Portland, USA, Mar 22, 2016: In line with the IAAF vision to rebuild trust in the sport and foster the younger generations of athletes and fans, the first ‘On Camp with the IAAF’ was held last week, ahead of the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
Four athletes who stood out from last year’s IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali were selected for what will remain the experience of a lifetime and this quartet spent three days training with IAAF World Athlete of the Year Ashton Eaton before attending the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
Three-time world indoor champion Eaton and his long-time coach Harry Marra took time off from their busy schedules to help foster part of what will be the next generation of champions.
For the world record holder, leaving a strong legacy and making an impact on the youngsters is as important as his commitment to being the best at what he does.
It was therefore natural that he partnered with the world governing body of the sport for the first ‘On Camp with the IAAF’ initiative.
“This was a great opportunity for the kids to see how I work, and to see what it takes to be a professional athlete competing at the top level,” said Eaton. He later added on Twitter: “I’ve gained more than I’ve given. The youth have transferred their energy and enthusiasm.”
Marra, who also coached Brianne Theisen-Eaton to her fist global title in Portland, was enthusiastic about the opportunity given to four of next generation’s best athletes. He is adamant the way forward for athletics is getting elite athletes to pass their knowledge and experience on to the youth.
“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “This sort of project is what will save the sport. Having the youths training with elite athletes is absolutely crucial. It won’t happen overnight, but this is where it’s got to start.
“You got to get five, six, seven-year-old kids, get them good coaches, teach them how to do it correctly, teach them ethics, and teach them to respect and enjoy the sport. They will teach their kids, and so on, and that’s how it will grow.
“There’s no quick fix, but there’s a correct fix in my estimation, and it’s always with the kids.”
World youth decathlon champion Niklas Kaul from Germany was one of the Cali stars to be selected and said he has gained so much from the experience and is now more excited than ever about what lies ahead in his own career.
“It’s very special being here and watch all these great athletes,” said Kaul. “I definitely want to be down on the track and compete at a world championship. Probably in four years’ time it will be me down on the track.”
Maribe Caicedo of Ecuador, the world youth 100m hurdles champion, commented: “I learned a lot from this experience. New drills and warm up exercises but mostly I learned that athletics is a real job!”
Another member of the camp, South Africa’s Werner Visser, the world youth discus champion, added: “This is by far the best experience of my life. I couldn’t thank you enough for this amazing opportunity.”
World youth 100m silver medallist Khalifa St Fort of Trinidad and Tobago was also part of the camp. “This is incredible. Being here and seeing how they train. I love it.”
“This is such an important initiative and I want to thank Harry and Team Eaton for investing their passion into future generations,” said IAAF President Sebastian Coe. “We must take their commitment and build a programme which instils the right values in young athletes to build strong ethical foundations for their development in life.” —- IAAF