Brits on course for 'very good' Olympics


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The Independent Online

UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee believes Britain remains “on course” for a successful Olympic Games after encouraging performances this winter.

Van Commenee usually sets targets ahead of major competitions - in London it is eight medals with one of them gold - but has chosen not to for the World Indoor Championships which gets under way in Istanbul tomorrow.

And the Dutchman puts that down to the likes of Jessica Ennis setting a massive new personal best over the 60 metre hurdles, and Holly Bleasdale and Sophie Hitchon breaking their own British records in the pole vault and hammer respectively.

"The world championships is always an event we take seriously, although not many athletes in the world will peak specifically for this as the most important event of the year is obviously the Olympic Games," Van Commenee said at the team's official press conference.

"Nevertheless, we selected a very strong group of athletes and we haven't had any difficulties since selection, they are all in good nick ready to perform well.

"Setting a target serves a purpose. It means if you don't hit the target you have to address things and take another policy or a different direction, different structure maybe.

"First of all there is no time for that any more being so close to the Games and secondly, I have seen so many good things this winter that I think we're on course to do a very good Olympics and there is no need to change things.

"If things don't go really well here that won't change anything for me. I have confirmation all the time, even last week with a British record in the hammer....

"Whether we have a great result or good result, or not such a good result here, that wouldn't change anything for me, so setting a target wouldn't serve a purpose."

Britain won four medals in Doha two years ago, with Ennis and Dwain Chambers winning gold in the pentathlon and 60m respectively, Jenny Meadows taking silver in the 800m and the men's 4x400m relay team claiming bronze.

Meadows is absent through injury, but Ennis and Chambers will be out to defend their titles, while world 5,000m champion Mo Farah competes over 3,000m and Bleasdale faces her idol and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva in the pole vault.

Farah was disappointed to lose over two miles on his last outing in Birmingham in February, even suggesting he may not compete in Istanbul, but the 28-year-old is putting the defeat in perspective.

"To get beat is not a good thing and you are disappointed, but if I look back I broke the British and European record," Farah said.

"Eliud Kipchoge is a great athlete, he was world champion in Paris (over 5,000m in 2003), beating Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele and not many people have done that.

"We have to use this as an opportunity to race against other people but we are in 2012 and it's all about the Olympics."

Ennis will be up against Russia's Tatyana Chernova, the woman who took her world outdoor title in Daegu last summer, with all five events squeezed into tomorrow.

Two years ago Ennis was just 54 points shy of Irina Belova's world record of 4,991, and she admits it would be a "nice bonus" to set a new record.

"I got quite close to it last time in Doha and it was something I'd not really thought of before," Ennis said.

"Judging from the shape I'm in and the shape the other girls are in it's something that any one of us could probably achieve, but it's not something I'm focusing on. It would be a nice bonus."