OLYMPIC GAMES: Jones Hoping His Athletes Follow Advice to the Letter

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil Silver in Paphos -

Max Jones has revealed how he sent a letter of encouragement to every one of Britain's 58 athletes telling them to believe in themselves at the Olympic Games.

The technical director of British athletics did not want his track and field performers to believe reports that they were going to have a bad Olympics in Athens, and emphasised the point in a letter to each of them.

Jones said that at the start of the season he warned that Britain had less 'probable' medal contenders than four years ago in Sydney, where the team scooped six medals, but he said there were still plenty of 'possible' medal candidates.

However, he believed his comments were taken out of contest and came across too negative, so he set about trying to encourage his team in the shape of a personal letter.

Jones said: 'All I did early-season was point out that we had fewer probable medallists this time around - there were plenty of possibles but not too many probables, which was true - and some people took that to mean we weren't going to win anything at whatever.

'It seemed that expectations went through the floor and I must admit that about ten days ago I sent the athletes a letter saying I think we have a strong team who will do well. I told them to prove people wrong and get out there and do it.

'I was portrayed as saying we didn't have a good team and we'd have a poor games but that was incorrect. The only thing I was saying was that we didn't have as many probable medallists as in Sydney.

'That's why I felt it was important to write to the athletes to say that I still believe in you and believe you can produce the goods. We have still got some excellent medal hopes and during this preparation camp the coaches will get round to the athletes and talk them up.'

Jones has arrived in Cyprus to find 18 athletes here. There were 16 arriving last night, eight more today, seven tomorrow, three on Friday, two on Saturday and Jade Johnson on Monday.

Three of the 58-strong team will not be coming to Cyprus - marathon ace Paula Radcliffe who is 'doing her own thing' at a secret location believed to be in Spain, hammer thrower Lorraine Shaw whose coach did not want her preparing abroad for medical reasons, and discus thrower Shelley Newman whose coach could not get the time off work.

Jones said that everyone was as well as could be hoped for, particularly Radcliffe who is regarded as Britain's best chance of a gold medal.

'I have spoken to Paula on the telephone and everything is fine,' Jones said. 'She said everything is going very well and she has no injuries, so she is very happy at the moment. …