Van Commenee’s Team GB are “ready to go”
On the eve of the European championships, Charles Van Commenee; the Head coach of Team GB spoke about his squad’s chances.
Positioned in the centre of the top table at this afternoon’s press conference organised by UK Athletics at the team hotel, the Dutchman was flanked by three athletes with genuine gold medal chances here in Barcelona, yet it was the 52-year-old that stole the show instead of rushing off for a siesta.
In determined and confident mood, Van Commenee (joined by 100m man Dwain Chambers, 400m runner Martyn Rooney and 400m hurdler Dai Greene) joked with the international press about how he is accustomed to relenting to the so-called ‘official team medal target’ which the media apparently conjure up for themselves, yet the bespectacled ‘athletics magician’ gave an inclination as to how he actually feels his team will perform this week:
“We have a strong team here and we’ve had a terrific last few weeks out in at the preparation camps in Monte Gordo, Portugal and for the distance runners, out in Font Romeo, in the Pyrenees,” Van Commenee explained.
“It all went very well and now everyone’s in shape and ready to go. I’ve no complaints – we’ve selected the best squad through a tough selection criteria (the same as that for the World championships). It may be harsh qualifying but it fits in with our (UK Athletics) policy to prepare for London 2012; the athletes will need to live up to expectations and deal with immense pressure so we are displaying the same approach now. UK Sport has set us a target of 10-15 medals in this championship and I am very confident that we can achieve that.”
Undeniably, the GB squad will have many tricks up their sleeve; leaving Van Commenee and Co to gatecrash the Spanish party with a sparkling fiesta of their own.
Dwain's "doing it for his kids"
Dwain Chambers may be the hot favourite for 100m gold here in Barcelona, but the 32-year-old; although in positive mood, is having to deal with more expectation than most; from his three young children back home in the UK.
The World indoor 60m champion explained at this afternoon’s Team GB press conference from the team hotel that not a day goes by without him regularly contacting his brood during his stay in the Spanish city:
“I miss my family, of course” explained the father of three, “but we have Skype in the team hotel so I can talk to them every day. I’m sure that they want daddy to bring a gold medal home for them so I really want to do that.”
Inspired by a motivational poem from the 1992 Olympic 100m champion, Linford Christie in the team hotel last week, Chambers revealed the impact his countryman had on his mental preparations for the coming week:
“Linford’s win was 18-years ago and it’s inspiring to know we’re going back to the same stadium where he took the gold and it is a great chance to or me to recreate history. I hope I do him proud and this may be my last European championships.
I’m optimistic – I’ve got strong competition coming from (France’s) Christophe Lemaitre and a strong field but I just need to try my best and keep a cool head. It’s my ambition to win gold and to do that, I need to use my experience. I think he (Lemaitre) will be full of confidence coming into these championships but I want to win.”
Chambers was pushed to a sub-10 clocking in order to win the European Cup (in 9.99) last month over Lemaitre and ran well on the Barcelona track a fortnight ago and admitted he may need to run sub-10 to win continental gold.
Despite his years of championship experience, the British sprinter also confessed that nerves still bother him come competition time but with extra motivation back home, Chambers will surely not let his children down.
Barcelona track passes Rooney’s test
Earlier this morning, British 400m man Martyn Rooney took a trip to the track where he will attempt to win European gold later this week.
Ranked third on the continental rankings with a 44.99 clocking, Rooney spoke out about his liking for the surface at the Team GB press conference this afternoon and is evidently bubbling over with excitement:
“I’m in good shape so I’m excited and I’ve got a great feeling from seeing the track this morning. It’s a great, impressive stadium – just like the one in Beijing (where Rooney placed 6th in the 2008 Olympic final).”
The British one-lapper remains cautiously optimistic, though; giving credit to his fiercest rivals this week:
”It’s a very competitive event. (Jonathon) Borlee’s very talented, as is (David) Gillick and (Michael) Bingham – we’re all there to win so it will be fun. My last race (at the Gateshead IAAF Diamond League) was a kick up the arse and I made mistakes but I’ve had three weeks to work on that and I’m feeling in good shape and I’m in a good frame of mind now!"
Opening Ceremony report
At 9:30pm on Monday evening in front of Barcelona’s Font Magic on Avenida Maria Cristina, the B10 opening ceremony took place.
Combining elements of local identity, arts and culture, the free of charge event lasted 75-minutes and attracted thousands of the local public and athletics enthusiasts.
Although two large television screens were positioned at each side of the stage, due to the sheer mass of the crowd, your editor was pretty far back and had to take photos on tip-toe! So many of the public and B10 ticket holders were there in fact, that dozens of them resorted to climbing the podiums and architecture to get a glimpse of the action.
The ceremony began with the same classical music which continued throughout the show (it would have been nice if the music was changed throughout) and a countdown clock to introduce the start of the championships.
To the left of the area, 6 aerial acrobats fell spectacularly from a building before launching into dance moves to the music. The stage and the fountain water, too, adapted their colours and shape to the music while dancers took to the stage with the rim of a replica Olympic stadium roof gradually fell in the backdrop.
It was truly a great spectacle to see so many of the public and athletics fans; although staging the ceremony in public meant that a lot could not see all of the event and particularly, many of the elite athletes stayed away for security reasons - it was great promotion for the championships and for our sport.
It was a great idea that the opening ceremony was taken to the people but athletics fans would have been disappointed with their view unless they hot the early; especially as they will be used to having a seat in the stadium like they will have for the closing ceremony on Sunday evening – your editor’s feet hurt a lot last night!
The music was beautiful but it didn’t hold the attention of many of the crowd, as the majority left half-way through. In alphabetical order, the nations with their flag bearers entered the stage to huge cheers – especially the Spanish squad and the Italians but some nations like team GB had no representatives on the night.
The finale included the Catalonian and Spanish national anthems and a few dignitaries on stage to give a speech – most left then, unfortunately but a fitting end was provided with the European Athletics anthem being played and the EA flag falling down over the fountain and stage before the B10 mascot Barni was introduced ahead of a huge firework display to upbeat music.