Disaster strikes relay team again as Team GB misses out

Gemili's error and disappointment in the 4x400m puts pressure on Van Commenee

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The Independent Online

For Charles van Commenee, the future is in the balance now.

In effect, as Martyn Rooney crossed the line at the end of the men's 4 x 400m relay last night in fourth place, 0.13sec shy of Trinidad & Tobago and the bronze medal position, bang went the British track and field team's chances of hitting their medal target of eight. Whether, Van Commenee's job as head coach of UK Athletics went with it, however, remains to be seen.

At least the British quartet managed to get the baton round without being disqualified. There might have been another medal shot in the men's 4 x 100m relay tonight but Adam Gemili was beyond the limits of the changeover box before taking the baton from third-leg runner Danny Talbot en route to a second placed finish behind Jamaica in the heats last night. It was the fourth GB DQ in the event in the last five Olympic Games.

Ever since Van Commenee assumed the job of guiding Britain's runners, jumpers and sprinters to a home Olympic goal. With two days of competition left, the tally stands at five – three golds, one silver and one bronze – and there are only two realistic medal shots remaining.

Indeed, there are only two British representatives in the finals on the track tonight – Mo Farah in the men's 5,000m and Christine Ohuruogu and Co in the women's 4 x 400m relay. There is only the men's marathon to follow tomorrow, and it would take a major upset of the form book for either Scott Overall or Lee Merien to finish on the podium.

It has been a far from disastrous Games for the British athletics squad, though, and the weight of the golds could yet keep Van Commenee in his job. There were three of them last Saturday – courtesy of Farah in the 10,000m, Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon and Greg Rutherford in the long jump – and there is the distinct possibility of another from Farah tonight.

Van Commenee was asked at the team announcement last month whether he would stick to his pledge and step down if the target of eight medals, including one gold, failed to materialise. "Absolutely," he replied. "It's quite simple. I'll tell you why: because if I didn't, I'd lose my credibility.If I hold athletes and coaches accountable every day, how could I work over the next four years if I am not held accountable myself? " However, Van Commenee added the rider that a weighty number of medals would make a difference – "such as seven golds or 15 medals with no golds" – would be sufficient to keep him in his post.

"Targets are a matter of accountability and help you decide how to use your resources," he added. "It is why we put money towards world champions like Mo Farah and Dai Greene rather than spread it out evenly."

The decision to run Greene on the third leg in the men's 4 x 400m relay last night backfired, the 400m hurdles world champion and team captain not producing a fast run and leaving Rooney too much ground to make up on Trinidad & Tobago in the anchor leg.

Relay woes: Previous failures

2011 World Championships Disqualified in final for dropped baton after mix-up.

2008 Beijing Olympics Disqualified in heat for handover.

2000 Sydney Olympics Dropped baton in heat.

1996 Atlanta Olympics Dropped baton in heat.