UK Athletics ready to focus efforts on ‘big hitters’ in bid for Olympic success

UK Athletics is ready to tighten its selection policy in a bid for Olympic glory, with chief executive Jack Buckner acknowledging the need to “really focus on the big hitters”.

Buckner admits UKA could cut the number of funded athletes and team numbers as he looks for improved results following a disappointing 2020 Games.

Team GB failed to win an Olympic track and field gold at Tokyo for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Adam Peaty wins Great Britain’s first gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Jack Buckner was formerly British Swimming CEO (Jacob King/PA)

Former British Swimming CEO Buckner wants athletics to follow success in the pool and become more ruthless ahead of the summer’s World Championships in Budapest and next year’s Games in Paris, having felt athletics has become too soft.

“Yeah, I think we are,” he said, ahead of the start of the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul on Thursday.

“Already there will be a bit of a shift in our selection philosophy which is going to be quite hard in some ways. Potentially there will be less athletes funded.

“We will be moving towards more around the Olympics selection philosophy, more about that performance mentality.

“We will be moving in that direction. In the Olympics and the World Championships there will be smaller teams to create a better understanding where the opportunities lie. I think that will help. It is a tricky balance to get right.”

Buckner was chief executive at British Swimming for five years which culminated with a historic Tokyo Olympics.

Team GB won eight swimming medals in Japan – four golds, three silvers and a bronze – and it was the first time in 113 years GB claimed four swimming golds at one Games.

Buckner added: “You need to really focus on the big hitters. If you look at swimming, there were 6-10 people – like Adam Peaty, Duncan Scott, James Guy, Tom Dean, Freya Anderson – but what we were very good at was maximising the talent we had.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Day Nine
Great Britain enjoyed a hugely successful 2020 Olympics in the pool (Joe Giddens/PA)

“That’s what we (athletics) need to do. We could have a list of 6-10 names and we need to be all over them. It’s quite hard because athletics has a tradition as being slightly more egalitarian.

“What we were like in swimming was we were a little bit more ruthless about who is going to deliver for you. We need to be a bit tougher around that. The relays are key, we did that in swimming.

“We need to identify where the medals are coming from and have the right resources in place.”