By Andrew Atkinson
Mo Farah’s mentor, British athletics coach and Performance Director Neil Black, has died of natural causes aged 60, at his home, near Loughborough, Leicestershire.
“So many people have been in touch, it is clear to us how loved Neil was and this is bringing us some comfort at this time,” said Neil Black’s family in a statement.
A UK Athletics statement said: “We are shocked and saddened at the loss of our friend and former colleague Neil Black who passed away suddenly.
“Neil loved the sport of athletics and dedicated his life to supporting athletes as a world-class physiotherapist, as head of sport science, and then in recent years as performance director for British Athletics.
“Neil will be hugely missed by those that knew and worked with him. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Black faced criticism for supporting controversial US coach Alberto Salazar – banned for four years for doping offences in October.
He was also ridiculed for Britain’s five medals at the World Championships in Doha – their worst result since 2005.
Since leaving UKA, Black had been continuing to support a number of athletes and coaches as an advisor.
Mo Farah wrote on Twitter
“I have lost a good friend…! Known him since I was 14 years old… Neil supported me all the way in my career since I was kid..!! My heart is broken.. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Neil Black.. no one knew me like he did..!! We lost a great manBroken heart”
Hannah England, world 1500m silver medallist was another athlete to pay tribute:
“In 2012 I became an Olympian, a monumental moment and part of my life. “This was genuinely only possible because of the dedication from my physio at the time, Neil Black.
“Neil put so much time in athletics and athletes and it’s heartbreaking to know he won’t be doing this again,”
Dina Asher-Smith, world 200m champion, said: “I really can’t believe it. He was a genuinely lovely, caring and kind-hearted man whose sense of humour and positivity would light up a room. Rest in peace Neil, you’ll be dearly missed by all.”
Main image courtesy Sir Mo Farah, Twitter