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Athletics: AAI to confirm Ankrom as new high performance director

It may have come two years too late but Athletics Ireland is finally set to fill the high performance director's vacancy that has lain vacant ever since the Beijing Games.

Kevin Ankrom, an American who has been working as New Zealand's high performance manager since 2007, is the man who will take on the onerous job less than two years away from London 2012. Athletics Ireland (AAI) will confirm his appointment in the coming days.

The Irish Independent understands that three people -- including one Irish and one British-based coach -- were interviewed for the position by a five-person board, which included two representatives from Athletics Ireland and one from the Sports Council.

Ankrom took over as New Zealand Athletic's high performance director in April 2007, coinciding with the Kiwis' most successful Olympics since Tokyo, as Valerie Villi (shot) and Nick Willis (1,500m) took gold and silver medals in Beijing.

A high jumper with a 2.25m PB, who graduated from North Carolina State, he was formerly a track and cross-country coach at US colleges (Valparaiso and North Carolina Wilmington).

Before going to New Zealand, he headed up the high performance unit at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, where he was also the national track and field head coach. He has also worked in Bahrain.

Irish athletics' previous incumbent Max Jones finished his term during the Beijing Olympics, but was not replaced, even though a full recruitment and interview process was completed in the autumn of 2008.

This was largely because the Sports Council -- who pay the salary and had two representatives on that interview board -- would not then endorse the AAI's final choice of candidate, believed to have been leading international athletics agent Paul Doyle.

Unlike Jones, Ankrom is moving to live in Ireland full-time; his initial contract will take him up to 2014.

The failure to fill this vacancy since the 2008 Olympics had been widely criticised as it is one of the most important roles in any sport.

The head of high performance oversees and guides the preparations of all of the nation's elite and top junior athletes.

Irish Independent