Athletics: Jackson heads elite group moving home to keep in touch with Arnold

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The Independent Online
Malcolm Arnold, who is to step down as the performance director of British Athletics to take up a post at Bath University, will be joined in the West Country by Colin Jackson and others in his training group.

Jackson, the world 110 metres hurdles record holder, is moving home from Cardiff to Bath to link up with the man who has guided his career since junior days.

Allison Curbishley, aiming to fill the gap at 400 metres hurdles left by Sally Gunnell's retirement, the sprint hurdler Jacqui Agyepong and the sprinter Melanie Neef will also relocate to stay in touch with Arnold, who will start overseeing the University's ambitious athletics programme at the beginning of next year.

Arnold's decision to step away from his key job is not directly related to the British Athletic Federation's financial collapse. His job was safeguarded within the company set up to distribute National Lottery funding to Britain's elite performers, the Performance Athletes Services.

But, faced with the prospect of committing himself for several more years to a position where he has never felt at ease, the 57-year-old Welshman has decided, in his own words, to "get more of a life" by concentrating on his main strength - coaching - again.

"In the last 12 months my life has been exceedingly difficult," said Arnold, who helped guide Britain to a European Cup victory in June. "It has been the hardest working year in my life.

"I prefer to do one job to 110 per cent rather than five jobs to 20 per cent, which is what I have had to do. I have had far too many long days and sleepless nights. My family, my wife, and the athletes I coach have suffered."

Arnold expressed satisfaction yesterday over his efforts in shaping to sport's initial application for Lottery funding, which resulted in a pounds 2.6m award. His is likely to work with the four newly appointed technical directors within PAS in shaping the seven-year plan which will be submitted to the Lottery Awards Board at the end of the year.

"I am not leaving the sport," he said. "I will be supporting the new chief executive Dave Moorcroft 100 per cent, and have agreed to continue working with PAS on a consultative basis."

But while Arnold prepares to ride off into the West, the sport faces the task of replacing him.

"Malcolm can be immensely influential in his new position," said Roger Eady, performance director for the UK Sports Council. "He has done the right thing in concentrating on his special talents. And he is still in a position to mentor a new generation of coaches in British athletics."