November 26 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Paula Dunn is determined to build on the momentum of the London 2012 Games following her appointment as UK Athletics’ Paralympic head coach.
UKA continued its policy of promoting from within by appointing the 47-year-old as successor to Peter Eriksson following his move to replace Charles van Commenee in the Olympic set-up.
Eriksson and his staff, which included Dunn, masterminded a remarkable turnaround in Paralympic performance at London 2012.
Following just two gold medals in Beijing in 2008 - both for David Weir - Britain won 11 on home soil as part of a total haul of 29.
Wheelchair racer Weir again led the way with four golds, while Hannah Cockroft claimed two and Jonnie Peacock, Richard Whitehead, Aled Davies, Mickey Bushell and Josie Pearson won one each.
Dunn was an integral part of the Paralympic coaching team and takes up her new role with immediate effect.
“I’m so happy to be given this opportunity, I feel it’s a real honour,” the former 100 metre European bronze and Commonwealth silver medallist said.
“I’m just going to do exactly what I’ve been doing, make sure the athletes get the best service possible and go on to better and greater things.
“London 2012 had an amazing impact on Paralympic sport in this country and we have a real opportunity to build on that over the next four years.
“I believe that there is more talent out there and I am looking forward to unearthing that talent and building on the success of 2012.”
Dunn was appointed after a widespread recruitment process, which included consultation with athletes and coaches, including Eriksson.
UKA performance director Neil Black said: “We looked as far and broadly as we could. I knew how Peter felt in all aspects of the programme because we’d talked about it.
“His thoughts and views were in the back of my mind, but they were no more influential than thoughts and views that I respected.”
Black praised Dunn’s “professional, passionate, purposeful, no compromise” approach.
He added: “Over the last four years it’s been brilliant working with Paula, who has been a primary contributor to the strategy, to the decision making.
“Paula’s one of the fastest-acting people I’ve ever come across, so I’m really confident that Paula’s the right person to lead the Paralympic team forwards to even greater success in Rio and London 2017.”
Dunn and Eriksson will continue to work closely together, as they have done since 2009.
“Peter and myself work really well together and we complemented each other, but I’m sure I’m going to lead with my own style,” she added.
“We both have a no-compromise attitude when it comes to performance, performance is the key factor. I put an arm round the shoulders when necessary, but I can be pretty tough verbally when I have to be.”
Dunn’s priorities include continuing the momentum generated since 2009 by identifying fresh talent and integrating Paralympic athletes in training and competition with their Olympic counterparts. It remains an athlete-centred approach.
She has her own anecdotal evidence of the impact of the Paralympics, with more aspiring Paralympians joining the local athletics club of which her son is a member, and hopes the pathway continues to elite sport.
She used the example of Peacock, the Cambridgeshire teenager who was inspired post-Beijing to go to a ParalympicsGB talent identification day and four years later became a star of London 2012.
Dunn added: “Jonnie Peacock in 2009 wasn’t involved in the sport. He was one of the first athletes I saw when I started.
“Within three years he’s gone from having very little involvement to being Paralympic champion watched by 6.4million people and 80,000 people chanting his name in the stadium.
“The plan is to find more Jonnie Peacocks. We’ve got more to come.”
As for her fellow Yorkshirewoman Cockroft, Dunn has addressed the fact the double Paralympic champion is presently without a coach following Eriksson’s change of role.
Dunn said: “Don’t worry, we’ll sort her out. She’s not unsettled now.”