John Steele is a former professional soldier, athlete and the Chair of the English Institute of Sport. Having been heavily involved the London 2012 from winning the Olympic bid, John carried London's legacy into Rio, aiding Team GB in their rise to success and finishing second in the medals table this year. We caught up with John to talk about how Britain can cement their success in Tokyo 2020, his proudest moment of Rio 2016 and what legacy he hopes to leave in his position as Chair of the English Institute of Sport.
After London 2012 and Rio 2016, we have had two truly incredible games, how can we ensure Team GB remain a force in Olympic Sport for Tokyo 2020?
John: The success we all enjoyed in Rio was based on developing our high-performance system over the last three cycles (12 years). This journey has been about developing governance, investment, leadership and really getting to grips with "what it takes to win." We have successfully developed a culture of athletes and teams who understand how to deliver under intense pressure. Future success will depend on a combination of building on this, and innovating to remain ahead of the competition.
What advice would you give to the next generation of elite athletes for who Tokyo will be their first games?
John: Look around you, there are plenty of examples of athletes who through dedication, hard work, and some talent have realised their dream. Why not you too?
What is the biggest lesson you have taken away from Rio?
John: Stay focused on the objective and do not let short-term setbacks knock the big strategic goal off course. The road to Rio was paved with plenty of failure but we got good at turning those losses to our advantage and stayed resolutely fixed on the big outcome.
One of John's proudest moments of Rio 2016
What moment from Rio 2016 made you most proud of team GB?
John: It’s impossible to pick one in so many amazing moments. But when I was watching the synchronised divers win gold, they were so assured and calm. I realised that the new generation of athletes do not relate to the old "plucky loser" tag so often associated with British athletes in the past. They do not just dream of a medal but expect it. There is no arrogance, just belief.
What do you think your legacy is, as the Chair of the English Institute of Sport?
John: I will continue in my role into the Tokyo Olympic Cycle so I hope I will be able to build on the legacy. The EIS is the team behind TeamGB. We supported, through research and innovation, sports psychology, physio, nutrition and biomechanics 93% of TeamGB medal winners. I will see the legacy as complete when that figure is 100%.
What is the secret to creating a leading high-performance team?
John: There is no one secret. But there is a combination of elements that are consistent in high performing teams and individuals. That’s what I focus on in my keynotes!
Thanks John, it was really good to get an insight into how Team GB work and what the skills are needed to reach the top. We look forward to the good work put in place in Rio being carried over to other sporting events in the near future and ultimately Tokyo 2020.
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