Prospects brighter after sunshine in Berlin

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The Independent Online

So much for the Ashes, then. What about the Dashes? The prospects of the champagne corks popping Oval-style at the London Olympic Stadium in celebration of home track and field medals in 2012 are looking significantly brighter following the most successful World Championships for Great Britain since the golden days of Linford Christie, Colin Jackson and Sally Gunnell in Stuttgart back in 1993. Right from the off, when Jessica Ennis won the first race on the blue Olympiastadion track, the opening heat of the 100m hurdles in the heptathlon, it was a Britannic tale of rising to the global occasion in Berlin.

The haul of six medals (golds from Ennis in the heptathlon and Phillips Idowu in the triple jump, silvers from Lisa Dobriskey in the 1500m and Conrad Williams, Michael Bingham, Rob Tobin and Martyn Rooney in the 4 x 400m relay, plus bronzes from Jenny Meadows in the 800m and Simeon Williamson, Tyrone Edgar, Marlon Devonish and Harry Aikines-Ayreetey in the 4 x 100m relay) was one more than the British team managed at the last World Championships in Osaka two years ago.

Back then, Dave Collins, at the time the performance director of UK Athletics, boldly proclaimed: "The super-tanker has turned and it's steaming into clearer waters." There was a bit of a choppy time at the Beijing Olympics last summer, though, when the British medal standard dipped to four in what proved to be Collins' final assignment. Twelve months on, with Charles Van Commenee at the helm, there has been not just a steadying of the ship but a signal that the old super-tanker is moving full steam ahead.

Six months into his job of guiding Britain's runners, jumpers and throwers towards 2012, Van Commenee had set his team a target of five medals in Berlin. It seemed on the ambitious side, with just one member of the team ranked in the world three, and with potential medal winners Paula Radcliffe, Mara Yamauchi, Germaine Mason, Tasha Danvers and Germaine Mason all absent. That the target was surpassed was a measure of a squad inspired. Ditto the total of 20 finalists, six more than there had been in Osaka, a true gauge of emerging strength in depth.

"The target was five medals, so the numbers speak for themselves," Van Commenee reflected. "I know there was some pessimism in certain circles, so it's nice to look back and say that that was not necessary. It's definitely an encouraging result. That's the best word, I think. It's encouraging. But, having said that, I am also aware that there is still a lot to be done."

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