Road To 2016
Grant White: “If their goal is BMX elite performance, we can help them achieve everything they’re capable of.”
Posted 30 October 2012
Words And Photography By Luke Webber
As inductions for the 2012/13 Olympic Performance Programmes take place, Grant White, British Cycling’s Olympic BMX Coach, has detailed a series of “ambitious, but achievable targets” one year on from the launch of British Cycling’s BMX Olympic Academy Programme, with a four year aim of more athletes scoring more UCI points and ultimately qualifying a maximum number of places for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
That ambition is born after the BMX Programme consisted of all four development pathways (Talent Team, Olympic Development, Olympic Academy and Podium), representing the formation of a complete squad for the first time.
Before November 2011, White described the team as being a collection of individuals. When he delivered a presentation to Olympic Development Programme athletes in 2010 – all of which are now on the Olympic Academy – his only tools to demonstrate the qualities exuded by a world or Olympic champion were limited to pen and paper.
Today however, White describes an enriched experience for a development athlete visiting British Cycling headquarters in Manchester.
“They can live it and feel it and breathe it. If their desire is to go along the pathway of BMX elite performance then we’ve got a great setup here to help them achieve everything they’re capable of. Before I was trying to put a picture in the ODP athletes' mind on a bit of paper, but now when they visit they can see the picture and it’s so much clearer. It shows the kids on Talent Team and Olympic Development Programme that this is real, they come and have camps, see the facility, the support staff and the whole system that’s here.”
BUILDING THE PICTURE
But building that picture has been a long process, from the inception of the Programme to the adaption of the first six inductees.
“When these guys came on a year ago, it was the first time out of home for a lot of them, so they had to adapt to fending for themselves. For the first four to six months they were finding their feet – in life as well as in training. But that next six months onward we’ve seen some really strong gains in their training.
“In October we had a review of the athletes as each Programme does and showed where they were when they came on and where they are now, and it was like night and day in many different areas and I think we’re starting to see that on the track.”
White highlighted the final round of the UCI world cup, where Abbie Taylor finished third and Kyle Evans, Curtis Manaton and Grant Hill made it to the quarterfinals.
Although following Olympic competition White acknowledged attendance did not have a similar strength in depth to previous world cup rounds and that Taylor had some good fortune on her way to the podium, he remained certain about one thing; the influence the Olympic Academy had in the performance.
“I can’t see Abbie's level as an individual being as high without the Academy. And I’m sure everyone on the Academy would say the same after year one. You saw two of the Academy guys make it through the time trials at the world championships which I thought was a pretty big achievement when racing against 175 elite men in their first year.”
Despite no new athletes joining the 2012/13 squad, five of the six athletes from last year have been taken on for another 12 months and another is on a shorter review date. According to White, this high rate of continued membership wasn’t a predetermined decision but due to the standard of application and he is already looking at the talent potential that exists for 2013/14.
For the six that will embark on their second year of full time, residential based Academy life, White reveals that targets have already been set.
“We've had meetings with all the individual athletes over the last couple of weeks, which they are happy with and they’ve all sat down and looked at it and said it’s a big task but it’s more than achievable. I can’t think of any reason why we can’t sit here in twelve months time and say we’ve ticked all of those aims off – both in training and competition.
“The reason I say that is because of the facilities we’ve got here, the support staff and the attitude of the athletes. They know from myself and Marcus (Bloomfield, British Cycling Olympic Academy coach) working with them day in day out it’s what’s expected and if you want to be on the Programme then that’s what you have to do.
“Massive strides already, targets set and if they tick them off which I’m quite confident that they will then we’re going to achieve some great results and some great things in the training environment.
“At Olympic Development Programme level we need to knuckle down, those guys need to get some hard work done. Probably no different to the work our current Academy guys did two years ago – the difference being that for the current athletes there’s something at the end of the tunnel now.”
That something is an Olympic Academy making real progression, targeting a home world cup in Manchester in 2013 and with a view to long term progression.
“We’ve got two women straight off that bat that can get results at world cups” White enthuses.
And in two years time I think these five Academy guys – along with a couple of other males who in the not too distant future could be thrown into that number as well – alongside Liam. I think you could have three to five or six scoring decent points.
“From the Programme’s point of view in two years time (when the 2016 Olympic qualification process begins) if we’ve got the athletes who have the potential to score solid points and to do well, we will support them to a full schedule of world cup events. And perhaps we could have two to three men in 2016 so already by numbers we’ve potentially got a better chance. But not just by the numbers, but by the quality of those numbers.
“There’s been a step from Beijing to London, it would have been nice to say a much bigger step but it is what it is and today we’ve got the path to look to progress that even further in four years time.”
British Cycling’s Road To 2016 will continue to follow the BMX Olympic Performance Programme in training and competition.