British coaches are getting a raw deal from UK Athletics, claims Minichiello
Ennis's coach says influx of foreigners is bad news after rejecting new role with governing body
Monday 11 February 2013
For Toni Minichiello, it was business as usual yesterday – another day of trials, tribulations, and keeping the Midas stuff on the golden girl of British athletics.
"I've been coaching Jess in the rain up the road at the Don Valley Stadium," the reigning UK Coach of the Year said after arriving at the English Institute of Sport for day two of the British Athletics European Trials and UK Championships. "She's been doing a running session there and I've come across to coach the athletes I've got competing here."
It was the morning after Minichiello not only announced an end to negotiations with UK Athletics about continuing to work for the governing body on a consultancy basis but did so firing a verbal broadside. Having already lost his old full-time job because of a restructuring process focused on building a centralised base in Loughborough, the man who guided Jessica Ennis from 12-year-old schoolgirl novice to Olympic heptathlon champion rejected a part-time contract, accusing UK Athletics of "a lack of respect " and of operating "a culture of bullying".
After putting his celebrated charge through her Sunday morning paces, and preparing to watch some of his lesser-known athletes in action, Minichiello went further in his criticism yesterday. Asked if he felt he might have been treated differently had he been the Swede who coached Carolina Kluft to global heptathlon domination before Ennis, he replied: "If you look at the squad of athletes around Raina Reider [an American coach hired by UK Athletics to coach at Loughborough] and you look at [Scottish 800m runner] Lynsey Sharp being coached by Terrence Mahon [another US coach at Loughborough] what does that say to British coaches?
"What about the British coaches? Dan Pfaff left after the Olympics and you replace him with another American [Reider]. It's like foreign is better. So be it.
"Peter Eriksson [the UK Athletics head coach] saying to me in the press, 'Take it or leave it' kind of summed up what the level of value was of me. On reflection, I thought, 'OK, I'm going to leave it.'
"It wasn't about the money. With those kind of comments coming, I thought, 'Let's just leave it, then.' It's not going to be a marriage made in heaven. It's up them. They've taken the sport in a particular direction using lottery money as they see fit. It's better just to leave it and get on and coach Jess."
Minichiello added that UK Athletics had twice attempted to get him to relocate his training base with Ennis from Sheffield. "In 2006 there was a push to move us to Loughborough," he said, "and in 2009 there was a very stiff push to move us to London. Neither would have been for Jess's benefit."
Despite that pressure, Minichiello remained in the Steel City, steadily building Ennis into the world's leading all-round female athlete on the track at the Don Valley Stadium – now under the threat of closure – and at the English Institute of Sport indoor arena. One would have thought securing his services would have been a post-Olympic priority but instead, while Stuart Lancaster has had him addressing England's rugby union squad, his talents have been allowed to drift away from the UK Athletics system.
"It's always sad when you have to do it through the newspapers, but it's Toni's decision," Eriksson said. "I'm fine with it. We will do everything we can to help Jess get to where she wants."
Minichielllo managed to get another member of his training group on the podium yesterday, Louise Bloor of Trafford AC taking bronze in the 200m behind Margaret Adeoye and Olympic 400m silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu (far left). Robbie Grabarz won the high jump with 2.31m, failing at a British record height of 2.39m. The performance of the championship came in the women's polevault, Holly Bleasdale soaring to the top of the world rankings with a clearance of 4.77m.
Out in Jamaica, meanwhile, at the Camperdown Classic meeting in Kingston, Usain Bolt won one of the 400m races in 46.74sec. Yohan Blake, whom Bolt beat to Olympic 100m and 200m gold in London last year, finished second in a separate one-lap race in 46.64sec. "I just came out here to win and I'm glad I won injury-free," Bolt said.
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