January 19 - Charles van Commenee, head coach of UK Athletics, has defended the stringent 2012 Olympics qualification criteria for endurance events published today, and accepted that the athletics team in London next year will have "a few gaps".
Speaking a few hours after the British Olympic Association (BOA) had welcomed in another fledgling domestic sport to the 2012 Games, handball, as part of its policy to contestevery event, van Commenee made it clear that he was working to a different agenda.
"I would like to see a full team in London," he said.
"But there is no country in theworld that will go with a full team in every event.
"We will have a few gaps.
"It's not the objective of British athletics to be represented in every event at the 2012 Games.
"Otherwise we would have lowered the qualifying standards.
"It's about beingcompetitive and having an acceptable chance in the finals."
The Olympic qualification standards and selection policy for marathon, walks,combined events and 10,000 metres are provisional, and will act as a guideline to support the planning of athletes such as Paula Radcliffe, Mara Yamauchi, Mo Farah, ChrisThompson, Jessica Ennis and Commonwealth 20k walk champion Jo Jackson aheadof the full publication of qualifications standards from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for London 2012, which are expected in early Spring.
Based on last year's UK rankings, the only men to achieve A-standard marks wouldhave been Farah and Thompson in the 10,000m, and the only women would have been Mara Yamauchi in the marathon and Ennis and Louise Hazel in the heptathlon.
Asked if his approach was not contradictory to that of the BOA, van Commenee responded: "Obviously I want to see a complete team also, but only if we are competitive enough.
"The BOA has minimum standards in place for sports to qualifyfor the Games.
"Maybe mine are slightly higher."
Britain's head coach made it clear that there would not be much difference between the UK criteria, which were operative from January 1 this year, and the likely IAAF criteria.
"Obviously we will have to wait for the IAAF criteria, but we didn't want our athletesto have to wait any longer before they arrange their training programmes.
"These criteria are in line with IAAF qualifying standards over the last few years."
Endurance athletes have until July 2012 to achieve qualification, or in the case ofmarathon runners, midnight on the day of next year's Virgin London Marathon.
Britain's overall coach added that a medal, ideally golden, would be the target in the women's 400m relay.
"The odds on getting a medal in the women's 400m relay are considerably higher than in the individual event," he said.
"If you are at the Olympic Games you are not goingto race for the bronze medal.
"You can see if it the best possible result, even if it wasfourth place. But we aim to win."
He added that the discipline had gained two more potential team members recently in Kelly Sotherton (pictured), who has moved to 400m running from the heptathlon – where she won Olympic bronze under van Commenee's guidance in 2004 – and Emily Freeman,who, again at the head coach's suggestion, has moved up from 200m running.
"It's going to be quite a challenge for Kelly to get into the 400m team for 2012," he said.
"She knows that, and she has been training very well in South Africa.
"As for Emily, making the final at the 2009 World Championships was a major achievement for her, but the chances of her doing better than that were not very great and so the decision to move up in distance was almost a mutual thought.
"They can battle it out with the others for places in the individual event and the relay.
"We want a few more runners to be going well and putting pressure on the number 3,4, 5 runners in the relay squad."
In response to a question about the current fierce debate over the fate of the 2012 Olympic stadium and its athletics track, the Dutchman responded: "If London doesn't have a stadium where we can organise major championships in athletics, that puts it ina category in Europe that I can't even think of..
"Is there any other capital in Europe where you can't do this?
"Even Vilnius or Tallinn can do that.
"Maybe the capital of Albania doesn't have a stadium, I don't know.
"I am astonished when I see all these articles about it.
"I amazed there is even adiscussion when a promise was made at the time that we made the bid.
"They shouldjust get on with it.
Van Commenee added that Tottenham's plan to redevelop Crystal Palace athleticsstadium into a 25,000-seat venue was not an acceptable alternative.
UKA provisional selection criteria (One B standard selection will operate in the eventof no A standard qualification):
Marathon – Men A standard 2 hour: 12min 00sec; B 2:16.0. Women A 2:31; B 2:35 (any runner placing in the top 20 at this summer's World Championship marathon inDaegu will be considered to have a UK A standard qualification)
10,000m – Men A 27min 40sec; B 28.00. Women A 31.45; B 32.00
Decathlon – Men A 8,200 points; B 8,000
Heptathlon - A 6,150; B 5950
20k race walk - Men A 1:22:30; B 1:24:00 Women A 1:33:00; B 1:38:00
Men's 50k race walk A 3:58; B 4:09
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
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