Malcolm Arnold and Ulla Koch honoured as they win IOC Coaches Award

The IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award was created three years ago in order to recognise coaches who have dedicated their lives to training some of the best athletes to have graced the Olympic Games. This year, Malcolm Arnold OBE, coach of three Olympic champions in athletics, and Ulla Koch, who lead athletes to 34 international medals, were presented with their awards in a ceremony at the Olympic Museum, Lausanne.

  • IOC President Thomas Bach and Chair of the Athletes’ Entourage Commission Sergey Bubka presented Ulla and Malcolm with their awards respectively.
  • Both winners were hailed as “extraordinary coaches” at the ceremony.
  • Several attendees paid homage to Ulla and Malcolm, including their families and friends and those who nominated them.

At the third edition of the IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award, Malcolm Arnold OBE and Ulla Koch were rewarded for their extensive dedication to training and developing successful athletes.

Bringing the best to athletics

Malcolm oversaw the victory of John Akii-Bua in the 400m hurdles at Munich 1972, who became the first-ever Olympic champion for both his country, Uganda and his continent, Africa, setting a world record time in the process. Malcolm also trained world record holder and Olympic champion Colin Jackson after he became the head of Welsh Athletics and British Athletics, eventually being awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2012.

“The athletics community is a very close one, and to be recognised like this is an honour,” said Malcolm. The Briton went on to thank his family in supporting him throughout his career. “It’s always important to have a great family behind you, and I’ve been very lucky in that respect.”

A humble winner

One of the athletes who Malcolm trained, Lawrence Clarke, who finished 4th in the 110m hurdles at London 2012, was responsible for nominating his former coach.

“The people who are the most successful never tell you, because their work speaks for them. And that’s the case with Malcolm, he deserves this more than anyone. He certainly changed my life and the lives of others.”

Creating winning gymnasts

Ulla Koch began her artistic gymnastics coaching career in 1975 and has been the coach of the German team since 2005. She is also on the Coaches Commission of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and has helped to develop other coaches in Germany.

“When I was told that I won this award, I was completely speechless,” said Ulla. “I feel honoured to receive this.” She also explained her philosophy in developing athletes. “Making mistakes is human. If someone fails at the Olympic Games, you have to pick them back up and support them.”

“More than a coach”

Veronika Rücker, Secretary-General of DOSB, nominated her for the award. “Ulla is more than a coach. She takes care of the post-career of the athletes, too, and she took many of them into coaching once they retired from competition and that’s very important for them but also the future of the German Gymnastics Federation.”

Both winners thanked those who nominated them, as well as President Bach and Sergey Bubka for their hard work and in making their achievements possible.

Due to the high standard of nominations received this year, the awards panel decided to recognise one additional coach as a runner-up in each category.

Olympian Pullela Gopichand has been the coach for the Indian badminton team at the last three Olympic Games (2008, 2012 and 2016) and has individually coached six Olympians, including medallists Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu. In 2008, he founded India’s premier badminton academy, the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy, and has launched various initiatives through his foundation, including coach certification and physical literacy programmes. He has received numerous awards from the Badminton World Federation and the Government of India.

Melody Davidson is the former head coach of the Canadian women’s ice hockey team and served as general manager of Hockey Canada’s national women’s team programmes. She has been a vocal influence in promoting the role of female mentors in sport. As assistant or head coach, she has won numerous medals across tournaments, including three straight Olympic gold medals (2002, 2006 and 2010). She was awarded the Jack Donohue “Coach of the Year” Award in 2010 and is also a member of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport.

Both Pullela and Melody have been awarded an honourable mention for the male and female categories, respectively.

Want to read more about Malcolm and Ulla’s careers and achievements which earned them the IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Awards? Click here to find out more.