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Furniss/Atkinson: Made In GB Dream Ticket?

Nov 25, 2012  - Craig Lord

Olympic swimmers, senior coaches and Britain team staff have called on their federation to stamp its next two big appointments "Made in Britain" following the resignation of Australian Michael Scott as performance director on Saturday because he could not accept having to be based permanently in the country.

The dream ticket, say senior sources who contacted SwimNews to "let British Swimming that this is the majority view of what the coaches, support staff and many of the swimmers think", is Bill Furniss, mentor to Double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, as head coach, backed by John Atkinson as performance director after his success as Britain's youth programme as former director Bill Sweetenham's right-hand man, and leader of the Britain team at the Paralympics this year.

Adlington, double champion of Beijing 2008 and winner of bronze medals over 400m and 800m freestyle at a home Games this summer, has added her voice to the campaign to fill the top two jobs with British staff, in accordance with recommendations of a review into underperformance by Britain in the pool at London 2012. 

The review panel included Bob Bowman, mentor to Michael Phelps, while senior US coaches listing tick boxes for Britain believed that handing responsibility for the programme to British employees was the way to go: easier to take an "us against the world" approach, while those in the top jobs cannot simply "go home" after their tenure. They are home and the result will live with them forever.

One of only two swimmers to make the podium at London 2012, where Michael Jamieson took silver a hand away from the world-record win of Hungarian Daniel Gyurta in the 200m breaststroke, Adlington said: "I hope they bring in someone British. I think it's the right way to go and get someone who already knows the system. "It's hard when a foreigner comes in as they don't know the system. For example in America they have a college system, which is different to ours. It would be nice to have someone British who knows the coaches. It takes time to get to know everyone and how they work. If you get someone British they know how to start their job straight away."

After Hannah Miley picked up gold in the 400m medley at the European S/C Championships in Chartres today, Britain will next race at the world s/c titles in Istanbul from December 12-15. That same week, the sports will know what level of funding cut it is facing as from Government agency UK Sport announces its budget based on London 2012 results. Swimming, which received more than £25 million in the lead-up to a home Games, did not meet its targets, while many other sports in Britain exceeded their own goals and are therefore be in line for a greater share of the funding pot.

Meanwhile, of all the candidates up for the top jobs in Britain, Furniss and Atkinson make sense to a lot of people. Whether the British swimming Board will see it that way and let the new bosses get on with the job of leading is another matter.

A sourced told SwimNews: "Bill Furniss and John Atkinson make sense ... they carry the confidence and support of team coaches, staff and many of the swimmers. Whether the British Swimming Board will see it that way, we'll have to wait and see but there's no question about the weight of support for a British solution and those two men, who have been there and made it work many times before with the support of many of those who are on the national team right now."

A version of this article can be read at The Sunday Times.