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2015 World Championships - TeamGB 


Well, the British involvement in the World Championships ended today. This blog post is not about the performances of the athletes; it is a repeated warning that the BJA is in trouble and ruining lives.

Back on August 11th, I wrote about the team selection. The lack of a full team, the worries I have for a “performance programme” this close to an Olympic games not sending a full team. The people and processes behind the BJA programme worry me as although creating champions is a puzzle; it is a puzzle where we actually know a lot about and the BJA is ignoring the knowledge and doing stupid things that are affecting not just the programmes chances of success; but screwing up lives also.

Back in March I wrote about the BJA managed to lose the hosting of the European Championships. I mention the loss of “home court advantage”. Looking at the medal table today, I see that Kazakhstan (hosts of the world championships) are in fourth place; not a position I recall seeing them in before. They were 26th on the medal table in 2014 at the Worlds.
So in the crucial final period leading up to the Rio Olympics, the BJA lost home advantage at a Europeans, then sent only half a team to the Worlds.

To me, this should be setting of massive alarm claxons.
We know that to win medals at Olympic Games you have to do the following:
1. Qualify
2. Be seeded.

To qualify and to be seeded is a simple mathematical problem. You have to get as many points on the IJF WRL as humanly possible. The Top 8 players in each category will have the best chance of winning a medal. If you are running a programme geared towards winning medals at Olympic Games your job is to get points.

And in Europe the two tournaments that matter are the Europeans and Worlds. So it is vital that you send all your Olympic contenders to these two events where maximum points are on offer. Unlike other events, there are points there just for showing up and stepping on the mat. A loss in first round gets you a few points and in the modern WRL driven world, 1 point can make all the difference.

Another key consideration is that the points you earn on the IJF WRL decrease in value after 12 months by 50%. So your results in this years Worlds count for far more than last years. This singl
e tournament is the most imprtant single event in qualification for Rio2016… and we had a mere 8 players attend.

This should be setting on massive alarm claxons for those who have seen the mission of the BJA programme. Their mission is to get medals in Olympic Games; yet at the single most important event in the run up to the games they sent half a team. So half the players have lost the chance to attend the single most important event in the 2 year qualification period. For me, this is a sign that the BJA programme is not correct and sadly; this is yet another Olympic Cycle being damaged at the athletes expense.

The BJA athletes have got at this stage to worry about their chances for Rio. Players like Danny Williams and Frazer Chamberlain (amongst others) may well have had their best chance to qualify taken away not by opponents beating them; but by the BJA's own performance programme.

Today I read Bob Challis' scathing blog post on the world championships and I think he is being very kind in how he describes the performance. He like me feels I sympathy for the athletes caught in the middle here. They all want to win gold; they all work as hard as they are able and compete at the best level they can.

Sadly, I think they are being handicapped by the BJA programme. Walsall as a centre is far from excellent. The programme itself has been hard wired to run along a course that nobody in the programme decided. We must remember that the centralised programme at Walsall was decided before the current performance director was put in place. He is a mere figurehead for a ship that had it's course set before he arrived.
Unfortunately, the culture of the BJA programme that existed before London2012 seems to have changed very little. Forced relocation to Walsall is part of the programme just as being ofced to live in Dartford was prior to London2012.

All that said, 2015 is actually an improvement on 2014; Sally Conway (Edinburgh based) managed to get a 7th place. Lifting GBR from 44th to 33rd in the world.

But one 7th place one year from the Olympics is a disaster and I hope the BJA know it. I may only be a “keyboard warrior” but seemingly unlike the BJA I know how the modern game is played. I may not know how to prepare an athlete; let alone be an elite athlete; but I do know how an athlete gets to go to Rio2016. I know what the key performance indicators for a modern elite programme are. And it's not hard. You go to the IJF website, click on the link to the World Ranking List.

I do not know what I want to happen next.
Where as before London2012 I wanted the performance directors and lead coaching staff gone; I am not sure that is the right thing atthis time. I am not sure what the athletes want or need. And I am bltently not alone. The BJA obviously has no clue; or if they do they are either evil or incompetant otherwise the talented athletes we have would be doing better than they are.

If incompetant; then maybe the results from Astana might wake them up and get them off their pedestals and get them to make serious changes. If evil, this has not all be incompetance and they are intentionally ruining lives of athletes… I genuinely hope this is just people doing a piss poor job of serving the athletes and not intentional.

In a wider look at the event; the champions all fell except for Teddy Riner. To me this indicates that the medalists for Rio2016 are not going to be as easy to predict. It indicates to me that perhaps some of the senior members of the IJF circuit are perhaps on the downwards slide. That there is a re-arrangement of dominance happening. That if the BJA players stand any chance to medalling in Rio, then this is the time to make real and meaningful changes to the programme.

British players can and have won medals at World Championships and at the Olympic Games. Right now; Rio2016 is looking like a games where we will not bring back a medal. We don't have Karina anymore and Gemma does not have home advantage. We did not send any new blood to Astana; I think we should have. Now in the last 12 months before Rio it is time to get serious and stop pretending that if we build “systems” and “facilities” then medals will fall into the players laps.

Now is the time to stop getting in the players way and start serving them. The Walsall experiment has failed and now is not the time to hold onto a failed idea. Now is the time to accept that as it stands we will be walking off the Copacabana with nothing but sand. Now is the time to restart, the time to actually build champions not centres, to support athletes not programmes. This is the time to stop being mediocore and allow the elite players to excel and not drag them down to the level of the BJA organisation.

Please, for the sake of the young people in your care; be the best servants to them that you can.

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