Top Sheffield athlete urges better facilities for next generation

John Lane in action at the Commonwealth Games
John Lane in action at the Commonwealth Games
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Sheffield decathlete John Lane says the stalling with Woodbourn Road Stadium developments is frustrating the city’s top athletes and coaches and could affect the next generation.

The former sports minister Richard Caborn, at a briefing announcement proposals of the Olympic Legacy on the former Don Valley site, claimed there may be potential for the nearby site to be upgraded with indoor, all-weather facilities.

However Lane, who came fourth in the decathlon at this summer’s Commonwealth Games, believed these plans for Woodbourn were promised 18 months ago.

“Everyone I have spoken to was under the understanding that when Don Valley got knocked down, they were going to start re-do Woodbourn straight away,” the UK heptathlon indoor record holder said.

“As in put an in-door facility straight in, put a bigger stand in and try and make Woodbourn road as good as Don Valley.

“I know it would have taken a couple of years but it has been nearly a year and a half and we don’t even have a toilet so at the moment I have no clue what will happen.”

Improvements were made to Woodbourn in 2013 when £325,000 was spent on installing new flood-lights adding extra seating and making improvements to the track - and despite being happy with the track Lane, along with other athletes, are restricted by the current facilities.

“The track is absolutely perfect but I just turn up, I run I do what I need to do and then I leave because of how it’s set up for athletes,” the 25-year-old said.

“The toilet is an issue and I never use the changing facilities because the times that I come and train they aren’t open, and a lot of the time all the facilities are locked up.

“It’s extremely fortunate that I can train at the Institute of Sport but I know athletes who have to train outside all winter because they have no choice.

“It’s a really big problem because it does get very cold during those winter nights and the track can be completely frozen over.”

Lane trains alongside Jessica-Ennis Hill mainly at Sheffield’s England Institute of Sport but travels to Leeds Met University one day a week to practice the pole vault and javelin.

The Toni-Minichiello- trained athlete hopes in the future Woodbourn Road will be able to provide an all-in-one facility or the future of athletics and the next generation could greatly suffer.

“There should just be one venue in the city where everyone can go at one time and use – not flip flopping between venues. If Woodbourn was up to scratch then I and other athletes could be just based in Sheffield,” he said.

“I’m also worried about youngsters. There is a lot of talent in this city but the danger if things don’t get better at Woodbourn Road, kids might not want to come down and train in the cold because they would rather go and play a sport indoors.”

“My generation will be retiring soon, and Jess isn’t going to be around for ever.

“It will be up to the kids to compete so they are the ones that need to be catered for.”