By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year
July 24 - Britain's athletes have been set a goal of winning five or six gold medals at the European Championships, which open in Barcelona next week, by former world record holder Steve Cram (pictured).
That is the minimum target that they should aim for to reassure people that preparations for the London 2012 Olympics are on the right track, claimed Cram, who as chairman of the English Institute of Sport is closely involved in Britain's preparations for the Games.
Cram, who won two European titles over 1500 metres in 1982 and 1986, believes the British team should be looking to capitalise on the relatively weak standard of athletics in Europe.
"The state of British athletics is better than it was [at the 2006 European Championships] in Gothenburg [when Britain failed to win an individual gold medal] but I don't think it's really moved on in the last year or two which is a bit disappointing, looking forward to 2012," said Cram, who won World Championship gold in 1983.
"Look back at the European Championships before we went to the Sydney Olympics [Budapest in 1998].
"We had quite a good Games in Sydney, we won six medals - two gold, two silver, two bronze.
"We won nine gold medals at the European Championships leading into Sydney and if anything European athletics is a little bit weaker now.
"We are the best nation in Europe across the events.
"The standard in Europe isn't what it used to be, particularly on the track.
"We've got a good few gold medal chances and my view is we should be winning at least five or six gold medals at a European Championships.
"Given the state of European athletics I think that's the sort of level we should be at."
Britain will be Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, who is injured, and world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe, who is pregnant, but will be able to call upon world gold medallists, heptathlete Jessica Ennis and triple jumper Phillips Idowu.
Other leading gold medal hopes are Dwain Chambers in the 100m, Martyn Rooney (pictured) in the 400m, Mo Farah in the 5,000m and 10,000m, Jenny Meadows in the 800m and Lisa Dobriskey in the 1500m.
But even if they are all successful in Barcelona, which hosted the 1992 Olympics, then the British public should not necessarily expect that to transfer to medals at London in 2012, Cram's former rival Sebastian Coe has warned.
"We are not as strong as we once were," said Coe, the chairman of London 2012 and vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations.
"But sometimes we are unrealistic in thinking we have the right to expect that.
"When you look at a World Championships, there are more than 200 flags up there.
"Track and field is the most global of all the Olympic sports by a distance.
"It is harder to win a medal in it than in any other sport.
"We have a young team.
"Are we going to win a sack load of medals?
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
June 2010: Britain's athletes should stop moaning and be more positive, says top UK coach
March 2010: Van Commenee warning for under-performing Britons
March 2010: Britain can win five medals in Doha but London 2012 more important
March 2009: British athletes fail to impress van Commenee
February 2009: Van Commenee upbeat on Britain's London chances