Paralympic guru Peter Eriksson was unveiled as UK Athletics’ new head coach yesterday before immediately setting his sights on exceeding the London 2012 achievements of Team GB’s “golden generation”.
The Swede has been charged with filling the considerable shoes of Charles van Commenee, who has opted to walk away when his contract expires in December after his team were unable to meet his lofty target of eight medals at this year’s Olympics. Eriksson, 59, is reluctant to name a figure to aim for at Rio 2016 but wants to at least out-do the celebrated class of 2012.
The Scandinavian, who led Team GB to third in the athletics medal table at the London Paralympics with 11 golds and 29 medals in total, said: “It’s a fantastic privilege to be appointed to this position and I’m really thrilled about the opportunity.
“The team did so well at the Olympic Games and it’s something we can build on. I think we have in front of us a golden generation going forward to the 2016 Games and 2017 World Championships, where we can perform even better. The next five years and beyond are going to be really exciting for the British athletics community.”
Eriksson believes there is potential to achieve even more in Rio de Janeiro.
“The vision is to do better and better and take more and more medals,” he said. “We’ll set a target – we’re in discussions right now with UK Sport about funding going forward and what the target is going to be.
“Am I going to set a target and then resign if I don’t meet the exact numbers? That’s not what I’ve done in the past.
“If you look at the numbers Charles did, he did a fantastic job with four gold medals. So no, I don’t think so.
“What the numbers are going to be is hard to predict today and we’ll find out shortly, when we start the World Championships and the big events.”
UK Athletics performance director Neil Black was similarly non-committal over targets, but echoed Eriksson’s belief that Van Commenee’s achievements can be built on. He said: “The dream is to exceed the medal haul of London 2012 and that’s what we’re looking for. Our job is to transfer that dream into a reality and we believe it can be done.”