World Athletics Championships: Dick plans to build on success: World Athletics Championships demonstrate the value of organisation and long-term planning for two successful countries: Mike Rowbottom on a scheme to reinforce Britain's triumphs

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The Independent Online
JACK PIERCE, the US high hurdler beaten into third place by Colin Jackson and Tony Jarrett here on Friday night, summed up what many of his fellow countrymen have felt in the course of the past week. 'The British are coming,' he said, in an echo of Colin Welland's line after Chariots of Fire took an Oscar in Hollywood 10 years ago.

British film-making has since gone into a decline; now is a crucial time for British athletics to avoid a similar anti-climax.

'There has never been a better time to focus our attentions on how we look after our elite athletes,' said Britain's director of coaching, Frank Dick, who has recently taken on that specific responsibility from the British Athletic Federation.

He envisages a system which he likens to the American Express card. There will be a Platinum card group, potential medallists at major championships, who will receive the utmost assistance; there will be a group of athletes capable of top 12 performances and a third group of those capable of earning valuable points in team competitions such as the European Cup who will receive assistance on a sliding scale.

'I don't have a conscience about that,' Dick said. 'It's motivational. If you can raise your performance, you can get better privileges.'

That philosophy, ironically, underpinned the initiatives taken by the man from whom Dick has officially taken over in matters of overseas training trips and competition for athletes, the British promotions officer Andy Norman.

He organised warm weather training for Linford Christie, winner of Britain's first gold of the championships over 100 metres, and Jackson in Australia; he organised training in Los Angeles for John Regis, winner of the 200 metres silver medal, and Jarrett.

Regardless of the debate which is going on in the sport about how available funds should be shared out between sprinters and middle distance runners, the preparations were clearly right for Britain's current elite - as they were eager to acknowledge.

But in the final reckoning, it was the motivation within the runners themselves that proved decisive. Christie, with the needling, lingering imputation that he was not quite the best in the world because Carl Lewis had not run in the Olympic 100 metres final. Sally Gunnell, who wanted to show that her Olympic 400 metres hurdles win was not a one-off. Most of all, Jackson, who needed to translate his superiority into gold at a major global championship for the first time after the falterings of the last world championships and Olympic Games.

The gathering rumours that he was a 'choker', unable to deliver on the big occasion - a suspicion which his US rival, Tony Dees voiced openly - hurt both him and his coach, Malcolm Arnold.

'I was not surprised, because I knew the shape I was in,' said Jackson, who made precautionary withdrawals from the Cologne and Zurich meetings earlier this month, first with a foot injury and then a back problem.

'The thing is, I was always anxious. There was always that anxiety. But now I know I can go out there and do it.'

He feels he can improve on his world record of 12.91sec. 'I lost a few hundredths of a second by clipping the first, fifth and tenth hurdles,' he said.

'We have had a tremendous day,' said Christie, the team captain, on Friday. 'It's unbelievable for a small country like Britain. We get no aid from the Government. We have to do it off our own backs, and we all want it.'

Keeping British athletes hungry without starving them is the judgement that must be made if the next world championships, two years hence in Gothenburg, are to prove similarly rewarding.

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