The best world class sports Physiotherapist to come out of UK and former British Athletics performance director Neil Black is found dead at his home in Loughborough on weekend. The 60 years old who was chronic supporter of Mo Farah, grew up in rank from the head of Physiotherapy to sport science before moving up to Performance director; a position he held for seven years before he took a bow last year.
The death, which is believed to be of natural causes, was confirmed in a statement from UK Athletics, which said it was “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. 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 had hoped to continue as performance director until after the Tokyo Olympics but last year he paid the price for his unwavering support of the controversial US coach Alberto Salazar, who was banned for four years for doping offences in October – as well as Britain’s low tally of 5 medals at the World Championship 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. He was regarded by those who knew him as friendly and intensely loyal – sometimes to his detriment. Before Salazar’s ban, Black had hailed the American as a genius, adding that there was “total trust, total belief, total respect” between the American and British Athletics.
Dina Asher-Smith, the world 200m champion, called the news “incredibly sad and shocking”. She added: “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.”
Hannah England, the world 1500m silver medallist, was among those to express her gratitude, saying that without Black’s skills she would never have competed in an Olympics. “In 2012 I became an Olympian, a monumental moment and part of my life,” she said. “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.”
Black’s family said they wanted to thank people for the wonderful and heartfelt messages. “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.”