Latest entry

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 22 Sep 08, 07:25 PM

An Olympiad too late for many observers, %3Ca%20href="">Charles van Commenee is finally going to get the chance to see what a Dutch double of tough talk and know-how can do for the entire British athletics team.

The man who coached Denise Lewis to heptathlon gold in Sydney - and perhaps even more notably made %3Ca%20href="">Kelly Sotherton cry after her bronze-medal display in Athens - Van Commenee will be named as head coach by UK Athletics (UKA) on Tuesday.

On the face of it, Van Commenee's return to Britain is the kind of story we will see at a dozen football clubs before the leaves start to fall from the trees.

The team fails to live up to expectations, the mob demands a sacrifice, the man in the dugout gets it in the neck. For UKA, those expectations were five medals in Beijing and %3Ca%20href="">the scapegoat was performance director Dave Collins.

But this story (and British athletics in general) is more complicated than that.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "Charles in charge as British athletics goes Dutch"

Recent entries

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 9 Sep 08, 01:05 PM

I know a bloke who likes to say a little bit of him dies every time one of his friends has some measure of professional success. He works in the City so he probably means it.

It's an attitude many in the British Olympic family could sympathise with right now, because while Beijing was the very best of times for some, it remained %3Ca%20href="">the same old story for others. And with %3Ca%20href="">Team GB operating on a "use it or lose it" approach to funding, success has almost become a self-fulfilling prophesy, while failure, well, you just don't want to go there.

But "there" is exactly where British judo finds itself and the choices it is grappling with are the same choices all the other "under-performing" sports will have to address very soon.

So when %3Ca%20href="">judo debates the merits of centralised training bases, national head coaches and the link between the elite and grass-roots ends of the sport, you can guarantee archery, athletics, badminton, basketball and so on, are paying attention.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "Where judo grapples, others will follow"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 26 Aug 08, 06:33 AM

There's a temptation (a very British temptation) when looking at the %3Ca%20href="">Beijing medal table to ask how on earth are we going to do better than that in %3Ca%20href="">London.

It's a fair question. This has, after all, been %3Ca%20href="">Great Britain's most successful Olympics since our croquet-inspired domination of the %3Ca%20href="">1908 Games.

What's not fair, however, is to just give up after asking the question and wait for the inevitable disappointment to arrive. As %3Ca%20href="">Henry Ford once said, "If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can't, you're right."

So it is to the %3Ca%20href="">British Olympic Association's credit that it has asked the question and come up with an answer.

Its "%3Ca%20href="">Ambition 2012" programme is perhaps the most impressive initiative the often-maligned organisation has undertaken since ignoring %3Ca%20href="">Margaret Thatcher's call to boycott the %3Ca%20href="">Moscow Games in 1980.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "London hopefuls become Village people"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 25 Aug 08, 09:05 AM

Media Village, Beijing

From the moment Nicole Cooke surged past four rivals on an uphill sprint to win Great %3Ca%20href="">Britain's first gold of the 2008 Games in the women's road race, I thought we could be on to something. Not "our best Games for 100 years" something, but certainly a fortnight to be pleased with.

Those thoughts were back two days later when %3Ca%20href="">Rebecca Adlington pipped American favourite Katie Hoff in the women's 400m freestyle to earn our first gold medal in the pool since 1988. British team-mate Joanne Jackson came home third in the same race and suddenly our often-maligned swimming squad was on the board.

And so it continued. We never had to wait too long for a success of some sort in that first week and our wildest dreams were delivered in spades over the middle weekend, when we leapt up the %3Ca%20href="">medal table to heights we haven't seen since the Liberal Party were in power.

So what next? Having arrived at our 2012 target of fourth in the medal table four years early, do we dig in or take the next ridge?

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "How to build on the Great Haul of China"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 24 Aug 08, 04:24 PM

National Stadium, Beijing

With one spontaneous gesture, a nervous tic really, Boris Johnson signalled exactly %3Ca%20href="">how London should attempt to follow the glitz and grandeur of the Beijing Olympics: don't even try.

The London mayor's comedy salute as he set foot on the red carpet at the Bird's Nest was a late bid for my moment of the Games.

It encapsulated what many British observers here have felt throughout these Games: we're all pretty blown away by the show the Chinese have put on, and %3Ca%20href="">we certainly can't afford anything as fancy as this, but we'll muddle through in 2012, and we'll try to put a smile on your face while we do it.

And did I really see him shout "I want the flag!" to Olympic impresario Jacques Rogge before it was his turn to do the ceremonial swirling bit? If so, I apologise for voting for Ken: you are a legend, even if you don't know what to do with your hands.

So that's that then. They are sweeping up around me after %3Ca%20href="">the most spectacular closing ceremony I can remember, and there really is no getting away from it - we are the next hosts of the summer Olympics. Gulp.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "Beijing, over and out - follow that, London!"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 22 Aug 08, 08:05 PM

Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, Beijing

How do you know you're a good modern pentathlete unless you get the chance to try it?

Be honest, how many of you have tried all five sports - shooting, fencing, swimming, riding and running - even once?

I've never fenced (although there were those accusations about Gary Mahoney's skateboard at school which were never proved as I had no idea it was his when I sold it) and I only tried shooting for the first time on my stag do (I was dressed as Borat at the time and not at my best). I have also only ever been pony trekking twice - the last time being about 25 years ago.

I only mention this because I've just been to the %3Ca%20href="%3Ca%20href="">women's modern pentathlon and I can't help wondering if all Olympic gold medals really are equal.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "Is it time for a really modern pentathlon?"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 22 Aug 08, 01:41 PM

Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground & Capital Gymnasium, Beijing

According to the %3Ca%20href="">International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), beach volleyball was first played in California as a bit of light relief during the %3Ca%20href="">Great Depression.

And, having watched my first slice of the ball-and-bikinis game on Thursday (a day that Manchester in February would be disappointed with), I can confirm beach volleyball has mood-enhancing qualities.

But volleyball's bosses are probably over-egging it to suggest the sport was born for any historical reason. I think people started playing beach volleyball because they could - which reminds me of that old joke about dogs and certain parts of their anatomy.

Quite simply, %3Ca%20href="">beach volleyball is fantastic. It's old-school indoor volleyball I'm not so sure about. But before I get to that, let's have some background.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "Why gym doesn't fix it for volleyball"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 21 Aug 08, 06:08 PM


Once upon a time Britain's rivalry with Russia was referred to as the "%3Ca%20href="">Great Game", Asia was the playing field and India was the prize. Now, Asia is still the playing field, India's nowhere and the prize is a great Games.

With %3Ca%20href="">three days left and 63 gold medals still to be decided, Team GB are %3Ca%20href="">going head-to-head with Russia for third place in the Beijing medal table.

After Super Saturday, Splendid Sunday and Terrific Tuesday, the impossible seemed possible: Britain's Olympic team really could finish as high as third in the Olympic standings for the first time in 88 years.

But then the %3Ca%20href="">track cycling, %3Ca%20href="">rowing and %3Ca%20href="">sailing finished, and sightings of a suddenly rampant Russian bear were spotted in %3Ca%20href="">venues across town. We're in front at close of play on Thursday, but there's only one gold in it, 17-16, with the Russians leading on silvers and bronzes.

Hold on to your laptops, ladies and gentlemen, this one is going to the wire.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "China for gold, Britain for bronze?"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 21 Aug 08, 12:20 PM


A 13-year-old %3Ca%20href="">Michael Phelps was acting up after practice one day - squirting the girls with water bottles, splashing people, generally playing the goat. %3Ca%20href="">Bob Bowman, head coach at the %3Ca%20href="">North Baltimore Aquatic Club, was unimpressed and called Phelps over to reprimand him.

"You shouldn't even have the energy to clown around," said Bowman, miffed that his session hadn't worked as intended. "That was the hardest practice we've ever done. Why aren't you tired?"

"I don't get tired," replied Phelps.

At that moment Bowman realised he had something special on his hands, and if he was going to unlock this kid's full potential he was going to have to become a much better coach. Trying to tire out Phelps would become his mission.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "The secret to being like Mike"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 20 Aug 08, 06:51 PM

Workers' Stadium, Beijing

Last night I indulged an Olympic guilty pleasure. It was hot and sweaty, kept me up very late and involved lots of Brazilians. I knew it was wrong but I couldn't help it.

The %3Ca%20href="">men's football semi-final between defending champions Argentina and their arch-rivals Brazil was like nothing else I've witnessed at these Olympics. In fact, it was like nothing else I've witnessed full stop.

Before I continue I should state I'm not sure football - or certainly some of the players involved - should really be here. Having earlier %3Ca%20href="">questioned tennis's place in the Olympics, any other position would smack of bias.

The match was a cracker. Tense and tight in the first half, Argentina poached two quick goals at the start of the second. They then survived a Brazilian rally, before killing the game off with a third from the penalty spot. The team in gold ended the game in disarray, while the team in blue and white left dreaming of gold.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "Latin fancy lights my fire"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 19 Aug 08, 11:21 PM

Laoshan Velodrome, Beijing

A few days ago I asked the slightly ridiculous question of %3Ca%20href="">who is the greatest Olympian of all time.

What prompted me to do so was having seen %3Ca%20href="">Usain Bolt's euphoric assault on physics in the 100m and %3Ca%20href="">the finale of Michael Phelps' accumulation of gold medallions in the pool.

But "GOATs" are a bit like London buses at the minute: none for ages and then three at once.

Now, I'm not going to suggest %3Ca%20href="">Chris Hoy is the greatest anything ever - I'll leave that to others.

I'm just going to tell you if there is a humbler, more inspirational, more personable Olympic sporting great out there, I would like to buy that person Beijing's finest steak supper and hear their story too.

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "The Hoy Wonder leads British bonanza"

  • %3Ca%20href="">Matt Slater
  • 18 Aug 08, 09:21 PM

Workers' Gymnasium, Beijing

Let's hear no more talk of Great Britain only winning medals %3Ca%20href="">sitting down/astride something or in the water or going backwards (or all three at once).

We've finally won one on our feet, on dry land and going forward. Take a bow, %3Ca%20href="">David Price.

The 6ft 8in super-heavyweight will return home to Liverpool with no worse than a bronze but, given his serene progress thus far, will be disappointed if he can't upgrade that.

Price became the first member of Team GB's boxing squad to book some bling when %3Ca%20href="">he forced Jaroslav Jaksto to retire after the first round of their quarter-final on Monday.

Heavyweight David Price shows his muscle

%3Ca%20href="">Continue reading "Super-heavyweight Price is (up)right for boxing glory"

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