Brit Euro medal hopes slim

The Times July 19, 2006

Collins is unable to construct case for medal hopes
By David Powell, Athletics Correspondent

TO THE sound of scaffolding being erected in the background yesterday, Dave Collins, the national performance director, announced the Great Britain team for the European Championships in Gothenburg next month. Hard hats all round, one for Collins especially. Rebuilding jobs do not come much tougher than making good the years of neglect suffered by British athletics.
After Britain’s worst showing at a World Championships last year and England’s lowest gold-medal count at a Commonwealth Games since 1970, in Melbourne in March, Gothenburg promises little relief. On the evidence of the season, the best Britain can hope for is their worst result since 1982. More likely is the lightest medal haul since 1966.

Given that the team of 61 includes not one British athlete ranked at the top of his or her event, the championships in Gothenburg may even prove the least productive hunting ground since the event began in 1934, when Britain did not send a team.

It could be argued that the key men between now and the opening ceremony on August 6 are Bruce Hamilton and Neil Black. Who, you may ask. Hamilton is the UK Athletics chief medical officer and Black the chief physiotherapist, responsible for getting Britain’s athletes to Sweden in a healthy state. Worryingly, for them, of the seven decent to slim gold-medal contenders that Britain possess in the individual events, four are struggling either with or after injury.

One, Dwain Chambers, was omitted yesterday, told that he must show he is over his quadriceps trouble before he can be added to the team in the 100 metres. Chambers may feel that he is being punished for his doping conviction because Christian Malcolm, who is also injured, has been given a 200 metres berth and Christine Ohuruogu a place in the 400 metres without having run the distance this season.

Ohuruogu won the Commonwealth title in March and, if fit, would be one of Britain’s golden prospects. However, she returned from injury only at the trials in Manchester on Sunday and then at 200 metres, finishing fifth. Tim Benjamin won the 400 metres trial, returning from injury, but looked some way off his best, at which he would be a potential winner.

Greg Rutherford, in the long jump, Jo Pavey, in the 5,000 metres, and Phillips Idowu, in the triple jump, make up the seven. With Paula Radcliffe pregnant and unavailable to defend her 10,000 metres title, Collins was defiant when asked where Britain’s gold medal was going to come from.

“The gold medal may well come from a fit Christian Malcolm, from one of the long jumpers (Rutherford, Chris Tomlinson or Nathan Morgan), from a triple jumper (Idowu or Nathan Douglas), although that is a big ask, and the possibility of Tim Benjamin if he gets back to form,” he said.

“The relays are a reasonable shout and, if Dwain is fit, he is in with a good shout. And you would not bet against Marlon Devonish (in the 200 metres).”

Including Devonish is stretching optimism a bit far. The seven individuals and relays aside, the list of good medal prospects, if not for gold, appears not to extend beyond Devonish, Mara Yamauchi, at 10,000 metres, and Rhys Williams, at 400 metres hurdles.

Collins has set a target of ten medals. In every European Championships stretching back to, and including, 1986, Britain have won at least five golds and seven minor medals. In 1966, Britain won two golds and nothing else, and although it was a largely uninspired effort, at least there was the excuse of the Commonwealth Games, in Jamaica, three weeks earlier.

For the first time, Britain have picked athletes based on a pre-set “development” standard for each event. However, it seemed absurd yesterday that a medal prospect such as Chambers was made to wait, while Zoe Derham, a 25-year-old with a proven record of failure at big events and with no prospect of a medal, was picked as a developing athlete.


  • denotes subject to fitness

MEN: 100m: T Edgar, M Lewis-Francis. 200m: M Devonish, C Malcolm*. 400m: T Benjamin, G Hedman, R Tobin. 800m: S Ellis, M Rimmer. 1,500m: A Baddeley, S Davies. 5,000m: M Farah, N McCormick, C Thompson. Marathon: T Abyu, H Lobb, P Riley. 3,000m steeplechase: A Bowden, J Mays. 110m hurdles: W Sharman, A Turner. 400m hurdles: D Greene, R Williams. High jump: M Bernard, G Mason. Long jump: N Morgan, G Rutherford, C Tomlinson. Triple jump: N Douglas, P Idowu. Shot: C Myerscough. Javelin: M Allen, N Nieland. Decathlon: D Macey. 4 x 400m relay: Benjamin, Hedman, Tobin.

WOMEN: 100m: J Maduaka, A Onoura. 400m: N Sanders, C Ohuruogu*. 800m: B Lyne, J Simpson. 1,500m: L Dobriskey. 5,000m: J Pavey, H Yelling. 10,000m: K Butler, M Yamauchi, Yelling. Marathon: T Morris. 3,000m steeplechase: H Dean. 100m hurdles: G Bennett, S Claxton, S McGreavy. 400m hurdles: N Danvers-Smith, L McConnell, E Duck. Pole vault: K Dennison, E Spain. Long jump: K Sotherton. Discus: C Smithson. Hammer: Z Derham, S Webb. Javelin: G Sayers. Heptathlon: J Ennis, Sotherton. 4 x 400m relay: Sanders, Ohuruogu*, McConnell.