Backley issues plea for region to make the most of its athletes

THREE-TIME Olympic medallist Steve Backley has called on the Borders’ coaches to use this summer’s London Games to inspire the next generation.

The former javelin world record holder addressed the Scottish Borders Coaching Conference, which was attended by 160 trainers – including former Edinburgh rugby coach Rob Moffat – from across the region on Sunday.

And the 43-year-old also questioned the lack of talented throwers representing Britain at track and field.

Backley said: “On the back of this summer’s Olympics, our obligation is to inspire a generation, if we can.

“In athletics, we are not necessarily tapping into the talent we have. If you are 6ft 6in tall, can run fast and are well-built you are likely to be picked up by rugby, not athletics.

“Throwers who have done well have trained outside of the system. Athletics needs to up its game.

“We have the best coaches in the world in this country and we should embrace and celebrate that.

“But we need to take it to the next level.”

Backley spoke to coaches from nine different sports on his experiences of working with various mentors.

He started off with his father, who simply placed a stick into the ground in a field near their home and asked his son to throw past it, helping Backley junior to go from a personal best of 24m to 80m in two-and-a-half years.

Backley went on to work with renowned javelin coach John Trower, who guided him past the world record at the age of 20 in 1990.

However, problems soon began for the Londoner who explained: “I didn’t have a plan for when I became the best in the world.

“I wasn’t paying attention to the detail and started to pick up injuries. While I used to turn up 30 minutes before training, now I would be 15 minutes late.”

Backley picked up a bronze at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 and despite rupturing his Achilles tendon just 14 weeks before the Atlanta Games in 1996, with the help of hypnotist Paul McKenna managed to pick up a silver medal.

Backley then “joined the enemy” by working with great rival Jan Zelenzy’s disciplinarian coach Jan Pospisil, which included a week of trekking in the mountains.

However, it appeared to work for Backley when he threw a new Olympic record at the Sydney Games in 2000, before Zelenzy once again proved his greatness to snatch gold again.

Backley added: “What is success? I think it is when you have done everything you can in the quest of your dream. That is how I felt walking into the stadium in Sydney.

“I delivered, but I didn’t get what I went for. You sometimes have to accept that we are not always in control of the outcome.”

Among those who led the nine workshops for each sport were former Scotland rugby star Chris Paterson, while Cowdenbeath manager Colin Cameron and former Hearts legend John Robertson shared their experience with the conference’s football coaches.

Dougie Anderson of Borders Sport and Leisure Trust, who organised the conference alongside sportscotland, added: “Steve Backley was excellent as our main speaker and was well received by all coaches. The sports-specific workshops all went well – massive thanks to all who turned out on the day.”

But BSLT vice chairman David Ferguson warned the audience of coaches that increases in funding for sport in the region is not likely to be seen for at least the next decade. He added: “You think it is hard just now, the next 10 or 15 years are going to be harder.”