'Don’t be afraid': Team GB's athletics head coach has this message for athletes

30 July 2021, 20:24 | Updated: 31 July 2021, 00:40

Peter Gillibrand

By Peter Gillibrand

Team GB's athletics head coach Christian Malcolm has told LBC that his message to the athletes for Tokyo 2020 is simple: "Don't be afraid."

The Welshman competed in the 200 metres across four Olympic games starting in Athens back in 2000, before coming fifth at Beijing 2008, where sprinting legend Usain Bolt broke the world record.

But as the sport gets under way at the Olympics, he told LBC these games are not made on paper and has tipped Team GB to provide some huge shocks over the next few days.

"Don’t be afraid of what’s gone on before, it doesn’t matter what the World rankings actually say or who’s the favourite," he said.

"When you come to the Olympic games, it’s proof that anything can happen. I always tell the athletes, be prepared, you’d rather be here than be sat at home.

"Because if you’re sitting at home wishing you were here, you’d see performances, you’d think: 'I can do that, I would have done this', well you’re here now, so do it."

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As an Olympic finalist and Commonwealth silver medallist, he hopes to bring his competitive drive into the competitions.

"Through great challenges there are opportunities… let’s enjoy the moment. Let’s not worry about the negatives and what we can’t control and worry about the controllables - and that’s ourselves and just go out there and do our best.

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"Nerves are good. Nerves turn into adrenaline and you need to focus on one thing and stand up and perform.

"I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the youngsters in our team thrive in this environment. They all seem to be training really, really well… I’m here to hold a camp and watching some of the training sessions and they’re incredible. I’m just really excited to see how they go out there and perform on the world stage."

When quizzed about how the Olympics will be different this year, he said his athletes are going to react to the unique environment in different ways.

"We just don’t know how people are going to react to empty stadiums… not having their close ones next to them out there who they’d be able to see in the stands and be able to give them that reassurance… that confidence… that positivity.

"We are trying to do our best here. To try and encourage our athletes… to support them… you’re going to get athletes who are going to react in different ways. People rise to the full stadium. People will be actually looking for someone else to really get that adrenaline - not the hype of the competition."

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However, Mr Malcolm said the athletes were "there to do a job" and that they were used to the changes brought about by Covid.

"A lot of these athletes have been able to compete throughout the year without those big crowds… They’re going to be out there trying to compete to do their best as well with no crowds trying to find that adrenaline."

Mr Malcolm said Dina Asher Smith had a "good balance" between performance and being "very good around the team"
Mr Malcolm said Dina Asher Smith had a "good balance" between performance and being "very good around the team". Picture: Alamy

He said for many the Olympics would be "bittersweet", with athletes thinking about "what they feel their Olympic experience might have been like", but "when you peel it all back, we’re here to go out there and compete".

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On Dina Asher-Smith leading out the athletes, he said: "It’s always a tough choice to recognise someone who’s going to be able to lead a team. People can lead in different ways. They can lead with their performance on their track. They can lead on how the way they mix with the team.

"But I think Dina’s got a good balance. We know she can perform when it comes to competition but also she’s very good around the team. A popular choice."