The Roger Black Column: Track and field is in best shape ever as Fab Four look to strike gold
The four are Ennis, Farah, Greene and Ohuruogu. For me, Christine is the main one
Saturday 28 July 2012
For the last two years everywhere I've gone people have been asking me: "How many medals are we going to win at London 2012? How are we going to do?" A year ago I sort of thought, 'Well, we can do pretty well.' I'm talking here about my sport, athletics. And then six months ago I thought, 'Well, we could do pretty well.'
Now that the Games are here I cannot remember us ever starting an Olympics in athletics with as many realistic medal chances, not just for medals but gold medals, and that is not being crazy. That is not getting carried away with the patriotism and the excitement.
That is genuinely based on performances leading into the Games. It really is an amazing situation. Incredible.
There are four real shots at gold medals – all if they get it right on the day, but four proper shots. There are also another two or three who, if they have the competition of their lives – and others don't – could actually win.
I've always known that it's not until now that you can actually say with some sort of authority that you know we're going to do really well – because people have shown their cards now. There are people now who we hadn't heard of a year ago who could win medals in athletics.
There's Robbie Grabarz in the high jump, Holly Bleasdale in the pole vault and Lawrence Okoye in the discus. I'm not saying they will win medals but a year ago we hadn't heard about them.
It's not a case of being jingoistic and ultra-positive. The facts are that going into these Olympic Games in athletics we have four people in particular who on their day have proved that they can be the best in the world.
That's not pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. This is reality, based on performances.
The four clearly are Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon, Mo Farah in the 5,000 metres and 10,000m, Dai Greene in the 400m hurdles and Christine Ohuruogu in the 400m.
I think Christine is probably the main one. I've been saying that for the past year.
The thing that a lot of people don't realise about the 400m, and it's the same for Dai in the 400m hurdles, is that it's a very different race in a championship, where you have to go through the rounds. I've run the 400m, so I understand it.
If you're chasing down for the last 20m or 30m of the final, that's the position you want to be in. And Christine and Dai can do that. I never could. They're both chasers for the last 20m. That's what you need.
Phillips Idowu has beaten the best on his day in the triple jump, but you can't add his name to the list because he hasn't shown his cards. He has not competed since early June – I know as an athlete that you cannot fake it. You have to show your hand at some point.
In 1996 every time I ran I clocked between 44.3sec and 44.5sec or 44.6sec leading up to the Games. That was my card. If anybody wanted to beat me, they knew they had to run faster than that.
It's an amazing thing that we've got four people who have shown this year that on their day they can beat the best in the world. Well, maybe Dai hasn't beaten Javier Culson from Puerto Rico yet this year but I think Dai will win in London. He's a championship performer.
And then there's Robbie, who on his day is completely inspired and jumps personal bests. He could win the Olympics. He could just as easily not, but he's got a chance.
I'm not saying that Christine, Mo, Dai and Jess will all win golds. Given the spread of four or five chances, you'd have to say that we're going to win at least two, though – two mess up, two excel.
We would take that, I think. We certainly would have a year ago.
Grabarz bounces back brilliantly – with a little help from us
There is a connection between myself and Robbie Grabarz. His coach, Fuzz Ahmed, is a very close friend of Steve Backley and me. And our company, BackleyBlack, sponsors Robbie.
I wouldn't claim that we've helped him on the motivational side. I think he had turned the corner before he got involved with us. I think what he did is what all athletes should do and not many do.
At some point, you have to wake up and realise that your talent is not enough. I had to do it – you have to kind of grow up and say: "These are precious days and I'm going to do this properly. I'm not just going to assume I'm going to get better every year."
The thing about being cut from Lottery funding is that it forces an athlete to do that. Robbie realised that. He had his funding cut. He was good but he wasn't that good. He knew it was down to him to take accountability for his career, not every athlete does that. Robbie (left) deserves everything he gets this year. He has a very good relationship with his coach. They're a very strong team.
Roger Black is writing for 'The Independent', 'Independent on Sunday' and 'Evening Standard' during the Games. He is an ambassador for Scottish Widows, the official pensions and investments provider for the London 2012 Olympics.
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