Behind his trademark thick-rimmed spectacles, the eyes of Charles van Commenee were not exactly glittering with the hint of golden promise after the first engagement for the Great Britain team in this pre-home-Olympics year. "I don't think it was a very spectacular start to the season," the head coach of UK Athletics said with customary frankness.
In fairness, just one of the four British athletes who finished last year with a top-six world ranking happened to be in the home team for the Aviva International Match at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. And, in her first serious test of 2011, Jessica Ennis picked up the threads of the golden form that took her to world indoor and European outdoor multi-events titles last year, powering to victory in the 60m hurdles in 7.97sec – against a field which included American Lolo Jones, the world indoor champion in the event – and finishing third in the long jump with 6.38m.
"I think Jessica's performance in the hurdles was very good," Van Commenee said. "There's definitely more to come because she made a poor start and did an excellent time."
Ennis, building towards the European Indoor Championships in Paris in March, was one of four individual winners for a GB team who finished runners-up to Germany overall. Jenny Meadows won the 800m in 2min 01.17sec and Mark Lewis-Francis took the 60m in 6.66sec. The £1000 cheque for performance of the day, however, went to a British athlete not on the Lottery funding list.
Helen Clitheroe produced a tour de force run in the 3000m, breaking Liz McColgan's stadium record and moving to the top of the world rankings with a time of 8min 52.31sec. At 37, the former lifeguard is determined to make what would be her third Olympics and intends to move up to the 5,000m and 10,000m this year to give herself a better chance of making the tough qualifying grades that Van Commenee and his fellow selectors have already started to set.
"I believe that when you raise the standards you will have a more successful team, and success breeds success," Van Commenee said, defending a policy that has raised the prospect of a British team containing several gaps. "When you're at a championship and in the first two days you've got a dozen athletes going out in the first round, that doesn't set the right tone for the rest of the team and for the people watching us."Reuse content