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UK Sport performance chief eyes swimming success for Tokyo 2020

By Matthew Campelli    27 Jan 2016
Adam Peaty won three gold medals at last year's World Championships in Russia / Getty Images

Progress made by British Swimming since its management restructure in 2013 has given the sport a real chance of success at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, according to UK Sport’s director of performance.

Talking to Sports Management following the quango’s first press conference of 2016, Simon Timson said changes to the coaching structure for elite swimmers had resulted in a better-than-expected medal haul at the 2015 World Championships in Russia and “highly competitive times” being achieved.

Adam Peaty – with three gold medals – led the charge last summer, as Team GB brought home seven medals in total, ahead of UK Sport's maximum target of six.

Timson hailed the work done by the “really strong leadership team” comprising head coach Bill Furniss, head of science Karl Cooke and Nigel Redman, who came aboard 18 months ago.

“What they’ve done is look at where the swimmers train, how they train – particularly how they’re coached and how their coach interacts with them in the immediate run-up to the major championships,” he said.

“They’ve reviewed the whole competitive structure and the timing of the trials in order to enable our athletes to perform better and peak for World Championships, and with our blessing, they have reduced the number of athletes they support to focus effort and resource on a smaller number with greater potential.”

He added that the current crop of young swimmers coming through had the “potential to be even better” than “current stand-outs” such as Peaty and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor.

Former England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) exec Timson highlighted the progress gymnastics had made since a “disappointing performance” in Athens in 2004 as a similar journey to the one swimming was currently undertaking.

Last year, Great Britain’s gymnastics team won five medals at the World Championships in Glasgow, with 26 won overall across the year. Matt Whitlock won a gold and silver medal in Glasgow, while the female team achieve its first ever medal.

“Swimming is 2-3 years into the cycle that gymnastics went on, so I think we can expect swimming to be in a similar position to gymnastics by the time we come to Tokyo,” said Timson.

2015, said Timson, was a year of “unprecedented success” for gymnastics built on an “outstanding cohort of British coaches” such as male head coach Eddie van Hoof and female counterpart Amanda Reddin, who created a “clearly defined technical curriculum” of the sport to help other coaches train youngsters to become world-class athletes.

British cycling – “which has the genuine aspiration to be the number one nation in the world” – diving and shooting were also earmarked by the performance chief as sports which were progressing well towards Rio 2016 and beyond to Tokyo 2020.

Swimming  Simon Timson  Adam Peaty  Siobhan-Marie O'Connor  UK Sport  gymnastics  Matt Whitlock 
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