Charles van Commenee does not start his job as head coach of UK Athletics until the new year, but the man who guided Denise Lewis and Kelly Sotherton to Olympic heptathlon medals has completed another piece of significant paving work on the road towards the home Olympics of 2012. Having already addressed one Achilles heel of British athletics by appointing Bob Weir as heavy-throws coach – and also cut a clutch of underachievers from the governing body's Lottery funding list – the Dutchman has set about repairing another notable point of weakness.
He has appointed Ian Stewart as the head of a new endurance-running structure that will include input from a "brains' trust" of middle- and long-distance running greats. Not since Mark Rowland took 3,000m steeplechase bronze at the Seoul Olympics 20 years ago has Britain won a medal in a men's endurance event (5,000m, 10,000m, marathon and steeplechase) at an Olympic Games or a World Championships.
In an attempt to arrest the alarming decline, Stewart – the 5,000m bronze medallist behind Lasse Viren and Mohamed Gammoudi at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and meeting director of Britain's televised track and field events – will be supported by an advisory group comprising Paula Radcliffe, Liz McColgan, Dave Bedford, Brendan Foster, Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram. The group met for the first time yesterday, at the International Association of Athletics Federations' annual gala dinner in Monaco.
"I have been a world-class distance runner and I come from a generation that was used to Britain being among the world's leading endurance nations," Stewart said.
"The situation as it stands is far from perfect, but I think there are things that we can do that will certainly improve our standing between now and 2012."