Van Commenee lets mask slip as excitement builds

With the Olympics just four months away, Britain's record medal haul in Istanbul even provoked a reaction from the cool coach

It was put to Charles van Commenee that he might not be too excited, even though the Great Britain track and field team were preparing to leave Istanbul yesterday with a record haul of nine medals from the World Indoor Championships. "Excited?" the head coach replied. "The last time I was excited I was sitting with my grandmother on a train. That was 48 years ago."

However, those who saw the Dutchman at close quarters as Perri Shakes-Drayton held off the fast-finishing Sanya Richards-Ross to clinch Britain's second gold in the women's 4x400m relay final on Sunday would beg to differ. One witness swore that Van Commenee's reaction was reminiscent of the Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe's when his underdogs beat mighty Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup final at Wembley.

That rates at the absolute peak on the excitement scale for some of us, so for all that Van Commenee likes to maintain his public image as the coolest, most collected of pragmatists, you can bet he was pretty damned animated. And with good reason, too: Christine Ohuruogu had returned to form with a barnstorming third leg run as our one reigning Olympic athletics champion and the rest of the 4x400m team emerged as candidates for one of the eight medals that the coach from Amsterdam has targeted from his squad at London 2012.

When pressed to name the highlights of the action in Turkey, Van Commenee did pick out the women's relay. "We selected the 4x400 women's team to find out how close we are now to the top nations, because at the outdoor World Championships last summer we were more than four seconds behind a medal. That was why we selected Christine Ohuruogu and now we have learned that we are in the mix.

"Ohuruogu is back, completely. I've seen that in training and it's good to see that here, because she is not always a great relay athlete. But now she is inspired and that is very good news for London."

Indeed it is. And even more so for Ohuruogu, who has suffered three seasons of injury and indifferent form since her golden moment in Beijing. "She has turned it around," Van Commenee added.

And the other highlights for the head coach? "In Yamile Aldama we now have a genuine gold-medal contender," he said. She was not remotely on the radar a year ago, before the 39-year-old Cuban-born triple jumper finally switched allegiance to Britain last summer, after a decade as a London resident, and one failed previous bid to join the GB squad.

"It's a wonderful story, I think," Van Commenee said of the Wembley woman who won Britain's sole individual gold in Istanbul. "Winning a gold medal is one thing but overcoming the difficulties she has makes the medal shine even more. I have a lot of time and respect for her. She is a great example for other athletes."

Great enough for her to be made team captain at her adopted home Olympics? "She's certainly a candidate," Van Commenee said. "There are permanently a dozen of them."

The appointment of the US-born, US-raised and still predominantly US-resident Tiffany Porter to the team-leading role in Turkey did not, of course, go down well in some quarters. Asked what he thought of the re-stirring of the "Plastic Brit" debate, the coach replied: "I must say I'm very thankful for the Daily Mail because they created great team bonding.

"The team captain was attacked and she is very much respected within the team. So the team got together and fought like lions. They stood up for the team captain. So altogether it has had quite a positive effect on the team – and therefore the performance."

The performance of Mo Farah in Sunday's 3,000m final, though, did not hit the heights, the world outdoor 5,000m champion finishing out of the medals in fourth. Van Commenee, however, insisted: "I am very pleased with Mo because he has been running against the very best athletes in the world in the 3,000m. That's not his main distance. His main distances are 5,000m and 10,000m."

So, four and a half months out from the judgement days in London, how does it feel? "We got an unbelievable record medal haul here," he said. "We finished second to the US. So we have momentum in the right direction. I have no reason to be pessimistic."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Support) - £29,000

£29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Suppor...

Recruitment Genius: Laser Games Supervisor

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive / Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PPC Executive/Manager is requ...

Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

£55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WM...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness