Road To 2012
Phil Dixon: Qualification process for 2012 has been tough
Published 14 May 2012
Words And Photography By Luke Webber
With just one weekend of competition before qualification for the Olympic mountain bike race closes, Britain is almost certainly assured one male and one female position. But British Cycling’s Olympic Mountain Bike Coach Phil Dixon has told of the strain of the past four years and how he will not rest easy until the final confirmation is given on May 23.
According to Dixon the process has been one of “high stress for the team” with a main source of that stress Britain’s longstanding lack of female representation at the Games. Sydney 2000 was the last time a British woman qualified to race and with no obvious candidate following Beijing 2008 the situation was becoming no easier.
“We started the plan to qualify a woman to London 2012 back in 2007” Dixon said, of one of his primary aims. “I knew it would be a very hard thing to achieve because we were starting from zero, but only now can I appreciate how draining the whole process has been.”
To combat a lack of talent, Dixon took charge of British Cycling’s revised Olympic Mountain Bike Performance Programmes – ones which mirrored the structure present in track and road disciplines – with the ambition of qualifying British representation at London 2012 for both men and women, at the same time building a sustainable development pathway for future stars to flourish.
Four years on and that mission is starting to sound less like a pipe dream. In 2008 Annie Last finished ninth as a second year junior at the World Championships; in 2012 she is set to qualify and represent Britain at the Olympics having progressed through the Olympic Development Programme and Olympic Academy.
Her story has been the biggest success in a qualification process originally slated to last four years by the UCI, but later amended to run for just two years – something Dixon acknowledged helped the cause.
And with Liam Killeen also showing signs of improvement, there is still reason to hope for Britain’s first ever Olympic medal in mountain biking. However until May 23, that’s one ambition Dixon will be keeping on ice.