Simon Turnbull: London 2012 hopes would be hit by festering dispute between two key figures

Charles van Commenee was appointed as the head coach of UK Athletics in February 2009 on the strength of his reputation as a pragmatic, tough-talking coach with a proven track record of getting results in the Olympic arena. In Sydney in 2000 he guided an injured Denise Lewis to heptathlon gold. In Athens in 2004 he got Kelly Sotherton on to the rostrum as a bronze medal winner in the heptathlon, 12 months after she had been ranked 57th in the world.

That Van Commenee proceeded to publicly berate Sotherton for running "like a wimp" in the 800m, when she might have improved from the bronze medal position to silver, hallmarked the Dutchman's image as some kind of ruthless Rutger Hauer character. "In Holland you tend to name things as they are, call a spade a spade, and perhaps sometimes that's perceived here as harsh," he told The Independent in 2009, having confided that "in hindsight" he had been "unprofessional" in criticising Sotherton after the competition had finished, when his barb could not have provoked a positive reaction from her.

Whether Van Commenee comes to regret the verbal volley of disapproval he aimed at the absent Phillips Idowu on the eve of the European Team Championships remains to be seen. A festering public dispute between two such key figures can hardly help the British athletics team in the build-up to the World Championships at Daegu in South Korea in August – and in the countdown to those home Olympics.

It is easy to empathise with Van Commenee's unease about the influence of tweeting. Its capacity for causing disruption among athletes at the London Olympics was further underlined over the weekend when Usain Bolt posted a link to an interview with Tyson Gay in Sports Illustrated, adding the message: "I think some athlete need to get them self a girl so they can get there mind off me still cause my mind is on track, life and of course girls."

No matter how Idowu's withdrawal might have been communicated, he is not the first leading British athlete to treat the European Team Championships as an unwanted distraction. When Britain won its predecessor, the European Cup, at Gateshead in 2000, Jonathan Edwards, Colin Jackson and Steve Backley were all notable withdrawals.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam