DCMS blog

Supporting elite athletes is key for 2012 success & beyond

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Nigel Walker

National Director, English Institute of Sport (EIS)

Nigel Walker, National Director, English Institute of Sport (EIS) blogs on the importance of sports science and medical support.

Having experienced life as an elite athlete myself, both in my hurdling career within athletics (competing at the Olympics & World Championships) and playing Rugby Union for Wales, I understand just what a key supporting role sport science and medicine has, not just when things go wrong and the resulting rehabilitation needs, but for identifying and developing that performance edge when it matters.
Image  of athlete receiving treatmentThe EIS currently delivers on average 4,000 hours of sport science and medical support every week to approximately 1,700 elite athletes from almost 50 Olympic, Paralympic, English and professional sports across the country – indicating just how much work goes on behind the scenes every day within elite sport, and that’s just science and medicine.
What the Minister for Sport & Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP, has seen on several visits across sites where the EIS operates, is the depth and breadth of work our practitioners are involved in and the close working relationships we have on a daily basis with coaches and athletes.
Working on the frontline means sport scientists and medics work under pressure but have a very real part to play in stepping up and making those decisions which contribute to a winning performance. Whether it’s working within the training environment, travelling abroad to camps or working throughout competitions, our team around the competitive team has a very real job to do in order to assist sports in achieving success on the international sporting stage.

Ten years of progress

Not only will the London 2012 Games be a major milestone for performance sport but they will also mark the 10th anniversary of the EIS. In the fields of sport science and medicine, we have made enormous progress in this time, not only within the high performance environment but also in effecting change and best practice in the treatment beyond purely the elite population. Professional standards and training have been informed by the work of the EIS, practitioners have more applied expertise, academic research is more relevant and technology and equipment development is more bespoke. We now have the tools and expertise to identify that medal winning difference and to work with coaches and athletes to make sure it’s nurtured – whether it’s through our greater understanding and learning on injury prevention, innovative solutions within performance analysis and biomechanics or simply a strong partnership with a sport to get that winning formula right.
Throughout 2010 we’ve seen some phenomenal performances with the likes of Amy Williams at the Vancouver Olympics, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah amongst the successes at the European Athletics Championships, sports like Gymnastics and Hockey really breaking through the barriers on the European and World stage plus the success at the Commonwealth Games from the home nations.

A new generation of athletes

Ahead in 2011 we’ll have some key events in the run up to the London Games and what’s more, we’ll also start to see the green shoots of the next generation of international athletes break through the ranks with Glasgow 2014 and Rio 2016 in their focus. London, far from being the end of the cycle, should be viewed as the beginning of a new successful chapter in the history of the UK’s sporting triumphs.
We’re working to ensure that sport in the UK does not stand still and marvel at what’s been achieved to date but looks for the next innovation, the next performance barrier or way of working that will stand us in good stead for continuing to make a performance impact for the years of events to come.

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