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Former UK Athletics Performance Director Neil Black dies suddenly at the age of 60

Neil Black, former UK Athletics chief and Mo Farah’s mentor, dies suddenly at the age of 60 – six months after quitting after the Alberto Salazar scandal

  • British Athletics confirmed the sudden death of Neil Black at the age of 60
  • Black, former British athletics performance director, worked with top athletes
  • Black accompanied Mo Farah from 2011-2017 under the spell of four Olympic gold awards
  • He left amid controversy over his support for the banned American coach Alberto Salazar

Neil Black, the former UK Athletics performance director, has died suddenly at the age of 60.

The news was confirmed on Tuesday by a statement from Black’s family. It is believed that he died of natural causes at his home near Loughborough.

The statement said, “We would like to thank people for the wonderful and heartfelt messages we received. So many people have been in touch, it is clear to us how loved Neil was and this gives us some comfort at the moment. ‘

Former UK Athletics Performance Director Neil Black has died, the governing body confirmed

Former UK Athletics Performance Director Neil Black has died, the governing body confirmed

The tragedy comes six months after Black left his post at UKA in the wake of the Alberto Salazar scandal. He worked as a performance director for seven years after taking over Charles van Commenee after London 2012, and had previously spent two decades as a physiotherapist with top British athletes.

After becoming the British team’s chief of performance, Black would become a key mentor and physiotherapist to Sir Mo Farah and maintain his connection to the four-time Olympic champion after leaving UKA in October.

A UKA statement said: “British Athletics are shocked and saddened to confirm the loss of our friend and former colleague Neil Black, who died suddenly over the weekend.

Black worked with Sir Mo Farah from 2011 to 2017 where he won four Olympic gold awards

Black worked with Sir Mo Farah from 2011 to 2017 where he won four Olympic gold awards

Black worked with Sir Mo Farah from 2011 to 2017 where he won four Olympic gold awards

“Neil loved athletics and dedicated his life to supporting athletes – as a world class physiotherapist, as head of sports science and in recent years as Performance Director for British Athletics.

Since leaving the position of UKA Performance Director in October 2019, he has continued to support a number of athletes and coaches as consultants.

“Neil will be greatly missed by those who knew and worked with him. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time. ‘

A strong amateur athlete, Black, a 4:02 minute miler at his best, once defeated Seb Coe in a cross country race. In his professional life, he was considered an excellent physiotherapist before assuming the top performance role at UKA where he was criticized for his focus on medals and his neglect of coaching structures.

His support for the disgraced American coach Salazar in light of the doping allegations in 2015 ultimately contributed to his departure in the fall, shortly after Britain missed their World Championship medal goal in Doha.

Black left UK Athletics amid controversy over his support for banned American coach Alberto Salazar

Black left UK Athletics amid controversy over his support for banned American coach Alberto Salazar

Black left UK Athletics amid controversy over his support for banned American coach Alberto Salazar

His support for Salazar (pictured) in light of doping allegations in 2015 ultimately contributed to his departure in the fall

His support for Salazar (pictured) in light of doping allegations in 2015 ultimately contributed to his departure in the fall

His support for Salazar (pictured) in light of doping allegations in 2015 ultimately contributed to his departure in the fall

Tributes poured in from the athletics world on Tuesday. Olympic medalist Iwan Thomas tweeted, “Destroyed. He helped me in my physio career and was a great man – I’ll miss your Blackster. ‘

Katharine Merry, who won 400 meters of bronze in Sydney 2000, tweeted: “What a sad news to wake up to. Neil Black’s passing is a real shock to the athletic world and to everyone who has known him for so long … Blimey … I can’t believe it. ‘

Multiple Paralympic Gold Medalist Hannah Cockroft wrote, “Such a great guy, always made time to talk to me and see how I was doing when he passed me, and always had a genuine interest in my training and in my sport. RIP Neil, you are being missed. ‘

Current British athlete Imani-Lara Lansiquot said, “This is such damning news. He always believed in us athletes. Send prayers and love to his family. ‘

Former UKA chairman Ed Warner said Sports email via a statement: “Neil is a huge loss for British top sport and for athletics in particular. In his seven years as UKA’s Performance Director, he brought the same calm assurance, attention to detail and empathy to the specific needs of athletes that he demonstrated throughout his career.

“It was a great privilege to work with him and share the highs and lows of British teams during the cycles of major leagues. I will especially cherish our festive clinch in the Olympic Stadium mixed zone after the final session of the 2017 World Champions in London.

Neil wore the barbs of the critics who are an inevitable part of any top sport leader’s work with a grace and sense of humor that were truly a hallmark of the man. He wanted to lead the British teams to Tokyo. He cannot now applaud their successes there.

“But I am sure there are British athletes who will win medals at the Olympics and the upcoming championships who look with great gratitude at the role Neil played to prepare them for their success. He is greatly missed. ‘

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