The Teams Athletics conference kicked off with a comprehensive case study of how European Athletics’ Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) concept has been adapted and implemented in Spain, a two-year project supported by a grant from the European Commission.
Officially titled 'Teams Athletics – The Sport’s Newest Offer' and co-hosted by European Athletics and the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation (RFEA), the two-day online conference has been promoted as a chance for participants to help shape the rollout of DNA at both the elite and grassroots levels.
After a powerful video statement expressing the need for innovation and modernisation in athletics, RFEA president and European Athletrics Council member Raul Chapado opened the programme with a presentation on why his federation’s project to adapt DNA for use on the national level, entitled 'Jungle Athletics', was as one of just five selected from more than 140 applications submitted in response to the Commission’s call for proposals to find new forms of traditional sports for grassroots participants.
Chapado, who also chairs the World Athletics Competition Commission, commented that DNA is now an established element of Spain’s competition system and encouraged other countries to seriously consider integrating the format into their programmes.
RFEA staff members and event organisers, joined by the European Athletics DNA Project Manager Marcel Wakim and supported by a number of animated and competition-action videos, detailed the delivery and impact of the project’s various elements and activities, including the creation of a Jungle Athletics smartphone application.
A key message repeated by several of the speakers was that DNA and its grassroots variations are not meant to replace the sport’s traditional athletics competition format but rather to sit alongside classical events and add a new dimension to athletics, using the team element to attract and retain young athletes.
Special guest Alina Shukh from Ukraine, the 2017 European U20 heptathlon champion and 2018 world U20 javelin champion, said she believed grassroots DNA competitions would be a very valuable tool for developing a western European-style club system when peace is restored after the current war in her country.
She added that since the Ukrainian team took home the gold medal from the first-ever DNA competition, held at the 2019 European Games in Minsk, Belarus, her country’s top athletes already have a great interest in and support for the format.
The first day of the conference wrapped up with a lively session in which a panel of Wakim, RFEA Competition & Events Director Luis Saladie and the RFEA’s Deputy Sport Director Josu Gomez fielded questions submitted by members of the online audience.
The second and concluding day of the conference will focus on the road map for the future of the DNA project, including showcase competitions for elite athletes and the development of European championships for top club teams.
For further information on DNA see www.dna.run