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It was a very disappointing performance from Britain's athletes at the European Indoor Championships. Team coach Charles van Commenee was looking for five or six medals and to only get four is not good enough.

We did get two golds though. I wasn't surprised with Dwain Chambers' efforts in the 60m, although his astonishing 6.42 seconds in the semi-finals breaking the British and European record was a surprise.

I'm running out of things to say about Dwain. It was interesting to hear the jeers and boos inside the stadium - even when he was on the rostrum picking up his gold medal. That surprised me.

Continue reading "The jeers and not enough cheers in Turin"

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An Olympiad too late for many observers, 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 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 the scapegoat was performance director Dave Collins.

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

Continue reading "Charles in charge as British athletics goes Dutch"

Returning home from Beijing with such a hugely talented group of athletes after being away for so long made me feel incredibly proud. We didn't realise how much the team had captured the country's imagination until we touched down at Heathrow.

I was slightly jealous of missing out by 38cm on a business-class seat and the press conference and general adulation of the British public! I sat right at the back of the plane by the toilets feeling immensely proud to be British.

How do you reflect on coming fourth at the Olympic Games?

Continue reading "Blood, sweat, moods and Olympic heartbreak"

When it comes to potential British medallists at the Beijing Paralympics, it is hard to go beyond swimmer Dave Roberts and wheelchair racer Dave Weir.

Both are at the top of their respective fields and are in China with key roles to play in ParalympicsGB's potential medal haul at the Games.

Roberts, who is at his third Games, has a chance to beat Tanni Grey-Thompson's haul of 11 Paralympic golds while Weir, who is also at his third Games, wants to cement his reputation as the world's top wheelchair racer when he chases five golds.

Roberts' gold tally currently stands at seven while Weir, despite dominating wheelchair racing for the past three years, only has Paralympic silver and bronze from Athens to his name - he seems certain to put that right that over the next 11 days.

Continue reading "GB Daves on gold trail"

It seems a little unfair when you had 10,708 athletes competing for 958 medals in 28 different sports, but the Beijing Olympics will mainly be remembered for the deeds of just two young men - a 22-year-old sprinter from Trelawny, Jamaica and a 23-year-old swimmer from Baltimore, USA.

In the space of a few weeks here in China, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps transformed themselves from notable names within their own sports into global sporting superstars.

One was fuelled by chicken nuggets and yams, the other by fried egg and cheese sandwiches with extra mayo, but on track and in water, they each made the impossible seem easy.

Continue reading "Goodnight Beijing "

In the same way as Mexico City is remembered for Bob Beamon and Munich for Lasse Viren, the athletics in Beijing will be remembered for Usain Bolt.

These were Usain's Games, and beyond that, Jamaica's.

Nothing could ever top what he did in the 100m, 200m and the relay. Even the other athletes only seemed to want to talk about him.

You need superheroes. You need stars that everyone round the world knows, not just within athletics.

Continue reading "Dramatic athletics - but Britain beware"

Great Britain might have owned the Laoshan Velodrome and Michael Phelps the Water Cube, but down here at the Bird's Nest, it's been Jamaica all the way.

The sprint events at these Olympics were billed as a straight battle between the USA (population 303m) and the Caribbean island (2.8m).

Battle? It ended up as an almighty spanking. At the close of play, the scoreline read USA nil, Jamaica five.

Continue reading "The secrets of Jamaica's sprint success"

All day, the omens had looked so good for Phillips Idowu.

The rain had fallen so heavily in Beijing that he could have been at home in London. His hair was dyed red, the same tone as the Chinese flag. He even had the same bib number, 1809, as Kelly Holmes had worn when she won 1500m gold in Athens - the same number, spookily, as the Olympic triple jump record.

But in the end, even for a man who had said a few weeks ago that he felt "bullet-proof", who had gone all year unbeaten and who produced his season's best in the Olympic final, it wasn't quite enough.

Continue reading "Idowu pipped on night of disappointments"

"What's Tianjin famous for?" we asked our local driver as we flew along the highway between Beijing and the coastal city to the east of China's capital.

"Lazy people and good restaurants," replied Tony.

That may well be the case, indeed the pace of life is definitely slower in Tianjin than Beijing and we enjoyed a decent lunch but the city has more to boast about than leisurely lunches.

It is also the birthplace of Eric Liddell, Britain's 1924 400m Olympic Champion who was immortalised in David Putnam's film "Chariots of Fire".

Continue reading "Liddell is Chinese hero"

Ukrainian heptahlete Lyudmila Blonska was exposed five years ago as a drugs cheat.

If she were British she wouldn't have been at the Beijing Games, because the British Olympic Association's bye law, still intact after Dwain Chambers' recent challenge, would have prevented her.

The lifetime ban which will now surely follow once the IOC and IAAF have concluded the disciplinary process against her will hopefully bring to an end a career built on a lie.

Sources say this latest infringement is another steroid case, just as it was in 2003, when she was first banned for two years.

Continue reading "Drug cheats getting comeuppance"

Bird's Nest Stadium, Beijing

On Wednesday evening Beijing time, Phillips Idowu will walk out into the Bird's Nest stadium as hot favourite for triple jump gold.

It's an unfamiliar feeling for Phillips. After jumping to sixth in Sydney eight years ago as a fresh-faced 21-year-old, he's struggled to convert that talent into big medals.

This season, however, he's dominated from the World Indoors onwards, cementing his world number one ranking with a first round jump of 17.44m in qualifying on Monday.

Idowu has been almost scarily confident this summer, going as far as describing himself as "bullet-proof" last month.

But former Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards, says self-belief was never the problem for the the 29-year-old from Hackney.

Continue reading "Delivery day for talented Phillips"

In a wonderful week from an amazing athlete, this was the most staggering moment of all.

19.30 seconds? Jaws dropped. Gobs were smacked, flabbers were gasted.

That shouldn't have been possible. Michael Johnson's 200m world record was supposed to be untouchable. Usain Bolt was supposed to be tired after running eight races in six days.

Bolt, we should know now, makes the impossible real.

Continue reading "Bolt makes the impossible real"

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