When all the "i"s were dotted, the "t"s crossed and the names of the 77 athletes printed on the British track-and-field team sheet for the London Olympics – the largest such GB squad since the Barcelona Games of 1992 – there were some questions left unanswered. One above all others.
Even accounting for the fluctuation of fitness and form, the team announced by Charles van Commenee yesterday looks to be in shape to hit the head coach's long-term target of eight medals, including one gold. What remains an utter mystery is whether Phillips Idowu, the olden golden boy from Hackney, is in any kind of condition to hop, step and jump for backyard glory next month. The much bemedalled Belgrave Harrier – the 2009 world champion and 2008 Olympic runner-up – has not competed since jarring his foot in the Diamond League meeting in Eugene on 2 June. When Idowu failed to appear at the trials in Birmingham two weeks ago, Van Commenee declined to divulge whether the 33-year-old was injured, citing "medical confidentiality".
At the team announcement yesterday, Van Commenee shrugged his shoulders when asked for an update. The Dutchman had a falling out with Idowu last summer over the disputed terms of the athlete's withdrawal from the European Team Championships in Stockholm. The pair have not spoken since and, even though Idowu's coach, Aston Moore, is on Van Commenee's staff at UK Athletics, the head coach said he had not asked about Idowu's fitness since before the trials.
"He was injured and therefore he did not compete at the trials," Van Commenee said of Idowu. "I said then he is aiming to compete at Crystal Palace [in the London Grand Prix next week].
"Since then, I have not been involved in the Phillips Idowu situation because I had the trials and European Championships and then selection. I have always said I don't communicate with him directly. I speak with his coach. His coach is employed by UK Athletics. I'm his boss. I speak to him at least weekly.
It was suggested to Van Commenee that it was "amazing" for a head coach not to have enquired about the fitness of one of his major players. "I would find it amazing if I had acted differently," he replied. "If you find it amazing, use that word."
Was it a difficult decision to select an athlete whose fitness was in doubt? "It was not difficult," Van Commenee said. "He's the former world champion and No 2 in the world last year. His selection does not exclude any other athletes, so it's a no-brainer."
The absence of such a consistent medal winner would undoubtedly be a blow to the British team – and would narrow the margin for error on the medal target front for Van Commenee, who reiterated his intention to resign if his team falls short. "If I didn't, I would lose my credibility," he said, "and I could never function without credibility."Reuse content