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Van Commenee claims "mission accomplished"

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David Bond | 17:43 UK time, Sunday, 4 September 2011

At the end of these World Championships, Charles Van Commenee stood in the mixed zone of the Daegu Stadium and declared "mission accomplished". Seven medals won - two of them gold. If anything he could argue that his expectations were exceeded as before the team flew to South Korea he had conservatively predicted just one of the seven would be gold.

After the disappointing start when Mo Farah was pipped in the 10,000 metres and Jessica Ennis had to settle for silver in the heptathlon, Van Commenee might have wondered if that target was deliverable.

Half way through the week, I bumped into Van Commenee at the athletes' village. He dismissed any such suggestions and insisted there was no need to panic. "We have three medals (thanks to Andy Turner's surprise bronze in the 110metres hurdles)," he told me. "I only expected two."

Van Commenee always said there was a chance Britain would finish the championships strongly because of the way the timetable was organised. And so it proved.

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After the signs of promise displayed at the European Championships in Barcelona last year, Britain have now produced their best performance at a World Championships for 18 years.

For a sport that seemed to be drifting for much of the last decade there at last seems to be a sense of purpose and drive. Some critics privately question how much this has to do with Van Commenee. For example, how many of the big medal-winning athletes really spend much time under his direction or tutelage?

The Dutchman won't worry about that. He knows it is his responsibility if the team flop in front of their home audience in London next summer.

He has set a target of eight medals in 2012, which might seem a modest ambition after the progress made since he arrived in 2009. But in a sport where smaller nations such as Kenya and Jamaica can be so powerful, he also knows that next year's competition is likely to be tougher, not easier.

Dai Greene celebrates

Dai Greene's gold was one of several triumphs for Great Britain in Daegu. Photo: Getty

Under the intense pressure of British expectation, he is also aware some athletes may buckle. Behind the headline medal winners, Van Commenee will worry about the shortage of individual finalists and personal bests. There are a number of British athletes who, as they board the plane home from South Korea, may well feel they should have performed better at these Championships.

However, five male athletes and three women finished in the top eight in the finals of their disciplines.

If you look at the placing table - which measures countries' top eight finishes - then Britain finished sixth with five placings outside the top three.

It may be pushing things to say this is a new golden generation. But whichever way you look at it, with a year to go to London, British athletics is in much better shape than it was the last time the team was on this continent at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well done team GB, nearly equalled the three golds from Stuttgart in 1993. Keep up the good work.

    It was a joy to watch this last week and Channel 4 did really well covering the event.

  • Comment number 2.

    Makes a change from you slagging off the British team last week!

    To quote from your last blog:
    "And yet there is already a sense that Britain's athletes have been a little disappointing."

    Thats the problem with you journos, wait untill you get the full picture before making statements like that.

    Well done to the British team, Farah and Greene were superb and Idowu was only denied by an absolute monster of a jump.

    Oh and another thing, why no BBC TV coverage? First we lose half of the Masters, then half of F1, then all of the Athletics. Sort it out beeb!

  • Comment number 3.

    Congratulations to all the athletes.There's no way I,or most other people in the world, could conceive of the difficult path it has to be to the top.
    No idea what the Dutch guy does,maybe he's a focal point that is useful,maybe he's indespensible to some.
    The thing that shines out for me is,at last,Britain is expecting to win.We have been wrongly accused of this by muppets in the past.Now,I dearly hope this is the norm.
    It also shows the ridiculousness of allowing for so long the 'pools' (remember them?) to take a nations money and put it into one or two families hands.
    The lottery has produced far more than the token millionaires,it has shown what can be achieved with a little bit of common.

  • Comment number 4.

    Well done the elite athletes - they delivered in spades.

    There may be a need to focus all team members on non-medal targets for 2012, because I'm not convinced that there were sufficient finalists and PBs across all events.

    If all went perfectly in London, you might see 4 golds. I suspect 2 is a pragmatic target. 8 medals is a stretching overall aim, with 10 with 4 gold if they shot the lights out.

    It's good to see UK as near as dammit level with Germany in the medals table - the right benchmark, even though their strengths are very different to those of Team GB. 5th place is the realistic target for the athletics medal count in 2012........

    It was a pleasure to watch a great week of athletics, showing why it remains the blue riband sport of the Olympic Games.......

  • Comment number 5.

    Well Van Commencee got it right I thought that seven medals was a little conservative but two of the gold kind is going into the right direction We have got four people now Farah,Ennis, Greene and Idowu who could win a gold medal in London and hopefully we will get a couple of other people winning silver or bronze to make up the eight medals.
    Having said that outside the people I mentioned the lack of PB'S and SB's was a disapointment and no men/females making finals from 100m-800m is not good at all. But its the hardest of all Olympic sports to win medals in so i'll be happy with eight medals with two golds.
    Channel 4 did an OK job, only really missed Steve Cram, Johnston was great as usual and Dean Macey was fab at the field events. NO Brenden Foster thank god!

  • Comment number 6.

    GB under-achieved big time. For a country the size of Britain (both in population n economic power) to just get 7 medals while a country like Kenya (my country) gets 18 medals, 7 gold is really a shame to them. Kenya was only beaten by the two super powers, US n Russia!

  • Comment number 7.

    What happened? Beaten by the Germans again? Pre London 2012? Oh dear.


  • Comment number 8.

    6. What else is Kenya good at exactly? GB competes across a huge range of sports (and does well in quite a few, you are welcome to try and take us on at rowing, cycling, cricket, sailing, rugby, canoeing etc). Even in athletics Kenya only excells at distance running. The comparison is unfair and GB actually finished ahead of your big rivals Ethiopia!
    7. Nibs, why do you bother??? GB could win 25 medals and 15 golds and you would find something to moan about. May I remind you that GB finished ahead of the Germans in 2008 and I think they will again next year!

    Overall, decent effort. Yes it could have been better and we really do need to get more competitors in the throwing events (although this is a long term project which won't be rectified in time for next year) and the sprinters could do with a kick up the backside (yet again!). Not bad though and a good week of athletics all round!

  • Comment number 9.

    8. Thats what I love about Athletics that Kenya and Jamacia are major powers of the sport. All you need is a pair of arms and legs. But you are right Kenya are a distance running nation and Jamacia on sprints even Germany don't do well in anything but the throws. But its smart to do it like that, place your resources in the events you are good at.

  • Comment number 10.

    Whilst of course congrats are due to all those who won medals I'm amazed that van Commencee or anyone in the UK athletics establishment thinks these 7 medals is a satisfactory result. It's already been commented on than we had no finalists in the 100-800m, or the jumps, or the throwing events - a shocking outcome for a country with such an athletics pedigree as the UK and which has thrown £m's at elite level development over the last few years. We've known we were hosting the 2012 games for 6 years now. What's happened to all the promising 15-17 year old athletes we had then? What happened to all the 19-21 year old "senior" athletes that must have been in the system. That we have so few (or even no-one) from these groups challenging for medals seems extraordinary. And even in those limited events where we have had success this week, where's the strength in depth? It strikes me we just have a few talented individuals who have succeeded in spite of the system, not because of it. Why aren't all our athletes committing to (or being required to commit to by UK Athletics) the sort of intense and genuine elite training that Mo Farah (off his own back it seems) has undergone this last 12-18months?

  • Comment number 11.

    9. Correct and that is why athletics is great, poor countries can compete on a level(ish) playing field. My point was more that in this country we have our talent spread across a wide range of activities. I read a good post a few days ago suggesting that the popularity of rugby may hinder our development in throwing events, there must be quite a few very strong athletic guys (and girls now aswell) in that sport who could chuck a javelin/hammer/discus a long way. There's more money in rugby aswell.
    Only USA and Russia (huge populations) are strong across the board in T&F. We have made improvements and we could be on the verge of a good era but nothing ever happens overnight.
    10. You are right we do have an athletics pedigree but for years it suffered from under investment (the 80's golden generation is a long time ago now) and I'm afraid nothing changes overnight. We have made big improvements though so be patient and I think there will be more to come.

  • Comment number 12.

    Apologies to Phillips Idowu of course - we did have one very obvious finalist in the triple jump.

  • Comment number 13.

    Their is some talent come in the throws, a step forward in the mens Discus. But the strength in depth will always be a probelm who comes over Idowu in the Triple Jump? Vets like Clitheroe and Aldama showing up the young memebers of the team by making finals but neither are the future in their events.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well done GB, enjoyed the 5000m run from Mo and Philips Idowu's silver on the last day. I think the athletes are moving in the right direction ready for next year.

  • Comment number 15.

    I like the suggestion of Germany being the nation to compare against - they're not only an obvious rival, but a fair one in terms of past performances.

    But for two exceptional performances - one from Taylor, the other from Chetkova in the heptathlon - GB would have had four gold medals and the media would have gone into feverish overdrive. I'm glad for those two exceptional performances - they've rationalised expectation and ensured that further success in London (very possible with home advantage) will be all the sweeter.

  • Comment number 16.

    How is the false start rule the same as a boxer getting knocked out in the 1st round? What a ridiculous analogy to defend ur position Seb Coe.

    A boxer getting knocked out in the 1st round is exciting and is caused by another opponent. An athlete getting disqualified is not exciting in any way shape or form and is caused by an official. Such a riduclous analogy.

    The fact is if there is another high profile disqualification in 2012, the rule will be changed for the next olympics.

    The whole point is to see the best racers run, not to see who has the best reaction to a gun. I just hate the zero tolerance approach, it is just an accident waiting to happen, especially in such a high profile short event such as the mens 100m, where 1 tenth of a second could mean gold or silver.

    I just think the athletes deserve a little breathing space. Obviously they should all be professional and not false start, but they should be given at least one more chance. If another high profile athlete gets taken out with this rule in the mens 100m final in 2012, the rule will be changed.

    Why take that needless risk? especially if you back it up with a ridiculous boxing analogy. Seb Coe ur arrogance exceeds ur talent.

  • Comment number 17.

    I enjoyed the championships, the adverts were annoying, but all in all I like CH4 coverage, the presenters might not be to everyones taste, but much preferred Dean Macey, Kath Merry and Iwan Thomas, to the dreadful Denise Lewis and Colin Jackson show. As ever Johnson is a class act.

    The triple jump was a belter, if Taylor, Idowu and Teddy are all fit for London, what a final that will be.

  • Comment number 18.


    By Mark Butler
    Athletics Statistician, Daegu

    I think it's a real possibility that each of Great Britain's "fantastic four" - heptathlete Jessica Ennis, 10,000m runner Mo Farah, 400m hurdler Dai Greene and Phillips Idowu in the triple jump - could come away with a gold medal.

    And it is not just me saying that - the American bible of the sport, Track & Field News, has put those four on top of its list of predictions.

    I would say that there is a second group who are in range of a medal, but for whom a top-six placing would also be regarded as respectable given the formidable opposition in their events.

    These are Lisa Dobriskey (1500m), Jenny Meadows (800m), Greg Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson (both long jump), Perri Shakes-Drayton (400m hurdles), Tiffany Ofili-Porter (100m hurdles) and Goldie Sayers (javelin).

    I am expecting all of these to at least reach their finals.

    Here are my predictions of gold medallists:

    10,000m: Mohamed Farah GBR

    400m Hurdles: David Greene GBR

    Triple Jump: Phillips Idowu GBR

    Heptathlon: Jessica Ennis GBR"



  • Comment number 19.

    #18 nibs
    Every silver-lining has a cloud, huh?

  • Comment number 20.

    The only issue i have is seven medals was way too conservative. How Van Commenee was allowed to set that as a target by which we should judge the games as a success, when really seven should have been a minimum? it's like letting Sales Reps set their own sales targets - they would all set them at targets they could comfortably achieve without pushing themselves...

  • Comment number 21.

    In a way the most important medal was Hannah England's. The top four all showed their class and will be challenging for gold. Turner showed that he is a reliable championship performer who can medal if things happen to others. England really stepped up. We have three middle distance women in with a chance (Dobriskey and Meadows underperformed but are certainly capable.) Looking forward to seeing Jodie Williams, though 2012 might be too early for her.

  • Comment number 22.

    A bit of historical context for people - if you look at previous World Championships, with the exception of 1993 with 10 medals won including 3 gold the haul here is on par with the so called golden generations of the 1980s & 90s.

    There is still room for improvement, with more finalists etc. but think Team GB is in a good position a year out from 2012.

  • Comment number 23.

    Tiger Rose is correct...though we did win 8 in 1987! Overall, pretty good. However, we do seem to have hit a plateau...only one more medal than in 2009, and fewer finalists. I do worry about the lack of a centralised coaching structure...we seem to be reliannt upon the work , proven time and time again of a few great coaches(eg Malcolm Arnold). To take one example, we seem to have a rare talent for turning wolrd beating junior sprinters, male and female, into average 'seniors'..happens time after time. We should be asknig why, not always making excuses. I remain cautiously optimistic for 2012, not more

  • Comment number 24.

    A triumph for Team GB and a great World Champs, can't wait for London 2012! For my alternative awards please read here:

  • Comment number 25.

    #2 Completely agree!!! This is unbelievable!!

    Only a few days ago David Bond wrote about the massive underachievement of the British team. It just goes to show that some journalists either don't actually follow sport, but give writing about it a bash anyway, or are pathetically desperate to create some sort of headline....... probably the latter. Every athletics fan knew that there were very good gold medal prospects for Team GB at the end of the week, so why did an article appear about the demise of the Brits!?!? Ennis and Farah being pipped to gold by 2 outstanding performances doesn't mean the entire team's a failure!?!

    Much respect has been lost.

  • Comment number 26.

    Well done to all that got PB's, SB's & medals - shame on the rest of you are not doing this at the World Championships. I'm sure the oft mentioned 4 will be in the medals come London Olympics - that COULD be 5 Gold's if Mo can do the double.

    But that leads me to the disapointing part of the WC's - why were they allowed to be totally overshadowed by the Olympics? A bit disrespectful to the WC's and almost as if saying you were using them as a trial event. Pick run and run with it but don't have both.

  • Comment number 27.

    Please will you stop having negative posts ALL the time. GB finished 6th in the medal table. Not bad at all really. Physical (and genetic) contitioning means that we are unlikely to match Kenya in the distance events (although doing better than Ethiopia is an achievement). Similarly the Caribbean Islands & USA do seem to have the upper hand in the sprints. 400 & 800 we should do better I agree.
    Here in France, same population approx, one (highly surprising) silver and three bronze medals. A lot in athletics are happy with that. Two medal chances out with injury but really not impressive in my view. My neighbours reckon that it wasn't too bad. I then remind them that they were behind that mighty athletic stronghold of Botswana. Ah joy.
    Here's to the Rugby World Cup!

  • Comment number 28.

    The World Championships was excellent on CH4 apart from the constant ad breaks ,I really enjoyed the commentators and the line up of athletic experts,a refreshing change to the BBC line up that has had me switching off over the last few years.

  • Comment number 29.

    Every single post you contribute in any sport is anti British. If you hate Britain that much then leave if you live here. It s fine to be critical but I just checked your post and without exception they are criticising Britain, Britisj people and British mentality.

    I'm sorry if you had a bad experience here but don't waste your life posting puerile insults and tedious rants.

  • Comment number 30.

    #9 - you don't even need a pair of legs these days...

  • Comment number 31.

    Once again David you show what a disgrace you are to the BBC Sport service. Honestly how can you sit there and write such statements as "...he had conservatively predicted just one of the seven would be gold" only a few days after writing an article titled "UK athletes struggling to meet high expectations". In that article you even wrote "Part of the problem is that with London 2012 looming large over events in Korea, expectations have been built to a level which may be unrealistic" and now you have the nerve to say his predictions were conservative?! Even after our best performance since 1993?

    If you're going to write articles like your last one you could at least do the decent thing and come on at the end of the week to hold your hands up and say you were wrong. But I guess that's a lot to ask of you when you don't even ever revisit your articles to answer any comments in this section. You've written some poor articles in the past but I think you've outdone yourself this time.

  • Comment number 32.

    What exactly is GB's supposed 'athletics pedigree'?

    GB has always struggled to get more than a hand-full of medals at World championships, and at the Olympics.

    In 13 World championships GB has won a total of 69 medals (average 5), of which 16 have been Golds. In 16 Olympics (since 1948) GB has won 107 medals (average 6), of which 23 have been Gold. Also, don;t forget that a number of those in the 70's and 80's were affected by boycotts by various countries (African, USA, USSR).

    We are not a 'great' athletics nation, which is why most people with a modicum of sporting knowledge could probably list 90% of the athletes who have won Gold medals at the Olympics in their lifetimes.

    The main measure of success or failure at a Championships should be how many of the team manage to achieve Personal, or even Season's, best performances. In the case of these championships the answer to that is 'not many'. Maybe it is a poor venue to expect many best times, but I think a lot of out athletes fell quite a way short of expectations.

    Next year I hope that Jessica Ennis, Dai Greene and Mo Farah can perform well enough to get Golds. I don't expect any others at the moment. I think that Phillips Idowu has passed his peak, and I expect the field to be stronger next year anyway.

  • Comment number 33.

    Shall we just ignore the need of the 24 hour news cycle forcing David Bond to make crass comments half way through the week?

    Clearly if the three unlucky/'under-performing' silvers (Ennis, Farah and Idowu) we would have overtaken the Germans and Jamaicans, coming 4th in the table and smashing the 3 golds of Stuttgart.

    And Any Turner's lucky bronze was counterpointed by the unlucky (bad training?) loss of bronze in the men's 4x100 (or Tiffany Porter slight knock)

    Meanwhile has anyone realised what a change in the German team:

    ONE BRONZE in Beijing to SEVEN MEDALS in Daegu.

    Natural ability:

    Did the Kenyans win any medals in Field events? In sprints? Thought not?

    Did Jamaicans win any field event medals? In distances over 400m? Etc.

    Further on East Africans if you just took the best result from each country then Kenya's total medal count would probably halve.

    For good or bad Britain hardly had two competitors (110 Hurdles only?) in a final but had finalists in 11 events - on a par with the Jamaicans and Kenyans (14 sprints/hurdles/relays & 12 middle/long distance).

  • Comment number 34.

    Also where are Italy and France? Similarly wealthy countries with similar sized populations ... a long way back.

    Germany still has some overhang in facilities and national consciousness from the East German era I believe, so has abilities in technical events like the throws we are years from.

  • Comment number 35.

    Sad to say that Mr Bond doesnt really look into Athletics deeply enough or any sport for that matter, to really know what is happening or likely to happen throughout the duration of an event or tournament.
    He just reacts to a situation early doors and lives with it which ultimately makes a lot of his blogs etc pretty poor to say the least.
    Anybody who knows anything about these World Championships knew GB would pick up more medals in the later stages of the event and so it proved.
    In fact barring a couple of monster performances we would be gushing with praise of a magnificent performance by Team GB.
    We are going forward and their will be much more to come from our athletes in the next year, so for anybody who wants to put posts on here, make sure you know your athletics properly before engaging pen or mouth.

  • Comment number 36.

    The Germans seem to have done well in the men's throwing events. However performances in these events seem to be down globally. Not sure they'll match this again next year.

    I think we'll do better than them next year, nobs.

  • Comment number 37.

    Well said #35. Not sure how a Sports Editor can know so little about so many sports but David Bond has mastered it. I try to avoid his blogs now but every so often curiosity gets the better of me and I have a little look. Needless to say they haven't got any better over time. Its still pathetic generalisations and jumping to conclusions before an event's even finished. It really is woeful.

  • Comment number 38.

    @ 12.mattcheshire

    Yamile Aldama?

  • Comment number 39.

    Below this box I see the following:

    Topical posts on this blog:

    Van Commenee claims "mission accomplished" [a blog that contains phrases like "moderate ambition" and "conservatively predicted"]
    UK athletes struggling to meet high expectations [a blog that talks about "unrealistic expectations" and, ironically, "pointless headline grabbing"]

    David, stick to sport's bigwigs and boardrooms and make us 'lesser mortals' make our own judgements on the interesting stuff.

    #32 is spot on - why do we pretend that we have some kind of historical world-renowned reputation for overwhelming success at everything? We are (literally) extra-ordinarily successful across a wide range of sports over a long period of time, given our size, population, wealth... and climate.

    We won 6 medals at the worlds 2 years ago and the aim is for 8 next year - how can this year's target have been anything other than 7?! Personally, I think consistency is the most important thing - by an athlete over a period of time (like Idowu; the common factor in world-class competitions while rivals come and go) and by a group of athletes at one point in time (it may not always work out but we're always up there with the Americans etc in men's relays).

    It may not have worked out for Ennis or Idowu or Porter or Farah (10k) this time, but that doesn't mean it can't next time. Meanwhile, we may have won some unexpected medals this time that the 'form-book' will 'put right' next time. Swings and roundabouts. So do numbers and medal tables really matter at all?

  • Comment number 40.

    @ 12 and 38 - Chris Tomlinson also qualified for his final. Goldie Sayers, meanwhile, was in the javelin final. I think we've well and truly hammered #10.

  • Comment number 41.

    Agree with all the comments on the quality of this blog and the previous one. Please try and get the previous sports editor back (I think it was Mihir Bose?). he didn't write as often, but was more knowledgeable, thoughtful and waited until the end of a competition before speaking his mind!
    Congrats to those at the world champs who got their PB, SB or medal! Athletics is slowly moving in the right direction and as with all Olympics the home team raises performance by 2 or 3 medals so I think if you asked him off the record CVC would say he'd be hoping for 10 medals come 2012!

  • Comment number 42.

    @ 40.

    Ermm, I think that because they didn't make Top 8, then Tomlinson, Lewis, Sayers and Morse don't strictly count as being finalists.

    Think of it as the first 3 attempts being the Semi-final.

  • Comment number 43.

    @ 42

    Fair point, but in a race, a time posted in the semi-final cannot win a medal. In a field event, a mark posted in the first 3 attempts may well (and often does) win a medal. So I guess neither of us is completely right!

  • Comment number 44.

    40 and 42..if you confined it to those finishing in the top 8(a straight line comparison) wouldnt that resolve the issue? 32, your 'stats' are spot on...but as for evaluation of them? If you take global figues in a world context then you have a point..but if you confine matters to the trackand /or a comparison with other European countries we come out of things pretty well. So as ever, its how you look at things!

  • Comment number 45.

    Mohir Bose?! Please tell me that was a joke.

    He was the worst blogger ever, and was so arrogant, he never responded to the points either. Ben Dirs is the best blogger, even though I dont agree with him a lot of the time, he backs up what he says and responds to thoughtful points and comments. A lot of the other BBC sports bloggers could learn a lot from him.

  • Comment number 46.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 47.

    Next year we will hopefully (if all fit) go into the athletics programme with four athletes all with an excellent chance of winning gold (and one of them has a chance of two golds) How many other countries can hope for this?

    We are so lucky to have four athletes at the top, or very close to the top of the tree, in their events. I can remember many Games where we went into them with no chance of gold.

    Of course we are weak in some areas; apart from the USA, all countries have this problem. Germany for example; take aside their throwers and you are not left with much!

    The relay situation is disappointing, as we have been competitive in these in recent years but it only needs a little improvement and a bit of luck regarding injuries for us to be in with a chance again.

    Overall I thought Daegu was a great championships; maybe not many championship bests but so many really exciting races.

    My British highlight was Mo winning the 5000m, the look on his face as he realised that he had won was priceless and made me very emotional. My favourite moment was Kemboi celebrating his victory. Bolt was fantastic as usual; I have been watching athletics since the Tokyo Olympics and he is the greatest athlete I have ever seen; he is so important for the sport.


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