altPETER ERIKSSON (pictured), a former Swedish speed skater who has coached 113 medallists, has been recruited from Canada to be the new UK Athletics Paralympic head coach.


At the recent games in Beijing, he coached Canada's legendary wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc to five gold medals, including three world records.


It repeated Petitclerc’s medal haul from the previous Paralympics in Athens and earned her the accolade of being voted Canada's sports personality of the year, beating the country's able-bodied athletes.


A former international speed skater, Eriksson competed for Sweden from 1963 until 1980, including finishing 10th in the 500m at the 1977 World Championships.


At the conclusion of his competitive career, he moved into coaching where he worked in speed skating and ice hockey in Sweden in the early 1980s before moving towards athletics and onwards to Canada.


He is a level 5 athletics coach and in 2004 he became the first Paralympic coach ever to win the “Coach of the Year” at the Canadian Sports Awards.


Eriksson’s remit will mirror that of incoming head coach, Dutchman Charles van Commenee.


Eriksson will take responsibility for working closely with athletes who can achieve success at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, just as van Commenee will do so for the Olympic Games.


Like their able-bodied counterparts, Britain's Paralympic athletes underperformed in Beijing.


David Weir was the team's only gold medallist, winning two titles.


Eriksson said: “This is an extraordinarily exciting and challenging time to be joining UK Athletics in the lead up to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.


"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 Paralympic Games.


“The standard of Paralympic athletics has never been higher and is continually improving at a rapid rate. Winning medals at London 2012 will be tougher than at any previous Games.


"However there is no greater incentive than a home Games, it is up to us to meet that challenge and ensure British athletes enjoy a hugely successful London 2012.”


Eriksson will be in post by February 2009.