MARCH 3 - BRITAIN'S Philip Leigh (pictured) has been appointed as the new high performance director for Irish cycling to help it prepare for the London 2012 Olympics, it was announced today.
Leigh coached Chris Newton, the Briton who won a bronze and silver medal in the pursuit race at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics respectively and a bronze in the points event in Beijing last year.
In his new role, Leigh will be responsible for developing and managing Cycling Ireland’s high performance plan, including overseeing preparation for events like the World Cup, World Championship and Olympic track, road and MTB events.
Geoff Liffey, the chief executive of Cycling Ireland, said: “We are delighted to appoint Philip as Cycling Ireland’s high performance director.
"He is considerably experienced in identifying new cycling talent and in putting organisational and support structures in place to ensure that elite athletes achieve success.
“Philip will develop a system which allows Cycling Ireland’s elite athletes to come in and out of the high performance squad."
Ireland took four cyclists to the Beijing Olympics, two in the road race and one each in the mountain bike and track events.
The best performance came from Nick Roche, who finished 61st in the road race.
Ireland has never won an Olympic medal in cycling.
Liffey said: "Our goal is to increase the size of the cycling team competing at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and to focus specifically on achieving success on the track.
“Cycling Ireland and the Irish Sports Council (ISC) have set the goal of having at least one cyclist finish in the top ten in a cycling event at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
"The Irish Sports Council is hugely supportive of our highpPerformance programme and we are committed to working together to achieve our objectives."
Leigh will officially take up his new role next April.
He said: “I am very familiar with Irish cycling and I am greatly excited by the challenge that exists.
"There is huge talent among the new generation of Irish cyclists and I have a clear vision of what needs to be done to develop their potential and to support their ambition.
“We are certainly capable of bringing bigger teams to the London 2012 Olympics.
"Our indoor track riders are also capable of delivering at least personal best times and of qualifying to compete for medals and the talent is there to have riders finish inside the top ten in the road and moutain bike disciplines.
One of Leigh's first goals will be to put new structures into place to develop high performance coaches and to support elite athletes up to and beyond the 2012 Olympic Games.
He also intends to assess and refine Cycling Ireland’s talent identification and talent transfer programmes.
His appointment has also been welcomed by the ISC.
John Treacy, the chief executive, said: “Cycling is a key high performance sport and has the potential to bring success to Ireland, especially with the track programme.
"The performance director is the key role in building a sustainable performance system within a sport and ensuring the athletes fulfil their potential at international level."