Preparing the team behind the team


An army of Team GB and ParalympicsGB support staff will be heading to Tokyo this summer, facing the same heat and conditions as the athletes as they carry out their roles in Japan.

Laura Needham is British Triathlon’s Co-Head of Physiology and Senior Physiologist at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and explains how, in order for the athletes to be at their best, the support team around them needs to be too.

“The heat and humidity has been on everybody’s agenda and as support staff we automatically think about the athletes and how we can support them,” Needham said.

“We’re trying to support and prepare our athletes to be the best in the world so that they can perform at the Games and a part of their journey is the people around them.”

Working alongside the athletes, support staff covering roles such as nutrition, psychology, media, logistics and a raft of others will face the heat during the Olympics and Paralympics this year.

“At the EIS National Conference, we did a session with staff where we made sure it was really practical,” explained Needham. “We did things like memory challenges and seeing how many squats can be done in teams but racked up the temperature in the room.

“Everyone was talking about how hot the room was and it wasn’t anywhere near what it will be in Tokyo. It was a fun way to instil those messages and get people thinking about it.”

Needham was at the Tokyo test event for triathlon in August last year, an experience which has given her a lot of insight into how the athletes and staff will cope this summer.

“I’ve presented to team leaders at the British Olympic Association with my experiences of Tokyo last summer with Triathlon at our Test Event, we’ll be doing another presentation in May with more core staff, who are not embedded in sport, and in the next few months we’ll present to the British Paralympic Association core staff.

“The big thing about it is looking out for each other and that’s really important in a high-pressured environment.”

This interview was initially recorded for an EIS article 04/03/2020.

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