Monday, 5 September 2011

World Athletics Championships: A lot of positives, but still work to do for 2012

As always I loved watching last week's World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

This was our best performance since 1993 and we managed to reach our target of 7 medals with two golds, but for British athletics it's all about the build up to 2012.

Head coach Charles van Commenee has set a target of 8 track and field medals. He's a hard task master and sets very high standards (I wouldn't want to upset him) but I think he's being realistic.

I think the the best case scenario is that we win 2 to 3 gold medals, but there are no gold medal guarantees.

There's been a lot a criticism in some quarters for Britain's performance in Daegu, some of it's been deserved, but people need to realise just how tough and competitive world athletics really is.



Performance of the week.

Has to be Mo Farah. In the last week, along with last summer's European Championships, he's proven that he's the best long distance runner this country has arguably ever produced.

He was unlucky in the 10,000m you can argue that he went out to early with 500m to go, but he took the gamble and it almost paid off. Despite the disappointment of coming second he showed a huge amount of character to come back and claim the the 5000m title.

I'm really pleased for Mo. I've been reading a few interviews with him in recent weeks, and he's made a huge amount of sacrifices to achieve his success. He's gone to Kenya to train with some of the top Kenyan distance runners. Trained at altitude in the Pyrenees and moved to America to continue his training.

What's great is that he's proved that by making sacrifices and embracing tougher training methods, Europeans can compete and beat the very best East African athletes.


Surprise Silver

I have to admit I'd never heard of Hannah England until the final of the women's 1500m, but what a great performance. She got her tactics spot on and timed her finish to perfection.

I also discovered that she's trained by one of my former school teachers, a Mr Bud Baldero. Well done Bud!

England's announced herself on the World Stage but she needs to kick on. There's no guarantee that she'll repeat this performance next year in London. It's important that this isn't a one off and that getting to next year's Olympic final is the minimum that she should achieve.


Where are our sprinters?

For me the biggest disappointment of the last week is that there's no young sprinters coming through and reaching finals. Taking nothing away from the likes of Marlon Devonish and Christian Malcom, we should have a new generation coming through and replacing them.

Our best 100m runner is still Dwayne Chambers and he can't compete at next year's Olympics due to his previous drugs ban.

Mark Lewis Francis - I just give up on these days and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey is far too bulky and needs to lose some of that muscle weight.

Things aren't much better moving up to 200 and 400m. It's probably asking too much to expect any medals next year but we should be getting people into these finals.


Not a disaster for Jess

The golden girl of UK athletics Jessica Ennis could only achieve a silver mainly as as result of a terrible javelin. I don't think this is a disaster.

As I said before world athletics is incredibly tough and it's not easy to win gold medals. There was a danger that the British public would assume that Ennis would only need to turn up to win gold and that's not going to be the case.

The winner of the heptathlon Tatyana Chernova won with a score of 6,880. That's 49 points beyond the British record held by Denise Lewis. Ennis's personal best is another 8 points back. It just goes to show, that she will need to raise her game for next year to have a chance of winning gold.

I still have a lot of confidence in her and she still remains one of our best gold medal hopes.


Unlucky Phillips

I really thought Phillips Idowu was going to retain his world title when he jumped a season's best of 17.77m. It was just unfortunate that the winning jump by American Christian Taylor's was the 5th longest in history at 17.96m. What can you do about that?

You can tell that Phillips has really emerged as a big time competitor and although it would have been great for him to win, getting a silver is still a good result. He'll be in the mix next year in London I have no doubt.


Well Done to..

Dai Green and Andy Turner. Didn't expect a gold medal from Dai Green in the 400m hurdles, and Turner was able to claim a bronze following the disqualification of Dayron Robles; but their success made me think back to last year's European Championships. Both Green and Turner won golds last year, but you still had people saying the standard at the European Championships wasn't that great.

That may be the case, but winning at that level instills a winning mentality and breeds confidence. I think we've seen this with both these hurdlers. They'll be in the medal shake up in London.



And finally

Admittedly this has nothing to do with Britain, but I wanted to mention Usain Bolt, purely because he's the greatest ambassador the sport of athletics currently has. Secondly a word on the tiny Caribbean island of St Kitts and Nevis.

This is the island where my mom's family originate from. Not only did the 35 year old Kim Collins win a bronze in the 100m; St Kitts also managed to take bronze in the 4x100m.

Not bad for an island with a population of roughly 45,000 people!

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