Paula Dunn is determined to build on the momentum of the London 2012 Games following her appointment as UK Athletics’ Paralympic head coach.
UKA yesterday continued its policy of promoting from within by appointing the 47-year-old as successor to Peter Eriksson following his move to replace Charles van Commenee in the Olympic set-up.
Eriksson and his staff, which included Dunn, masterminded a remarkable turnaround in Paralympic performance at London 2012. Following just two gold medals in Beijing in 2008 – both for David Weir – Britain won 11 on home soil as part of a total haul of 29 medals.
Wheelchair racer Weir again led the way with four golds, while Hannah Cockroft claimed two and Jonnie Peacock, Richard Whitehead, Aled Davies, Mickey Bushell and Josie Pearson won one each.
Dunn was an integral part of the Paralympic coaching team and takes up her new role with immediate effect.
“I’m so happy to be given this opportunity, I feel it’s a real honour,” the former 100 metre European bronze and Commonwealth silver medallist said.
“I’m just going to do exactly what I’ve been doing, make sure the athletes get the best service possible and go on to better and greater things.
“London 2012 had an amazing impact on Paralympic sport in this country and we have a real opportunity to build on that over the next four years. I believe that there is more talent out there and I am looking forward to unearthing that talent and building on the success of 2012.”
Dunn was appointed after a recruitment process which included consultation with athletes and coaches, including Eriksson, and UKA performance director Neil Black said: “We looked as far and broadly as we could. I knew how Peter felt in all aspects of the programme because we’d talked about it.
“His thoughts and views were in the back of my mind but they were no more influential than thoughts and views that I respected.”
Black praised Dunn’s “professional, passionate, purposeful, no compromise” approach and added: “Over the last four years it’s been brilliant working with Paula, who has been a primary contributor to the strategy, to the decision making. Paula’s one of the fastest-acting people I’ve ever come across so I’m really confident that Paula’s the right person to lead the Paralympic team forwards to even greater success in Rio and London 2017.”
Meanwhile, Lord Coe has welcomed plans to introduce minimum four-year bans for convicted drugs cheats. The World Anti-Doping Agency announced this week that it will double the suspension for serious offences, such as taking steroids, to four years from 2015 under their new draft code and is confident the proposal will stand up to legal challenges.
Coe welcomed the move, saying: “You know where I come from over drugs. My stance has always been non-negotiable and I believe that this new rule sends out a powerful deterrent that the world will not accept athletes taking drugs.”