Athletics: Patience the key after success in Morocco, says Collins

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The Independent Online

Collins admitted his delight yesterday after the Great Britain Under-18 squad returned from Morocco with a haul of two gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

The sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey headed the country's most successful championships by winning the team's two golds, with Alex Nelson clinching a silver behind him in the 100 metres final.

Gianni Frankis, a relative newcomer to the sport, took the bronze in the 110m hurdles and Alex Smith became the first British hammer thrower to win a medal at a major championships for 49 years.

However Collins, whose major aim is to rebuild the ageing Britain team for the 2008 Olympic Games, will not rush the likes of Aikines-Aryeetey into competing there.

Aikines-Aryeetey became the first athlete to achieve the sprint double in the world youth's six-year history, but Collins wants to ease the 16-year-old Surrey sprinter's transition to the senior ranks.

"Obviously, I'm very delighted with the performances in Marrakech," Collins said. "Everyone keeps saying the talent isn't there, but Marrakech put the spotlight on the fact it is there. Now we have to make sure the conversion is correct. Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and the others performed fabulously.

"What was achieved is a pathway to greater things. If they stray on the journey it will be essential to speak with them and not leave it until it is too late.

"They have to be nurtured and brought along very carefully. You have to be careful and not overcook your talent. There's a world of difference going to the Olympics and chasing medals instead of going there and having a look. Time spent on reconnaissance is very important. It is essential to manage your expectations."

Collins will now watch over more of Britain's young talent at the European Junior Championships, which start in Kaunas, Lithuania, on Thursday.