NEW British swimming head coach Bill Furniss has been described as a “natural born leader” by Rebecca Adlington.
Recently retired Adlington was guided to four Olympic medals by Furniss, who is enjoying his first few weeks in his new job. And Adlington, who added two bronze medals in London to the golds she won in Beijing, announced her retirement from the sport in February, hours after her former mentor was unveiled as successor to Dennis Pursley.
Pursley left after the Olympics and the intervening months were fraught for the sport which had failed to meet its medal target of five in London.
As well as Adlington’s bronze freestyle double, Michael Jamieson claimed silver in the 200 metres breaststroke but a haul of three was below expectations. An inquest was held which concluded with national performance director Michael Scott resigning late last year.
Furniss was the choice of those within the sport and he was unveiled alongside Chris Spice, who replaced Scott, two months ago.
Adlington said: “He has the knowledge, he is so experienced. Having been head coach at the 1996 Olympics he knows that role so well. He commands respect from both coaches and swimmers. Bill has great communication skills. He’s a natural born leader – he’s fair, he doesn’t favour people.”
Furniss guided Adlington from the age of 12 and they soon formed a strong bond which led to her winning titles at Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth level.
For the Mansfield-born swimmer, the relationship between coach and athlete is more important than the facilities in which they train. “I trained in council-run pools – they weren’t falling down but they weren’t sparkling 50m pools,” she said. “You have got to know how to push each other as well.”
Adlington has offered her assistance to the team should it be called upon, although she has heard nothing from British Swimming since her retirement. The former Nova Centurion swimmer believes the team, who were the subject of intense criticism, have put London behind them as they prepare for the World Championships in Barcelona this summer.
“As an athlete you have to learn and move on. The Worlds is very different. There is quite often a lull after Olympic year. From the people I still know on the team they are all working really hard but it will be interesting to see if any newcomers come through.”
While there were many tears as Adlington weighed up whether to continue or not, there is no doubt she has made the right choice to retire.
She said: “It was definitely the right time. I got to do it on my own terms.”