interesting because I see her as a typical Olympic athlete.

"The most important thing is her and her coach, and for Olympic sports the performance director too.

"It is highly unlikely the two (performance models) can run together - it would become very messy
A senior performance director
"If you get those three things right - world-class performance director, coach and athlete - there is every chance you will be successful."

Woodward was set to show all 35 summer and winter Olympic sports what he has been working on with Reid earlier this month but that presentation has been postponed until after the Rugby World Cup, which finishes on 20 October.

He started working with Reid after her coach Lawrence Farmer, a friend of Woodward's, asked the former England rugby union coach if he could help his charge.

Reid was, according to Woodward, a huge talent struggling to convert her potential. The English Girls champion in 2004 and 2005, she was being held back by injuries, illnesses and inconsistency.

But since becoming Woodward's pet project, Reid has been treated to the best available medical support, technical advice and sports psychology. The results have been impressive.

Sir Clive Woodward
Woodward has a record for getting the best out of driven athletes
She finished in a tie for 16th - the top amateur - at the Women's British Open at St Andrews in August and then followed that three weeks later by winning the Ladies' British Amateur Stroke Play title.

Among the experts Woodward has brought in are former England rugby kicking guru Dave Alred and vision specialist Sherylle Calder, who also worked with England but now coaches the Springboks.

Woodward admits this "highly-targeted" approach does not come cheap but is confident the BOA can afford it and he has already started to bring in sponsors.

The challenge for Woodward now, however, is to convince the Olympic sports, and their coaches and performance directors in particular, that his golf-based template can work for them.

He must also persuade UK Sport, the body that allocates government funding for elite sport, that his model can work alongside its existing elite performance structure.

Representatives from UK Sport and the Performance Directors' Forum - a group of senior Olympic performance directors that meet on a quarterly basis - saw an abridged version of Woodward's presentation in June.

We are not working so much with the athletes, the real difference we will make is with how the coaches and performance directors work with the athletes
Sir Clive Woodward
One performance director present at that meeting told BBC Sport: "Different models offer different things and there are tensions between (Woodward's and UK Sport's).

"It is highly unlikely the two can run together. It would become very messy.

"If we lost three or four of our most talented people from our programme, the whole thing collapses. The system only works because we're all in it.

"We've all bought in to the Peter Keen (Woodward's counterpart at UK Sport) model and there's no doubt it's been successful in terms of assuring the Treasury that public money is being spent in a transparent and accountable way.

"Had (Woodward's model) come along seven years ago...who knows?"

BOA chief executive Simon Clegg dismissed these concerns, saying: "The national bodies and federations enjoy complete autonomy and it is up to them to decide if they want to take up our services or otherwise.

"(But) it will work for all 35 (Olympic sports) if all 35 want it."

Euan Burton
Burton wants what no previous GB judoka has got - an Olympic gold
Woodward pointed to the work he has already started with judo as evidence that his plan can be adapted to Olympic sport. In fact, he is about to begin working with Scottish judo player Euan Burton.

He had hoped to bring in three or four of the sport's best hopes but British Judo felt it would be better to start with the 28-year-old Burton, who has won European and World bronze medals this year, and "let the expertise filter down".

Woodward admitted that "fast-tracking" Burton would cost more than the amount he budgeted for Reid, as the most pressing need for Britain's judo stars is regular training against the world's best judokas, which means considerable travel.

This issue has led UK Sport to express concerns about the potential for duplication of funding.

Sue Campbell, the Chair of UK Sport, said: "It isn't a question of saying if you go with Clive we'll withdraw your money, it's saying where Clive provides a parallel service, funded outside the system, we can't give you money for the same thing.

"Believe me, if there is one thing the Treasury will come down on us for, through the National Audit Office, it is duplication of funding."

BBC Sport's Matt Slater
Woodward, however, remains confident his model can complement the existing performance framework.

"We are not working so much with the athletes, the real difference we will make is with how the coaches and performance directors work with the athletes," he added.

"If the coaches and performance directors aren't world class and really want to deliver, chances are the athlete won't either. So that's what I've come up with."

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