Britain's best handed Commonwealth choice

By Simon Turnbull
Saturday 22 October 2011 22:59

As Augustine Choge, the Commonwealth 5,000m champion from Kenya, charged down the finishing straight to win the Emsley Carr Mile at Crystal Palace on Saturday, the final hope of a home victory from one of the international events on the programme came to grief at the end of the two-day Aviva London Grand Prix.

After the Lord Mayor's Show of the record haul of 19 medals at the European Championships, it was something of a post-Barcelona nightmare for Britain's runners, jumpers and throwers.

As the Samsung Diamond League circus packed up and left town for Zurich, the lingering question for the best of Britain's athletes was: having been able to summon so little stomach for the Grand Prix scrap in south London, how many would have the belly to fight for medals in New Delhi?

The Commonwealth Games open for business in the Indian capital on Sunday 3 October, less than seven weeks away. For many British athletes, they are simply a peak too far – not just another one, after the European Championships, but too far away in the calendar to consider attempting to maintain medal-winning form.

They also happen to fall at a time when athletes would traditionally be returning after a post-track-season break to start getting down to the grind of winter training.

With a global championship on the schedule in 2011, the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, from 27 August to 4 September, Charles Van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, is wary of the threat of potential burn-out.

He has told British team members that if they decide to go for Commonwealth gold with England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland they must miss the indoor season early next year in order to be fully-recovered and fully-prepared for the summer outdoor campaign.

Given the number of British athletes who struggled to rise to the occasion at the London Grand Prix, it must be tempting for those who remain undecided to follow Jessica Ennis' lead and shut up competitive shop for the year.

The world and European heptathlon champion, the only British athlete occupying a top spot in the world rankings in 2010, was sitting pretty on the BBC television gantry at Crystal Palace on Saturday – still emanating a golden glow, while a succession of her team-mates failed to reproduce the sparkle they had shown with their medal-winning performances in Barcelona.

Andy Turner, the newly crowned European 110, hurdles champion, won his heat but finished eighth and last in the final. Christian Malcolm, winner of the 200m silver in the Catalan capital, and denied gold by just 0.01sec, finished eighth and last in the 200m. Both, however, intend to extend their seasons to compete at the Commonwealth Games.

"As a Welshman, it's the only the opportunity we get to represent our country in an international championship," Malcolm reasoned. "There was never a question that I wouldn't go."

The Welsh track and field team, which is due to be announced a week tomorrow, will also include Dai Greene and Rhys Williams, who finished one and two in the 400m hurdles final in Barcelona.

The composition of the England squad, which will be announced a week today, is far from clear. The team management are still drawing up a list of those who wish to be considered for selection.

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