Van Commenee accuses his British athletes of 'underperforming'

A year out from the London Olympics, the message from the man in charge of the British team in the showpiece sport of the Games is typically frank. "We're not ready for the Games now," Charles van Commenee, the head coach of the British athletics team, said yesterday. "We've still got athletes who are underperforming at the moment. We need those 12 months to turn that around."

It is a characteristically forthright assessment of the state of the host nation's running, jumping and throwing talent by the arch-pragmatist Dutchman who was hired in February 2009 to put British athletes on the podium in the main Olympic arena in 2012. It comes just as British track and field is enjoying a timely pre-Olympic year boom.

British athletes top the world rankings in three events: Mo Farah in the 5,000m and 10,000m and Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon. A further two British athletes, triple jumper Phillips Idowu and 400m hurdler Dai Greene, are also genuine gold-medal hopes for the biennial World Championships, which take place in Daegu, South Korea, at the end of next month.

In all, there are Britons in the top six in the world rankings in 10 events. At the end of 2010, they were in the top six in just four. Then there has been the spate of British records this season: eight thus far. It is likely to be the most prolific summer of British record breaking since 1980, the year Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe and Daley Thompson all struck Olympic gold in Moscow.

And yet Van Commenee remains a far from satisfied man as he works towards his long-term target of eight medals, one of them gold, in 2012. The last British Olympic team to achieve that tally were the class of 1988 and they failed to glean a gold between them in Seoul, despite the presence of such all-time greats as Thompson, Colin Jackson, Steve Cram and Linford Christie.

To have a realistic chance of hitting that target, Van Commenee reckons he needs at least 15 athletes capable of challenging for medals. So has he got those 15 a year out? "If everybody were fit, then yes, but you will never have a situation where everybody is fit," Van Commenee said. "We need a few more. We're not ready to do the Games now. We need those 12 months.

"We're not perfect. We've still got athletes underperforming at the moment. We need those 12 months to turn that around. Let's say if [400m runners] Michael Bingham and Martyn Rooney run the times they've been running this summer again next year, then that's trouble.

"That should not happen. They should have run faster by now, and if we analyse correctly they should be better 12 months from now. We need that time. I knew when I started this job two and a half years ago that we would not have one day too many."

Certainly, the British athletics team could not have one gold-medal contender too many. In 2010, only Ennis topped the world rankings. "It's very important to have winners, because success breeds success," Van Commenee said. "If we have athletes who break personal bests but don't win anything, that's not good. We need winners, and Jessica is one of the very few. Having a winner is one thing. Having two or three is exceptional."

Having athletes of medal-winning potential who can cope with the pressure of a home Olympics will be another vital ingredient come 27 July next year. "The vast majority of the athletes are looking forward to it," Van Commenee said. "There may be a few who see it as a threat but that's a very few. We have to help them turn that around and embrace it.

"One of the things in the psyche of an athlete is to turn negatives into positives. I remember when I used to coach Denise Lewis she always feared the 800m and after a couple of years she was actually looking forward to it. The theme was to embrace the 800m."

After embracing the 800m – the final event of the heptathlon in Sydney in 2000 – Lewis had what her coach is craving again for 2012: British Olympic gold.

Best of British: where in the world?

Ranked first:

Mo Farah, 5,000m

Mo Farah, 10,000m

Jessica Ennis, Heptathlon



Ranked fourth:

Phillips Idowu, Triple jump

Lawrence Okoye, Discus

Holly Bleasdale, Pole vault



Ranked fifth:

Chris Tomlinson, Long jump

Tiffany Ofili-Porter, 100m hurdles



Ranked sixth:

Dai Greene, 400m hurdles

Goldie Sayers, Javelin

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?