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[10 OCT 98] ATHLETICS FEATURE
Dave Moorcroft
INTERVIEW BY ADAM DENT

It's not often you see a sporting superstar jogging round the streets of his home city – but Dave Moorcroft is no ordinary athlete.

Moorcroft is, of course, no longer famous for his achievements on the track – he’s too busy off it shaping the sport – but he still keeps himself in trim.

Three times a week the former 5,000 metres world record holder manages to spend time down at the University of Warwick track, which is now home to the Coventry Godiva club.

In the days when Moorcroft was hitting the heights the club had more humble surroundings at the Butts Stadium, but all through his years of globe-trotting on the track or in the commentary box, Moorcroft has stayed close to his roots. That’s why he was so delighted at the success of local athletes at the recent Commonwealth Games – and why he can still be seen doing laps of the Memorial Park in the city.

He said:

"I still do get down as often as I can and my son helps out the kids at the club with some coaching.

"It has certainly changed a lot since I first joined up. The club was known for producing marathon runners and that’s what I wanted to be because of the tradition. It was only in 1984 that the club got its first all-weather track and it has really taken 10 or 15 years for all the benefits to be realised.

"I think having so many [Godiva] athletes in the England teams taking part in so many disciplines, is a testament to provision of those facilities and the quality of local athletes.

"I hate singling anyone out, but I was delighted for Jo Wise when she won her gold medal in the long jump at the Commonwealth. In 1988 she won a bronze at the World Junior Games and was seen then as a real rising star but she has had a lot of injury problems. She has often made the team but never been able to fulfil her potential.

"People probably thought she had gone from the sport altogether at one stage but she battled on. I know just how much it means to win a medal and she can open the draw and look at it forever now. You can have all the wealth but those medals count for a lot.

"I was also pleased for Andy Hart. His fifth place in the 800 metres was not only a personal best but the middle distance events at the Commonwealth Games are very strong because of the African nations.

"Marlon Devonish also came back with a gold and is a part of a very exciting sprint scene. People talk about the Coe and Ovett period in the middle distance running, but we are starting to do as well in the sprint events.

"It is getting to the stage where if you are the best in Britain at the 100 metres or the 200 metres then you may well be the best in Europe and also up there in the world rankings."

All the years of competing could not have prepared Moorcroft for the last 12 months, which he calls "by far the most testing" of his life.

Moorcroft accepted a job as the chief executive of the British Athletics Federation, the sport’s governing body, only for the administrators to be called in just weeks later. Many lesser men would have been tempted to walk out and return to their other business interests, but Moorcroft stayed.

For the past year he and former Olympic athlete Chris Chattaway have worked away with a steering committee, containing leading athletes and other representatives of the sport, to establish a new structure for the governing body.

The result is UK Athletics, a more modern, professional and sleek body to run the sport. Allied to that is a linked organisation to look after the elite end of the sport. Moorcroft wanted support from the sport at all levels so the proposals were sent out to the athletics clubs across the country and put to the vote. Seventy six per cent of larger clubs voted and 97 per cent backed the plans.

Now that means Moorcroft has to re-apply, along with all the staff based at the Birmingham headquarters, for their jobs.

"Yes, I will be applying and I don’t intend not to get the job! While no-one wanted the agony of the past year it has at least allowed us to start afresh and pull the organisation into the 90s.

"Elite athletes have been able to benefit from lottery money and that has now started to make a difference. The idea was to start at the top and filter down. Hopefully the younger kids will be already taking inspiration from what Jo, Marlon and all the other British athletes have been doing.

"I could have walked away but we were given the opportunity to change something and hopefully the sport will now be on a very sound footing."
  

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CWN / Sport / Athletics / 10 Oct 98 / David Moorcroft

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