By Duncan Mackay

Neil Black_head_and_shouldersSeptember 13 - Neil Black has been appointed as the new performance director of UK Athletics and charged with finding a replacement for Charles van Commenee, who quit as head coach on Tuesday (September 11) following the British team's failure to hit the medal target he had set at London 2012.

Black will take over a role that had remained unfilled since Dave Collins was fired after the Olympics in Beijing four years ago.

He will play a pivotal role in the build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics and the 2017 World Championships in London. 

Black has been a pivotal figure in the success of Britain's top athletes for 20 years.

Initially as a physiotherapist and, since 2009, as the man in charge of performance support services, science and medicine, working closely alongside van Commenee and Peter Eriksson, the head coach of Britain's Paralympic athletics team. 

The lead up to 2012 has seen him coordinate all support elements for Britain's athletes, and he personally managed the support programmes for Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, who between them won three of Britain's four gold medals in the Olympic Stadium. 

"Neil Black assuming the role of performance director is the culmination of succession planning we began when Charles first signed up as Olympic head coach on a four year deal in Beijing," said Niels de Vos, the chief executive of UK Athletics.

"Moving him from head physiotherapist into a general leadership role four years ago was done very much with this outcome in mind.

"He has been the 'glue' in the Olympic Task Force system I created, ensuring the right people, places and performance culture was in place to support the head coaches of the Olympic and Paralympic teams."

Jessica Ennis_with_flag_celebrating_winning_London_2012_heptathlonNeil Black helped ensure that Jessica Ennis remained fit for London 2012, where she won the heptathlon gold medal

Black's promotion was backed by van Commenee, who will leave his current role in December when his contract expires after he resigned because Britain won only six medals in athletics, failing to hit the target of eight he had set.

"If I were ever CEO of a national athletics federation or even Olympic Association, Neil Black is the first guy I would call and try to hire," said the Dutchman.  

"I am 100 per cent happy that he is the right man, within the right structures, to push on with the next phase of the ten year plan we devised together back in 2008."

Black qualified as a physiotherapist in 1981 and has worked with the British track and field team since 1990.

"It is an honour to be given the chance to lead the Olympic and Paralympic Task Force and be asked to lead colleagues with whom I have worked hand in glove for the last four years," he said.

"The performance team has worked hard to change the structures and cultures of our sport and I very much look forward to working in partnership with colleagues to build on the success of the last four years as we continue on our journey to 2017."

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