British team feel the weight of expectations

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Old 06-Sep-2011
British team feel the weight of expectations

Daegu, South Korea: A brace of medals on the last night of the world championships allowed next year's Olympics hosts to meet their target of seven but there was no doubt that Daegu was a mixed experience for the British team.

Mo Farah's sensational gold medal run in the men's 5,000 metres put a gloss on an event where disqualifications, misfiring favourites and a determination to fly under the media radar created the impression of a team very much feeling the pressure.

"That is one of the very best performances we've ever had in the history of British athletics," head coach Charles van Commenee said.

Medals target

"That sets us up with a nice platform for next year, when the target is eight, so it's my job to find another medal."

Britain's best performance at the world championships came in 1993 when the team won three golds, three silvers and four bronzes and the two golds, four silver and one bronze won in Deagu was the best haul since 1999.

Farah also won silver in the 10,000m when he was beaten to the line by unheralded Ethiopian Ebrahim Jeilan. Hannah England's silver in the women's 1,500m was impressive too.

"There's not only been great performances [but] we have a good crop of athletes who could come close to medals but didn't," Van Commenee added to British television on Sunday.

"I always knew at the end of these championships that we would not see the finished product. We always knew there would be work to be done in the next eleven months. The good thing now is I know exactly what we have to do. So I tell you, it's a positive experience all together."

Home soil

What would perhaps have disappointed the British was that, barring the medallists and relay teams, only three of their athletes managed to finish in the top eight of their events. The tally of seven medals was at least an improvement on the paltry five Britain won in Osaka in 2007 and six they managed to snag in Berlin two years ago.

But the siege mentality sometimes adopted by the team in Deagu indicated perhaps that the weight of expectation of performing on home soil next year was already having an impact.

Dutchman Van Commenee was conspicuous by his reluctance to talk to the media at all during the championships, while other access to officials and leading athletes was often effectively restricted to a small group of British newspaper journalists.

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