FEBRUARY 15 - CHARLES VAN COMMENEE (pictured), UK Athletics new head coach, claimed today that Britain can make a major impact at the 2012 Olympics in London.


The Dutchman replaced performance director Dave Collins after Britain won only four medals at the Olympics in Beijing last year.


That fell one short of the target set by Government agency UK Sport and has raised fears that Britain will be outclassed in the Olympic Stadium in 2012.


But van Commenee is drawing inspiration from the Sydney 2000 Olympics when he coached Denise Lewis to the gold medal in the heptathlon despite the odds being stacked against her.


He said: "I remember the phrase 'mission miracle' when Denise got injured maybe two months before Sydney and we had to keep that secret.


"You don't want to make your opponents aware of how weak you are at that moment.


"We spoke about it and tried to make it a bit of fun and said, 'We are now on Mission Miracle'.


"It is not like that this time because Britain had 17 Olympic finalists in Beijing with four years to go before London.


"It's not disastrous.


"I wouldn't have taken the job anyway.


"It's mission difficult, but mission possible."


Van Commenee officially rejoined UK Athletics last Monday from the Dutch Olympic Committee having originally worked in Britain as the multi-events and jumps coach.


He had been tipped to replace Max Jones following his retirement after the 2004 Athens Olympics but was controversially overlooked and returned home to become technical director for Holland's Olympic team.


Van Commenee led them to 12th in the Olympic medals table in Beijing with 16 medals, including seven gold, their second best performance in the 112-year history of the Games.


He has arrived back in this country with the reputation as a hard taskmaster.


Van Commenee said: "I have this image of being so tough but I never find myself tough, I just try to be clear.


"Whatever it takes to win, you can't win these days without having commitment and taking the consequences.


"A lot of people say I have ambition, I want to win, but actually taking the real consequences of it, not everybody understands what it means.


"On the day, in the Olympics, of course everybody wants to win.


"But do you also want to win with 180 Saturdays to go?


"Do you do that today, and tomorrow and all these 1,400 other days to go?


"That's real commitment."


Van Commenee also had encouraging words for former drugs cheat Dwain Chambers, winner of the 60 metres in a personal best time at the Aviva UK Indoor Trials in Sheffield yesterday.


He said: "I will treat Dwain the same as any other athlete of that calibre.


"I know there are restrictions, funding-wise and competition-wise, but for me he is a human being who has served his sentence and will be part of the squad.


"We all wish, including himself, that he wouldn't have done what he has done, but there's a new reality now and as far as I'm concerned we have to close that chapter because it's been a dark cloud hanging over for too long.


"I will come out soon with how we deal with it in light of the relay and then it should be over.


"We move on.


"Lots of things we do is in light of the Olympic Games where he is not eligible.


"You need to be able to practise, not only in training but also in competition.


"Soon, in a matter of weeks, a decision will be made.


"I will share it with you and it will be crystal clear."