Athletics: New Irish chief Ankrom sets the bar high in quest for glory
Published 05/05/2011 | 05:00
Irish athletics finally got its long-awaited High Performance Director (HPD) yesterday and Kevin Ankrom certainly didn't beat about the bush.
"Results, particularly top-16 finishes, are my guiding principles," stressed the 43-year-old American about team selections for upcoming championships and Olympic Games.
"You can have 'A' standard athletes who are professional qualifiers but I'll only be sending the guys who can get the job done on the day. Whether that athlete has 'A' or 'B' standard is irrelevant.
"If I do catch grief I'll get more of it for supporting an athlete who goes to competitions just to participate. It's my job to send the right athletes who will show up and produce the goods on the big occasion."
Ankrom said he has no problem with the Olympic Council of Ireland's 'A' standard only policy, saying: "that's the same in all the other countries I've worked in."
He even went further, saying that he will not necessarily select athletes who have the 'A' standard unless they show serious top-16 potential, a radical new departure for Irish athletics.
A soft-spoken former high-jumper from Illinois, Ankrom may have Irish ancestry from Kilkenny but he stressed there will be no room for sentiment.
"You've got to be able to make the hard calls, that's what high- performance sport and management is all about," he said.
He met the board of Athletics Ireland (AAI) on Tuesday and flies out tomorrow to meet many of the country's top athletes and their coaches at the national warm-weather training camp in Portugal.
Ankrom spent the last five years as HPD of New Zealand athletics after being the national athletics coach and performance manager of Hong Kong.
With the next Olympics just 449 days away, it is arguable that his appointment comes far too late to have any effect for London 2012 but he argued otherwise.
"First and foremost my role is to take care of those athletes who are heading for London 2012 but most importantly then to look at what we can do for 2016."
He said the job of a HPD is the same the world over -- to challenge and improve the support systems in place for athletes and help make talented juniors successfully transition to world-class seniors.