Lynn Davies

Lynn Davies

The Olympic gold medallist and president of UK Athletics talks about inspiring young athletes towards London 2012.

Please be aware that this article was published in 2009 and focuses on the build up to the London 2012 Olympic Games

Raise Your Game: With the London Olympics 2012 on the horizon, do you think getting young people to understand just how much fun sport can be is important?

Lynn Davies: Yes, it's really important. We're always trying to attract young people to our sport and when they watch the World Championships they see British athletes getting into the finals, achieving personal best (PB) performances and winning medals. When they're great characters like Jessica Ennis and Phillips Idowu it's even better because these are icons in our sport and they inspire young people to want to take up sport.

With London 2012 coming up, the aim is to get more young people into our sport to aspire to the examples set by Jessica Ennis and Phillips Idowu.

RYG: How important is the team camaraderie in terms of the GB team spirit?

LD: I think it's absolutely vital in terms of team spirit and it shows the value of sport. We have 213 nations here (at the World Championships) and when they're on that track they all understand the challenge that athletes face. When you're up against Jamaicans, Americans, Moroccans and European athletes etc, it's great to see them fighting very hard, competing against each other, giving their best, and yet at the end recognising that had it not been for the people around them, the champion wouldn't have been as good as they were.

They all helped to make the champion what he or she is. When Jessica Ennis won gold in the heptathlon, all 17 heptathletes got together and did a lap of honour together. The German people, who love athletics and love sport, they appreciated that feeling of unity, that these people, no matter what country that they're from, love sport, enjoy sport and are setting an example for the rest of the world.

RYG: What do you think the arrival of Usain Bolt has done to the world of athletics?

LD: He has been the saviour of athletics. We've been looking for this kind of showman for many years. We had Carl Lewis back in the 90s, and we've had other great athletes as well, but this guy is beyond show business.

He's a fantastic athlete, he's a phenomenon. I've never seen anything like this, especially in the 100m. The winner's always won by about a hundred thousandth of a second, but this guy is metres ahead.

What I like is the rapport that Usain develops with the crowd. As soon as he steps onto the track the crowd identify with him. He shows that as well as being a great athlete he enjoys what he's doing and the crowd get caught up in that enjoyment.

For athletics, which is a serious sport, to see a guy like this come out with that kind of ability and that kind of personality is great for our sport.

RYG: How important is Usain Bolt in getting a young audience back into athletics?

LD: We're up against cricket, football, rugby, tennis and they're all competing for young talented athletes, and young talented athletes can turn their hand to any of those sports. It's really important, in athletics, that we have personalities that the young kids can look up to, identify with and want to be like.

I can remember when I was a young person watching great people on TV. I wanted to go down to the park and emulate them and this is what I think they'll do. When they've been watching Usain Bolt they will go out and run and try to be like him. That's the value of that kind of person in our sport, not just in terms of breaking World Records, but by their personality and their ability to attract young people into athletics. Our job then is to keep them there and develop them so they become the next line of champions.

RYG: How important it the support from the athletes' mums and dads?

LD: What a thrill to be a mum or dad of someone competing in the World Championships. It's great to sit down with them and hear the kind of sacrifices they made and the aims they had for their children when they were young. How they took them to running tracks, how they sacrificed their time, how they gave up jobs, how they invested money in them, and to have the reward of having them come to a World Championship and run representing Great Britain. It's a token of appreciation to say 'Thank you' to the mums and dads for everything they've done.


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