Tag Archives: Stephen Maguire

Christian Malcolm sacked as UKA head coach

Christian Malcolm has been sacked as head coach of UK Athletics amid further turmoil at the under-fire governing body.

The former sprinter will remain in his post through the congested summer of three major championships, but will then leave following a difficult tenure. Sportsmail understands Stephen Maguire, who was controversially overlooked in favour of Malcolm in September 2020, is favourite to step in to a new technical director role.

He will carry on in the position until the European Championships in Munich in August but after this a new structure is being introduced with the appointment of a new technical director to head up the World Class Performance Programme together with more coaching support for event-specific groups, greater financial investment into personal coaches of Lottery-funded athletes and a focus on a new ‘athlete performance and technical innovation centre’.

“Unfortunately given all the changes we need to make and the greater prioritisation for investment into personal coaches, the Olympic head coach role does not sit within the revised structures,” said UKA interim chief executive Mark Munro. “However, we have made a commitment to work with Christian over the summer with the potential for exploring other roles within the structure to enable us to maintain his involvement with UKA.”

Malcolm, who began the job in the autumn of 2020, said: “I am very disappointed to hear about the news but understand the rationale around this decision. My priority now is to continue working in the same way, maintaining professionalism and doing my job throughout the summer. I am fully focused on supporting our athletes and coaches, during this extremely busy summer for our sport.

“We have some incredibly talented athletes – some of whom have ambitious aims to compete across three major championships this summer. I’m looking forward to seeing them compete and supporting those individuals towards the World and European Championships, as well as representing their home nations during the Commonwealth Games.”

The former sprinter, who competed for Great Britain & Northern Ireland at four Olympic Games and won world, European and Commonwealth medals, was previously head of performance and coaching at Athletics Australia before moving back to Britain to work for UKA.

Munro added: “We are extremely grateful and appreciative to Christian for his time and efforts as well as his commitment and professionalism during his time as head coach.

“Taking on board a role during a pandemic and the associated challenges that brings – alongside staffing and structure changes – has been incredibly challenging. He has worked hard to steady the ship and continued to be professional throughout.”

UKA say the appointment of a new technical director is imminent and the successful candidate will start the role in September.

Save our sport! British athletes plead with Lord Coe to step in and rescue UK Athletics

Some of Britain’s leading athletes have pleaded with Lord Coe to step in and save the sport in this country after becoming furious with the current regime at UK Athletics.

Sportsmail has been told the impassioned encounter between the World Athletics president and several GB track and field stars took place by chance at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Zurich last Thursday.

The conversation, which followed the Diamond League finals earlier that evening, was described by one source as a ‘proper cry for help – the athletes were really reaching out’.

Some are even considering the drastic step of walking away from UKA’s World Class Programme if changes are not made.

That would mean the damning move of operating entirely outside the British system and foregoing lottery funding for the sake of disassociating with UKA, though they would still be eligible for selection to championships such as the Olympics.

At the heart of the athletes’ exasperation, according to insiders, is a perceived lack of expertise and presence from performance director Sara Symington and the Olympic head coach Christian Malcolm.

They were both appointed last autumn under chief executive Joanna Coates, with the trio mockingly described as the ‘three amigos’ by one figure close to the system.

The appointment of Symington, who worked under Coates at England Netball, has attracted fierce criticism within the sport, with the performance director accused of lacking athletics knowledge.

Malcolm’s selection last year, ahead of the vastly experienced and respected Stephen Maguire, also raised eyebrows. The 42-year-old former GB sprinter has been considered ‘out of his depth’ by several athletes and coaches.

‘There is no attention to detail from any of them,’ said one coach. ‘The situation could be a catastrophe for the sport for years if it does not change.’

It was also flagged up that Symington and Malcolm were on holiday instead of attending the Diamond League finals in Zurich, where Dina Asher-Smith returned to form and Keely Hodgkinson won the 800m title.

The anger from athletes expressed to Lord Coe, which extends to the lack of British-based competitions and questions about medical provisions, comes at a time when some of Britain’s leading coaches are facing growing uncertainty about their positions.

Sportsmail understands a number of coaches and coaching consultants have been told by UKA in the past fortnight that their working hours could be reduced or their consultancies terminated.

Such letters have been sent to Andy Young and Scott Simpson, who respectively led Laura Muir (1500m) and Holly Bradshaw (pole vault) to Olympic medals. A letter was also sent to high jump coach Fuzz Caan, with consultancies held by coaches Tore Gustafsson (hammer), Leon Baptiste (sprints) and Jon Bigg also under threat.

UKA indicated in the letters that future consultant posts will be advertised after their current coaching review, but it has caused alarm that the positions have been adjusted or terminated prior to the establishment of a new system.

While coaching reviews tend to follow an Olympics, and indeed certain changes are quite possibly warranted after an underwhelming haul of just six medals, the ‘cold’ nature of the letters has been criticised.

It was also noted that Young had not received so much as a note of congratulation for orchestrating Muir’s brilliant 1,500m silver medal, though over the weekend it is believed he was told a new contract would be forthcoming.

Among the changes on the way, Rob Denmark is expected to leave his interim head of performance role.

A UKA spokesperson said: ‘Any suggested changes to the coaching structure are not set. We understand for some the changes are difficult, yet for others, some changes are not fast enough.

‘We would urge athletes to continue to feedback to UK Athletics and also engage with the Athlete’s Commission as we are fully committed to ensuring we place athletes first and at the heart of our plans going forward.’