Edinburgh, Scotland
Sunday 15th July 2012

Over the last few weeks, the media frenzy that has been swarming around Lee Valley has been something akin to a swarm of locusts bearing down on a crop field.  Athletes & staff alike have been interviewed, filmed, photographed & observed as the press seek to capitalise on the tidal wave of interest that has been welling up in anticipation of the Olympics.

About three weeks ago, I was asked by the UK Athletics press office if I would be happy to be interviewed as part of a piece that would be published in the Guardian, with the aim of portraying a day in the life of Lee Valley.  I was happy to help out, agreeing to the interview on the condition that our media officer was present & that I would be able to review the copy prior to it being published.

Today, the article which can be found by clicking the link below, was published.  No warning.  No offer to review the copy.  If my request had been honoured, I would have politely asked for my quotes & any links to it be removed prior to print.  To say I am disappointed is an understatement & given that I have a vehicle to voice my opinion, I am going to indulge myself & do just that.

Kessel, A (2012).  London 2012: Everything an athlete could want at Lee Valley Centre.; 15.07.12

On the face of it, the average reader, with no prior knowledge of the workings of UK Athletics or the politics that engulf Lee Valley, may consider this a very positive narration & surmise that the needs of the elite British athlete are well catered for.  I am not disputing that conclusion for one moment & I think the staff members who are mentioned in the article, in addition to many others work hard with that aim in mind.

However, I take exception to the picture that is portrayed of a formerly-failing system that has been saved, single-handedly by Dan Pfaff.  Dan is a respected coach, with years of experience, yet there are many other good coaches working hard in Lee Valley that have also contributed to the success of British Athletics & these individuals are neither quoted nor mentioned. 

Lloyd Cowan coaches the likes of Christine Ohuruogu, Andy Turner & Shana Cox; Tony Lester can count Nicola Sanders & Abi Oyepitan in his training group; Michael Afilaka has recently coached Adam Gemili to World Youth Championship Gold & barring injury Jeanette Kwakye would have been representing Team GB once more at an Olympics; Mike McFarlane coaches female sprint prodigies Jodie Williams & Desiree Henry…I could go on name checking good track or field coaches & their athletes but I’ve illustrated my point that some of these athletes were mentioned, whilst the article intimated that Dan Pfaff was influential in their coaching.

Meanwhile, the illustration of an incompetent & archaic medical & therapy department that plied its trade in a “dungeon” & the “corner of the weights room” is wildly sensationalistic & bordering on inflammatory.  The team works hard together, in consultation with, but not lead by the coaches, in excellent facilities, employing a wide variety of skill sets to address the needs of the athletes on the World Class Performance Programme.  During the time span that is discussed in this article, several world class sports medical & therapy practitioners have practised for & consulted on behalf of UK Athletics.  Belittling them & their work with such throw away remarks is cheap, disrespectful & wholly inaccurate. 

There are several other glaring errors that appear in the article, for example the statement that Dan Pfaff is Centre Director.  Dan changed roles nearly 18 months ago & is no longer Centre Director.  I myself moved to consult at Lee Valley not having met Dan Pfaff, whilst the same can be said for both nutritionist, Glenn Kearney & psychologist, Sarah Cecil, so to suggest that the "Ohio-born coach has brought in [these] key personnel" is a fairytale.  As for the term "supergroup"?????  There are several other glaring inaccuracies that don't warrant discussion for various reasons, but needless to say Anna Kessel should really do her research more thoroughly before trying to sensationalise a current affairs story.  Such research might just result in her presenting a more accurately balanced portrayal, rather than such a polarised snap shot.

Just to clarify, the content of this blog is purely my opinion & does not reflect the opinions of any organisation for whom I consult!!!

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