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UK Athletics ready to focus on ‘big hitters’ in pursuit of Olympic success

UK Athletics is set to tighten its selection policy in its bid for Olympic glory, with chief executive Jack Buckner admitting the need to “focus on the really big winners”.

Buckner admits UKA could reduce the number of sponsored athletes and teams as it seeks better results after a disappointing 2020 Games.

Team GB failed to win Olympic gold in track and field in Tokyo for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Buckner, the former British Swimming CEO, wants to be more persistent as he feels track and field has softened a bit ahead of this summer’s world championships in Budapest and next year’s Games in Paris, following up success in track and field.

“Yes, I think we are,” he said ahead of the start of the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul on Thursday.

“There will already be a slight change in our selection philosophy, which will be more difficult in some respects. There will be less sponsored athletes.

“We’re going to move the Olympic selection philosophy more about that performance mindset.

“We’re going to go in that direction. I think the smaller teams will have a better understanding of where the opportunities are at the Olympics and World Championships. It’s a tricky balance to get right.

Buckner was chief executive of British Swimming for five years, culminating in the historic Tokyo Olympics.

Team GB won eight swimming medals in Japan – four gold, three silver and one bronze – making it the first time in 113 years that GB had won four gold medals at one Olympics.

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Buckner added: “You really have to focus on the big hitters. If you look at swimming, there were six to 10 guys like Adam Beattie, Duncan Scott, James Guy, Tom Dean, Freya Anderson – but we were good at maximizing the talent we had.

“That’s what we (athletics) are supposed to do. We may have a list of 6 to 10 names and we need to be on all of them. It’s more difficult because track and field has a tradition of being a bit more egalitarian.

“We were a little ruthless in the swim about who’s going to give it to you. We’ve got to be a little tougher in that regard. Relays are fundamental, and we did that in the swim.

“We need to identify where the medals are coming from and have proper evidence.”