Christian Malcolm has been acclaimed as “Our Pep Guardiola” by the boss of British Athletics.
Jo Coates, chief executive of the governing body, insisted appointing sport’s first black head coach was done 100 per cent on merit.
“I've worked too hard in this industry to get where I've got to not to appoint the best people,” she said. “I’ve gone for a young, visionary and innovative coach.
"Christian was absolutely brilliant through the interview process and brings a huge amount of credibility to the sport.
“There are lots of people who are great coaches. But this role is so much more than this. We want someone to fundamentally make the difference in this sport.
“He is our Pep and we will put all support that he needs around him.”
Coates spoke in glowing terms of what Malcolm, 41, achieved in his 18 months as head of performance and coaching at Athletics Australia.
“He's managed to pull together the (Australian) States to work together, which is something we really need to do,” she said.
“He's had very difficult conversations with some coaches who were out of the system and brought them back – exactly what we need too.
“He has re-engaged with disenfranchised athletes – exactly what we need to do. And he has led a team of people very successfully. So his appointment is absolutely not emblematic.”
Linford Christie agreed, hailing a “new era” for the sport he tweeted: “It’s not about you being black, it’s that you are the right person. Congratulations @ChristianM200
Jake Wightman, who cruised into tonight’s British Championship 800 metres final in Manchester, added: “It’s a really positive appointment.
“Christian is athlete-facing, by which I mean he still thinks like an athlete and will know exactly what our wants and needs are and what sort of motivation we need.
“At points over the last few years I don’t think athletics’ stock can have got any lower. But we’re definitely on an upwards curve from here I think.”
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