The secret of Team GB’s success

From John Steele, Chief Executive, UK Sport
This time last week, Team GB had won two gold medals. Now, just seven days later that total stands at a magnificent 17 and there may be more to come. Team GB has enjoyed a Games few people would have believed possible and all of a sudden everyone’s asking the same question: “What is the secret of our success?”

Whilst in some ways there are some differences in the way the sports run their respective performance programmes, the basic equation remains the same: Sustained investment + world class athletes + world class support = medals. You can’t remove any element on the left-hand side of the equation and hope to succeed.

Ultimately it is the athletes and their support teams out there in Beijing to whom the main plaudits belong. But it is right to consider the impact that significant and sustained public funding has had on our performance at the Olympics.

The fact that we can punch our weight on the world’s biggest sporting stage is in no small part due to the fact that – in the main thanks to the advent of the National Lottery but also due to significant increases in Exchequer funding – we have been able to invest intelligently in our leading sports for over a decade. It takes around 6-8 years to develop Olympic athletes that can challenge for medals at the Games. Barring the odd exception, there are no shortcuts to this process. So, ultimately it is no coincidence that we are seeing some breakthrough performances in Beijing – even if the scale of it has taken everyone by surprise.

Whilst we still have a few days to go, there is no doubting that all of us who have watched the Games have seen the greatest combined performance by a British team in the modern era. We have been stunned by events at the Velodrome where GB’s riders won 7 of the 10 gold medals available in a display of magnificent strength and tactical brilliance. Our sailors continued to do what they have done for years now, with 4 wins in the 11 event classes. Our rowers performed so memorably last weekend to top the regatta table with two gold medals, with a host of gritty, determined performances resulting in 4 more medals. And there have been some tremendous breakthrough performances, with Rebecca Adlington in the pool, and Louis Smith’s gymnastics medal to the fore.

As things stand we have 17 golden moments to reflect upon, together with a host of other medal winning performances. We will sit down after the Games and work out what our ambitions now are for 2012. But in reality our planning for the next four years began a long time ago. We now have a clearer idea of what is working well and where we need to concentrate our energies if Team GB is to move on again.

The rest of the world has seen British Olympic sport burst gloriously to life over the past two weeks, and many wont like what they have seen. We will have to fight for every inch on our home turf, but with four more years of world class effort, coupled with sustained investment, we will be ready.

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