No laughing matter as Brits forget lines

Headache for Van Commenee after Idowu and Ohuruogu deliver below-par performances as World Championships approach
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The Independent Online

At the start of day two of the Aviva London Grand Prix yesterday there was just the one burning question: who is Charles van Comedy?

By the end there were an awful lot more queries stacking up than the mystery of who has been parodying Charles van Commenee on Twitter. So many, only three weeks out from the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, that the head coach of the British team would have been in no laughing mood.

After Mo Farah's stunning 3,000m win and Jenny Meadows' superbly-judged 800m victory on Friday night, there was precious little home cheer yesterday for Van Commenee or for the 17,000 capacity Palace crowd.

Phillips Idowu was beaten by a former British team-mate and, more worryingly, by an emerging new rival for the world triple jump title he will be defending in Daegu. Christine Ohuruogu, the reigning Olympic champion, finished a weary eighth and last in the 400m.

Lawrence Okoye again failed to reproduce the one-off form that put him fifth in the world discus rankings, finishing ninth – and possibly out of the selection frame for Daegu. Then there was James Shane, another of the bright new things, suffering an achilles twinge in warm-up and pulling out of the Emsley Carr Mile. There were a few shafts of light. Helen Clitheroe lopped a 24sec chunk off her lifetime best as runner-up to US champion Lauren Fleshman in the 5,000m, the 37-year-old Preston Harrier clocking 15min 06.75sec and earning the "British Performance of the Day" award. There was also the heartening sight of Lisa Dobriskey edging closer to form, winning the 1500m from Hannah England in 4min 04.97sec.

Idowu cut a striking figure as he entered the arena with a bright blue stripe in his hair, prompting Charles van Comedy to tweet: "So Phillips disputes that he is a clown and attention seeker but turns up with blue and yellow hair. Okay."

It was in the midst of the real-life van Commenee's dispute with Idowu about whether he had announced his withdrawal from the European team Championships on Twitter that the head coach ventured the opinion that the social networking site was "for clowns and attention seekers".

Idowu gave a wry smile and turned on his heels without comment when asked whether he might be the joking van Comedy. He was similarly dismissive of the relevance of his performance – a modest 17.07m jump for third place behind Christian Taylor of the USA and Tosin Oke, the former British team member who now competes for Nigeria. "It was a bit of a below-par performance," Idowu said, "but to be honest I don't really care. No one is going to look back in a month's time and say 'I won Crystal Palace'. All I'm focused on now is winning gold in Daegu." The trouble is, so is the 21-year-old Taylor, who improved his lifetime best from 17.40m to 17.68m yesterday.

On this evidence, Ohuruogu is unlikely to get anywhere close to repeating the world-beating feats she achieved in securing the 400m title in Osaka in 2007 and the Olympic crown in Beijing a year later. After two years of injury, the 27-year-old Londoner has yet to get back into her stride on the comeback trail.

She was off the pace from the start, trailing home last in 51.87sec – eclipsed not just by her old rival Sanya Richards-Ross of the USA, a clear winner in 49.66sec, but also by her British team-mate Lee McConnell, who clocked a qualifying time for Daegu with 51.01sec in fifth place. "Don't slaughter me," Ohuruogu pleaded with the media. "I've had a bad day.

"I have to be realistic. I have not done much training. I have not done enough work to challenge these girls. I am trying to catch up. There's a lot of work do but I will still be going to Daegu."

At the end of a bad day for the Brits, there was a parade of the home squad on a double decker bus bearing the sign, "Next stop gold Daegu". There was also news of another recruit to the British track and field cause: Yamilé Aldama, the Cuban-born triple jumper who settled in London 10 years ago and who competed for Sudan after failing to gain a British passport in time for the 2003 World Championships.

With a complete dearth of world class talent in the women's hop, step and jump game, that was at least something to bring a smile to the face of Van Commenee.