SURVEY ON THE STATE OF BRITISH ATHLETICS
By Matt Slater and Saj Chowdhury
Team GB should brace itself for a poor athletics medal haul at next year's Beijing Olympics, leading British Olympic stars have told BBC Sport.
"If we were to win three or four it would be a good Games," admitted former 1500m medallist Steve Cram.
"I think at this stage we are starting to clutch at straws," added multiple javelin medal winner Steve Backley.
Wednesday marks a year to the start of the 2008 Games. The World Championships take place in Osaka later this month.
Canvassing the opinion of 11 former Olympians, BBC Sport asked each ex-athlete the same questions, focusing on the prospects for British success in Beijing, and then London as well as their hopes for the sport in the future.
- Most believe that the British team will not win more than four medals in track and field at the Beijing Games.
- Kelly Sotherton and Jessica Ennis are picked out as realistic hopes in the heptathlon, Nathan Douglas and Phillips Idowu in the triple jump, and the relay teams.
- All are optimistic that the state of British athletics will have improved by London 2012.
- The name of Jessica Ennis crops up again as someone tipped for success at London 2012. Long jumper Greg Rutherford and Martyn Rooney in the 400m are also backed to shine.
- There is a consensus there needs to be more competition at school level and a better structure within the sport, from grass roots to senior level.
Lord Sebastian Coe, 1500m champion in 1980 and 1984, agreed with both Cram and Backley, and accepts Team GB are a "team in transition".
"UK Athletics (the governing body) are talking about three or four [medals in Beijing] and that is not an unreasonable total to be working on.
"They're going to be hard to come by. The old guard have left the scene so there is very little experience in this team.
"The World Championships will be a good breeding ground for a few of them but I think Beijing is still going to be a little bit too early for what we want to see in 2012," added Coe, who is the man masterminding London's hosting of the Games in five years time.
What if there was a £1m jackpot for winning a 2012 gold?
Coe was part of the 1984 team, in an Olympics without the Soviet Union, that won 16 medals in track and field.
But at the last Olympics in Athens, Britain and Northern Ireland just won four - their lowest total since 1976.
Backley believes financial incentives should be available to the current set of athletes.
"I think there's a great argument to think about bonuses, let's put some carrots out there," he added.
"Lottery funding is great and it helps people out. But what about the next stage up?
Can Becky Lyne achieve success in the 800m and 1500m?
"There is a carrot with a gold medal and what that brings in the commercial world, but I think that needs to be made more obvious.
"I think it would entice people to say, 'I'm quick and West Ham want me to play on the wing but I want to win that 2012 Olympic final'. What if there was a £1m jackpot for winning a 2012 gold?"
But Dame Kelly Holmes, who won two of the team's three gold medals three years ago, said she was optimistic that the 2008 Games could act as a stepping stone to greater success at London 2012.
"I think every sport needs role models, icons and performances that bring it to the forefront of people's minds," said the 37-year-old.
"I hope 2008 will start to create that. As one of the premier sports for an Olympic Games I really do hope and think that athletics will hold its own and produce some brilliant results."