Tokyo 2020: GB Track & Field – Meet the Coaches

Over the last 18 months, we have been working towards supporting UKA in creating gender equity in their coaching workforce, having launched our own research project in partnership with Leeds Beckett University.

Achieving Gender Equity in High Performance Athletics Coaching in the U.K” which was launched in February, identified a number of barriers female coaches face at the elite end of the sport. These findings, along with recommendations laid out by Professor Leanne Norman, aim to change the culture of the sport, improve the environment women coach in, and increase the opportunities for all coaches in reaching performance coaching roles. 

In addition to our research, our FCN | Track and Field Project aims to highlight and celebrate some of the women who are coaching performance athletes in the U.K.

From the 1st August, the FCN will be working alongside British Athletics to support them in creating a more efficient, inclusive and safe coaching environment for all.

For this years British Athletics Team, only 3 athletes out of the 72 have a female coach, that’s a percentage of 4%, which is an increase from Rio which was 2.5%.

Meet the 3 female coaches with athletes at Tokyo:

Marina Armstrong – Coach to Jessie Knight (400m Hurdles)

Coach Marina Armstrong and her squad have had a phenomenal few seasons! Marina, who specialises in 400m and 400m hurdles, currently coaches a large squad of male and female athletes across the South of England. She has had consistent success ranging from junior to senior medals, and GB representation, including Chris McAllister competing for GB at the 2019 World Championships. 

Currently, Marina’s most notable athlete is Jessie Knight, who stormed to a shock victory winning the 400m at the 2020 Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow, beating the then European Outdoor Champion Justyna Święty-Ersetic. Since then, Jessie has gone on to sign with Nike, compete at a number of Diamond League events and has the A standard needed for Tokyo 2020. 

Marina was a sprinter back in her native Country, the former Soviet Union, and gained a Masters in Athletics. She moved over to England working as an architect and began coaching her daughter in 2005. Having been part of many coach development programmes delivered by UKA and England Athletics, Marina has worked hard to become one of the best coaches in the Country. 

Look out for athlete Jessie Knight in the 400m Hurdles!

Liz McColgan – Eilish McColgan

Photo: Scottish Athletics

Liz McColgan is a British former middle-distance and long-distance track and road-running athlete. She won the gold medal for the 10,000 metres at the 1991 World Championships, and a silver medal over the same distance at the 1988 Olympic Games. Liz was also a two-time gold medallist over the distance at the Commonwealth Games, as well as winning the 1992 World Half Marathon Championships, 1991 New York City Marathon, 1992 Tokyo Marathon and 1996 London Marathon.

Liz was the chair of Scottish Athletics from 2003 to 2005 and her first-born daughter, Eilish, has been following in her mother’s running footsteps by competing for GB herself. Liz is Ellish’s lead coach and has taken her to a 3 Olympic Games including London 2012, Rio 2016 and now Tokyo 2020.

Keep your eyes out for Eilish McColgan competing in the 5,000m and 10,000m

Christine Harrison-Bloomfield – Laviai Nielsen

Coach Christine Harrison-Bloomfield is a sprints Coach based in the South of England. A former international sprinter, with a 100m PB of 11.32 and 200 of 22.85, Christine now coaches some of the Countries best athletes across all ages groups. 

Christine’s most notable athlete is 400m international GB athlete Laviai Nielsen. Laviai and Christine have been working together since 2017 and since then have gone on to represent GB at European and World Champion stage and has become a stalwart of the 4 x 400m relay squad.

Christine is an advocate for female coaches and has been a trailblazer in the elite coaching world. In July 2020, Christine was named by UK Sport as one of the 27 coaches in a new scheme to increase female representation in sport. The programme sees 27 coaches across 15 sports, given the opportunities to develop, in a quest to double female representation for the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic games.

Look out for Laviai Nielsen in the 4 x 400m