Olympic Potential Programme

The target of the Olympic Potential Programme is to support athlete development to achieve medals and top sixteen places at the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and World Championships and gain selection onto the UKA World Class Performance Programme or the Irish Carding System at Performance level. To underpin the target, the programme aims to establish a ‘Performance Culture’ and role models at the top of the Athlete Development Pathway.

Olympic Potential athlete and coach pairs are eligible for Sporting Winners investment that includes support from the Sport Northern Ireland Sports Institute (SNISI). This may include technical support, strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, competition expenses, training camps, equipment, sports science and sports medicine.

The coach is placed at the heart of the system and integrates the SNISI services in a joined-up approach. The service providers bring expertise, current research knowledge and ideas that fit the overarching and long-term plan. Within this system, Athletics Northern Ireland, coaches, athletes and service providers share a philosophy that is athlete-centred, coach led and performance focussed.

Athlete- Coach Pairs are supported up to the following levels:

  • Bespoke Sports Science and Medicine support with an integrated approach, through SNISI.
  • Training and competition costs based on need and agreed targets.
  • Six weekly planning/monitoring/review meetings face-to-face with the Athlete Development Lead or Director of Coaching and Athlete Development
  • Up to two squad training camps per year for warm weather/altitude/acclimatisation leading towards targeted competitions.


Ciara Mageean and Coach Steve Vernon at the World Athletics Championships in Doha 2019

Selection onto the programme

To be selected onto the Olympic Potential Programme, athletes have performed at Olympic, Paralympic or World level or have demonstrated the potential to do so.

Performance is measured against Olympic qualifying standards.

Potential is measured against the same standards. Athletes are expected to be tracking towards Tokyo 2021, show year-on-year progress, commitment to their own development and to the programme.

For further information on the Olympic Potential Programme contact Tom Reynolds, Athlete Development Lead: tom@athleticsni.org

2021 Olympic Potential Athlete-Coach Pairs







David Leavy

T38 800m/ 1500m

Ian Neely

Sommer Lecky

High Jump

Niall Wilkinson

Ciara Mageean


Steve Vernon

Ann-Marie McGlynn


Emmett Dunleavy

Michael McKillop

T37 800m/1500m

Paddy McKillop

Kate O’Connor


Toni Minichiello

Paul Pollock


Andy Hobdell

Leon Reid


James Hillier

Stephen Scullion

10,000m/ Marathon

Robert Denmead

Kevin Seaward


Andy Hobdell

Jason Smyth

T13 100m/200m