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INTERVIEW


The CEO of UK Sport talks to Karen Maxwell about the organisation’s role in improving performance and providing quality support in the lead up to the London 2012 Games


organisers and suppliers – in fact every- one involved with British sport is poised to make the most out of this ‘once-in- a-lifetime’ opportunity. So my obvious question to Liz Nicholl


LIZ NICHOLL T


his is it – 2012 – the year we’ve all been waiting and preparing for. The athletes, the coaches, the volunteers, the event


OBE, the CEO of UK Sport – the nation’s high performance sports agency that’s investing £100m a year to ensure our ath- letes’ success – is: “Are we ready?” “It’s going to be a real test of our in-


vestment, but yes we’re definitely on track,” she says. “Every sport has agreed a key performance indicator in every year on its journey through to the Games and


Alistair Brownlee is 2009/2011 World Triathlon Champion


if we look at the collective performances in 2011, we’re in a better place than we were prior to Beijing 2008.” Four years ago, TeamGB reached the


goal set for London 2012 by achieving fourth place in the Olympic and second place in the Paralympic medal tables. With less than 150 days before the Lon-


don Games begin, our high performance sport system is prospering – with a record 23 Olympic and Paralympic sports achiev- ing their targets – thanks to record levels of targeted investment. “We aim to win more medals across


Olympic and Paralympic sports this year – bearing in mind that we won 47 medals across Olympic sports in Beijing and we’re currently in a good place,” Nicholl says. However, she warns that there are no


guarantees in performance sport. “The athletes are doing well, the coaches are committed, the support teams are com- mitted – so really now it’s a matter of continuing to work hard between now and the Games and not getting com- placent. It’s not easy, our athletes are competing with the world’s best, although many of ours are also the world’s best. If everything goes according to plan we’ll keep that fourth and second position.”


OVERSEEING EXCELLENCE A former international netball player and championship director of the 1995 World Championships, Nicholl was CEO of Eng- land Netball before joining UK Sport in 1999. She started out as director of elite sport before progressing to COO in 2009, then took the CEO reins from John Steele


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– when he left the organisation to join the Rugby Football Union – in 2010. (Steele has since moved to the Youth Sport Trust.) During her time at England Netball,


Nicholl was credited with steering the sport through a period of successful change, while also holding the roles of vice chair of the CCPR – now the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA) – and chair of the Commonwealth Games England. Looking back, she’s quick to point out


that it was thanks to a huge team effort. “We all had clear objectives to increase participation in netball, improve perfor- mance and provide quality support – and this is still the case today,” Nicholl explains. “We introduced a world-class perfor-


mance programme, we accessed lottery funding, we recruited a performance di- rector from overseas and the year before I left there was a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games. Today, England’s still up there at number three in the world and vying for second place, poten- tially first at some point in the future.”


FUNDING FACTS At UK Sport, Nicholl has overseen a simi- lar model to raise the standards set for other sports to achieve success at World, Olympic and Paralympic level, by steering key changes in the performance, invest- ment and governance of the organisation. She says the same team work ethos and the “significant contribution from every individual” – particularly with reference to the creation and implementation of UK Sport’s world-class performance system – was vital to its success.


Issue 1 2012 © cybertrek 2012


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