Former UK Athletics performance director Neil Black has died aged 60, the governing body has announced.
He coached Sir Mo Farah from 2011 to 2017, during which time the distance runner won four Olympic and six World Championship gold medals in the 5,000 metres and 10,000m.
Black left as UKA performance director in October 2019, after seven years in the role, following Great Britain’s disappointing showing in the World Athletics Championships in Doha and amid controversy over his support for banned US coach Alberto Salazar.
We are shocked and saddened by the loss of friend and former colleague Neil Black who passed away suddenly at the weekend.
He will be greatly missed by all at @BritAthletics
A friend too well loved, by too many, to ever be forgotten
— BritAthletics (@BritAthletics) April 21, 2020
A statement on UKA’s website read: “British Athletics is shocked and saddened to confirm the loss of our friend and former colleague Neil Black who passed away suddenly at the weekend.
“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.
“Since leaving the role of UKA Performance Director in October 2019, he had been continuing to support a number of athletes and coaches as an advisor.
“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’s family said: “We would like to thank people for the wonderful and heartfelt messages we have received. 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.”
Tributes began to pour in from a number of athletes Black had worked with during his career.
Former heptathlon bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton tweeted: “He came everywhere with me and made sure I was held together physically and mentally. So many things I want to say… I’ll miss you forever Neil Black.”
Chris Tomlinson, a former British long jumper, also tweeted: “Such sad news to hear of the passing of Neil Black. He was both my physio and team manager for many years. R.I.P.”
He came everywhere with me and made sure I was held together physically and mentally. So many things I want to say… I’ll miss you forever Neil Black 😞
— Kelly Sotherton (@KellySotherton) April 21, 2020
Five-time Paralympic champion wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft wrote: “Such a great guy, always made time to come chat to me and see how I was getting on when he passed me, and always took a true interest in my training and in my sport. RIP Neil, you’ll be missed.”
The full list of athletes Black worked with in his career includes some of the biggest British names in athletics, including Sally Gunnell, Linford Christie, Colin Jackson, Roger Black, Iwan Thomas, Jonathan Edwards, Kelly Holmes, Denise Lewis, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Steve Backley and Greg Rutherford.
Black took up the UKA performance director role in September 2012 after Charles Van Commenee left his position as Olympic head coach.
Such a great guy, always made time to come chat to me and see how I was getting on when he passed me, and always took a true interest in my training and in my sport. RIP Neil, you’ll be missed. https://t.co/xIrkq61ZDW
— Hannah Cockroft MBE, DL (@HCDream2012) April 21, 2020
He had been a physiotherapist at UKA before moving up ranks to take the top job.
A tweet on the official Team GB account read: “Everyone at the British Olympic Association is shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the loss of Neil Black.
“Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this extremely difficult time.”