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Eriksson ready to meet London challenge at UKA

UK Athletics has appointed the iconic Swede Peter Eriksson as Paralympic head coach. He was mentor of Canadian wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc, who won five golds in Athens and repeated that, setting three world records, in Beijing. His proteges have won 119 Paralympic medals since 1984.

UK Athletics has appointed the iconic Swede Peter Eriksson as Paralympic head coach. He was mentor of Canadian wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc, who won five golds in Athens and repeated that, setting three world records, in Beijing.

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His proteges have won 119 Paralympic medals since 1984.

As a speed skater, Eriksson competed for Sweden from 1963-80, including two world championships at 500 metres and 1000m. He then coached speed skating and ice hockey in Sweden and Canada, where he became national speed-skating performance director, and in 2004 became first Paralympic coach to win Canada's Coach of the Year award.

Eriksson's Paralympic role will mirror that of new head coach Charles van Commenee at UKA. He'll take responsibility for athletes who can succeed at the 2012 London Paralympics, as van Commenee will do for the Olympics.

"The British athletics team has a tremendous heritage and - as was clear in Beijing - there is a fresh generation of talented athletes ready to step up and achieve huge success at the Paralympics," said Eriksson.

Eriksson is unlikely to give UKA an easy time. He quit as head coach of the US Paralympic athletics team in 2006 because of funding barriers put in the way of competitors. He told the New York Times: "I couldn't do my job", saying that though his athletes had "humungous potential" it had evaporated because they couldn't access funds.

Sir Philip Craven, the British president of the International Paralympic Committee, has criticised the US for being behind the times in their treatment of Paralympians.

This year the situation reached its nadir when one US Paralympian was suing the US Olympic Committee for discrimination while competing for them in Beijing. He lost, and the case is now heading for the Supreme Court.

USOC gave Olympic gold medallists $25,000. But Paralympic gold medallists get just $5000 from USOC, who last year handed out $1.85m in performance bonuses. US Paralympic athletes got none.

The UK pays no medal bonuses to either Olympic or Paralympic athletes, but the British Paralympic Association confirm that lottery grants for both are calculated in exactly the same way. Paralympic sport's main gripe in Britain is inequity of media coverage. England Athletics yesterday announced the sport there is to receive £20.46m funding over the next four years. Scottishathletics will submit a six-year plan next spring, but funding will remain annual. Niels De Vos, chief executive of UK Athletics, hopes that transferring Ian Stewart, director of Britain's major meetings, from the Fast Track promotion agency to UKA will help revive middle distance and endurance performance.

"If you get athletes into the right meetings at the right stage of their career, it's very important," said De Vos. "This was echoed loudly by Paula Radcliffe: that ability to use our muscle to get her the races she wanted in her formative years was pretty critical."

However, there was a swipe at departed performance director Dave Collins. "Probably Fast Track were not doing this because they were not instructed to do it by the previous performance regime. But it's something Ian has the ability to do as one of the leading promoters in Europe.

"By having him here, closer to me and Charles van Commenee, we can get an extra 5% out of him to the benefit of our performance athletes. Otherwise, it's no change with Fast Track because we effectively pay for him anyway."

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