Coach criticises Sotherton bronze performance

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The Independent Online

Kelly Sotherton's coach, Charles van Commenee, delivered a harsh verdict yesterday on her achievement of winning the heptathlon bronze medal, while maintaining that Denise Lewis, who dropped out of the defence of her title with two events remaining, would continue to compete.

Kelly Sotherton's coach, Charles van Commenee, delivered a harsh verdict yesterday on her achievement of winning the heptathlon bronze medal, while maintaining that Denise Lewis, who dropped out of the defence of her title with two events remaining, would continue to compete.

Sotherton beat her personal best in the 800 metres which ended the seven-event discipline, but she finished less than five seconds clear of Austra Skujyte, of Lithuania, who claimed silver behind Sweden's Carolina Kluft. "As far as I'm concerned, she didn't run the 800m as a warrior," said van Commenee, who has worked with both athletes this season. "I'm gutted she handed the silver to someone else. I'm not pleased.

"This event is all about getting the best out of yourself, squeezing every possible point from the event. If that happens, even if someone finishes 10th, I don't mind. Equally, I can be disappointed with bronze. If you can't do it in the Olympics, when can you? I need to sit down with her again and see if she's hungry." Van Commenee accepted that Sotherton, who will compete in Talence next month, had made extraordinary progress since taking up the event full time a year ago.

"If you had asked me a few months ago whether she could win a medal I would have said it was out of the question. In fact I did. But I was using it as a means to get her on track. She sometimes needs stimulus like that. But if you had asked me last week I would have said we were looking at two medals. I still believe Denise is capable of medalling. She didn't show that in the last two days. She was unfortunate in the jumps. I think she didn't do herself justice.

"It has been a huge commitment for her over the last year, in terms of her personal life, her finances, and her little daughter. She didn't get anything back from it. So we will have to sit down and consider the situation. But I think she will carry on at least until the 2006 Commonwealth Games."

While Sotherton was standing on the podium, adjusting her Olympic wreath with a suggestion of coquettishness that roused the stadium to a rumble of approval, Lewis was in her room at the Olympic Village, distraught.

"She was crying her eyes out," van Commenee said. "She put her heart and soul on the line to get a medal, and she couldn't do it. She didn't want to face the embarrassment any longer. She was devastated."

"Her reaction to Kelly getting a medal was bittersweet. She was happy for her training partner and sad about herself." Van Commenee remained cautious about how Sotherton might progress from here. "Her javelin is weak, as well as her shot. They will never be strong events, but she can improve. I think Kluft is so strong I don't think she can be beaten really.

"Kelly's happy, and I can understand that. When you were 27th in the world 12 months ago, as she was, you can't dream about a bronze. So when you travel home with a medal, you are going to be pleased. But it's not the right attitude."

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