Peter Eriksson takes reins of UK Athletics and pledges softer approach


Now for something completely different … UK Athletics has an Olympic head coach who considers Twitter a useful form of communication, rather than the refuge of "clowns and attention seekers", and enjoys a happy relationship with Phillips Idowu.

In appointing the Sweden-born Canadian Peter Eriksson, the mastermind of Britain's Paralympics success, to replace Charles van Commenee yesterday, the domestic governing body of track and field swapped a blunt, often abrasively hard taskmaster for a more conciliatory operator.

Asked how his working method compared with that of Van Commenee, the Dutchman who decided not to seek a renewal of his contract in the wake of an Olympic campaign that fell two gongs short of his personal eight-medal target, Eriksson replied: "It's kind of not the same. I work more in the same style as Neil."

Neil Black was appointed to the new role of performance director by UK Athletics last month and will work towards the 2016 Rio Olympics in tandem with Eriksson, who – according to chief executive Niels de Vos – moves from Paralympic head coach as a direct replacement for Van Commenee as Olympic head coach.

"If you compare me with Charles, we have the same outcome in mind," Eriksson added. "We want to perform better. We want to have more medals. That would be the same side of things. Not the same side would be: I have a Twitter account and he doesn't. I don't write on it all the time, but I read it because I think it's interesting."

The appointment of the avuncular Eriksson, a 59-year-old one-time speed skating international, opened an instant line of communication to Idowu, whose relationship with Van Commenee suffered a terminal breakdown after the Dutchman accused the triple jumper of announcing his withdrawal from the British squad for last year's European Team Championships on Twitter – famously adding his opinion that the social networking site was for "clowns and attention seekers".

Idowu used his Twitter account today to applaud the appointment of the incoming head coach – and to have a subtle dig at the outgoing one. "Happy 4 Peter Erikkson," he tweeted. "Met him in Italy a few yrs ago & he was actually coaching (not just a title)."

Informed that Idowu had welcomed him, Eriksson said: "Oh, that's nice of him. At the training camp in Italy I had many meals with him and I find him a really nice guy. We talk a lot about our children, so we have a common interest. We get along great." Idowu cut his links with UK Athletics in the build-up to London 2012 as he battled to overcome injury before the Games.

It was suggested to Black that he and Eriksson would be more conciliatory towards the leading athletes. "I think that possibly the difference that might be apparent is that our style is probably a little bit more, 'Let's sit down and listen and at least appear that there's more time spent getting an understanding, a feeling, before making a decision'," Black replied.

"I think at times it appeared as though Charles didn't do that or wasn't interested in that, although I have to say, having worked so closely with him and had private conversations about the traumas and the challenges, I think he did more of that than people thought he did."

So can Idowu, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Co expect a shift from tough love to soft love? "Soft love?" Eriksson pondered. "I don't know about that…

"Look, if you hire coaches to do a job, let them do the job. You have to listen to what their needs are as well to enable them to do the job. But is it going to be soft love? No, if they [the athletes] don't live up to the standard, then it's going to be tough love."

Eriksson described himself as "more of a quiet personality" than Van Commenee. "I don't know if it's a hard act to follow," Eriksson said. "I think he did a great job. Four gold medals at the Olympics was excellent.

"I think we have a golden generation going forward to the 2016 Olympics, and to the 2017 World Championships in London."

Peter Eriksson: factfile

* Born Stockholm (19 November 1952). Moved to Canada in 1987 and is now a Canadian citizen.

* Competed for Sweden as a speed skater, finishing 10th at the 1977 World Sprint Championships.

* Entered coaching on an apprenticeship with the Swedish track and field federation, who took him to the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow.

* As a coach has worked at five Olympic Games, seven Paralympic Games, six athletics World Championships and three Commonwealth Games. Appointed head Paralympic coach by UK Athletics in 2009.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral