Natalie Dunman, Lead Talent Scientist with the English Institute of Sport (EIS) working as part of the UK Talent Team, explains how the Power2Podium campaign is identifying the next generation of winners and Olympians.
Although I have been involved in seven national talent recruitment and development initiatives to date with the UK Talent Team (a collaboration between UK Sport and EIS), the amount of talent we continue to unearth never ceases to amaze me.
So far our campaigns have identified athletes who have achieved 182 international appearances across 16 different sports, and won 62 international medals including World and European championship honours.
Our latest campaign, Power2Podium, aims to recruit athletes with speed and power and assess their suitability for joining talent development programmes in one of seven sports – athletics, sprint canoeing, sprint cycling, weightlifting, skeleton, bobsleigh and rugby sevens.
These sports have identified specific opportunities on the world stage where they feel they can capitalise with a boost to their talent pool, and with more and more nations investing in high-performance sport, it is becoming increasingly important to cast the net as far and wide as possible in the search for exceptional talent to ensure as many individuals as possible have the opportunity to connect with a sport that they could achieve great things in.
The identification and development of talent is a complex process. We work in partnership with some great development coaches to put in place creative talent confirmation and development programmes specialising in accelerating the development of athletes with high potential but no experience in a particular sport.
That process in Power2Podium is now well underway with athletes identified after the first round of assessments in September and October already being invited back for phase two, where the focus will turn to skill acquisition alongside the physical and psychological elements of talent.
While it will be important to see how the athletes develop as they progress through the talent confirmation period, the impressive talent on show during phase one certainly gives us grounds for optimism that we have found more athletes capable of progressing to the international stage and being in contention for Olympic medals in 2016 and beyond.
The UK Talent team have assessed more than 8,500 athletes during our campaigns to date, but given that this still represents a very small proportion of the population we know that there is more talent out there – and we’ll continue to work hard to find it.