Former Lakes School pupil Paddy Mortimer plots GB success at 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in role as British Ski and Snowboard Performance Director (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Former Lakes School pupil Paddy Mortimer plots GB success at 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in role as British Ski and Snowboard Performance Director
THERE is precious little time to bask in the glory of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi for Cumbrian exile Paddy Mortimer, whose priorities for the next four years are clearly identified.
Born and bred in Ambleside, Mortimer was appointed British Ski and Snowboard performance director in October 2011 after spending more than 20 years in the high-performance sports industry.
Great Britain made significant strides in Russia, surpassing the three-medal target set by UK Sport and equalling the record of four won at the inaugural 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix.
Central to Mortimer’s role was the medal secured by snowboarder Jenny Jones, with her dramatic slopestyle bronze representing Great Britain’s first-ever medal on snow.
And with the countdown to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea underway, Mortimer appreciates what needs to be done in the intervening period.
“Park and pipe needs to maintain its funding with UK Sport for the next four years, we stand a very good chance of justifying what we have done and showing we can expand,” he said.
“We feel we can probably make one to two medals next time around just from park and pipe rather than one.
“I felt we missed out on four in Sochi with Jamie Nicholls and Billy Morgan close in slopestyle snowboard while Rowan Cheshire and James Woods injured themselves in training – both have World Cup podiums under their belt.
“We also had Katie Summerhayes who came back from two knee operations, putting her hands down in the last jump which dropped her from top three to seventh.
“The second part of the program is to build pathways and demonstrate we have other sportsmen and women who can be world class internationals.
“We have to do that over the next few years so UK Sport can look at other sports such as alpine, ski cross, snowboard cross and cross country and see we have real talent.
“The third strand is to coordinate it all and that’s the hard part, especially with seven disciplines under the Performance Director’s jurisdiction.”
It has been far from plain sailing for Mortimer who endured a storm following his Twitter rebuking of Jamie Nicholls, accusations of bias against alpine skiers as well as calls for his resignation.
But he did feature prominently when athletes were handing out thanks post-Sochi after being viewed as highly instrumental in Great Britain enjoying such a successful Games.
Mortimer is credited with playing a lead role in securing crucial Government funding in snowsports, although he believes the talent on show spoke volumes.
“It is extremely gratifying when you receive evaluation and those sorts of plaudits from externals when you’re not seeking them,” he added.
“The single most important part of your feedback is when athletes or staff turn around and give you support in that manner.
“Two years ago we got the opportunity to pitch to UK Sport because we had some great talent in park and pipe.
“It was relatively easy and straight forward to evidence why these individuals were forecasted to do well at the Games.
“When you go to UK Sport they are motivated to look into the evidence. If you have the evidence they will support you, if not difficult questions will be asked.
“But when you’ve got athletes performing, it becomes a relatively straight-forward task. The next four years will be good as we have the opportunity to justify what we do and show it works.
“We believe we are doing things which haven’t been grasped in other sports in terms of building skills rather than just competing – and this will give the next generation a greater foundation.
“We’re trying to change the face of British sport.”
Mortimer’s CV packs a punch in the most exalted company, with a spell as the head of elite training with England Rugby League following on from a spell as performance manager at Chelsea FC.
But it is his time at The Lakes School between 1979 and 1985 which he believes paved the way for his future career, with three people in particular cited as major influences.
“Some of the most fulfilling moments of my career came at Chelsea, having a face-to-face conversation with Jose Mourinho across the dinner table was awe-inspiring,” said Mortimer.
“My time was spent between the academy and the development squad, run at the time by Brendan Rodgers who interviewed me for the post and felt I could contribute.
“The club was instrumental in taking on new ideas and employing evidence-based processes and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in ski and snowboard.
“But Steve Field, Graham Smith and John Luker at The Lakes School were three principal architects of my life. Those characters kept me on the straight and narrow.
“This was especially the case when I was going through a rocky stage when I lost my dad aged 15 to a heart attack. At that time my life could have gone the wrong way very easily.”
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