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Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 16:48 UK

Van Commenee named UKA head coach

Van Commenee arrives in the role with a good knowledge of UK athletics

Charles van Commenee has been named as national head coach of UK Athletics.

The Dutchman guided Denise Lewis to the 2000 Olympic heptathlon gold medal and Kelly Sotherton to bronze in 2004.

As technical director of the Dutch Olympic Committee, the 50-year-old led his country to its second best Games medal haul at the 2008 event in China.

He replaces Dave Collins and is charged with reviving the fortunes of Britain's athletes ahead of the London Olympics after a poor showing in Beijing.

I have kept a close eye on British athletics since I left in 2004, and so can hit the ground running and ensure my influence is felt immediately

Charles van Commenee
Team GB won four medals, falling short of its target of five.

"I am hugely excited to be returning to British athletics and at such an important time for the sport as we begin the countdown to London 2012," said Van Commenee.

"The fact that I spent four years in Britain as a technical director means that I already know many of the athletes and coaches and the way in which our high performance networks operate.

"I have kept a close eye on British athletics since I left in 2004, and so can hit the ground running and ensure my influence is felt immediately.

"There is genuine talent here in the UK, and my challenge is to ensure that potential translates to medal success."

Van Commenee's appointment is the conclusion of an extensive planning process led by UKA chief executive Niels de Vos to ensure the sport has the very best coaching expertise to enable British athletics to excel at London 2012.

"I am delighted we have been able to persuade Charles to join us," said De Vos. "It is clear that our sport needs a genuinely world class coach to lead us into London 2012.

"Charles has 27 years of coaching experience, has proved his abilities working with British Olympians such as Denise Lewis and Kelly Sotherton, and his recent role in his native Netherlands has exposed him to elite performance management across every Olympic Sport.

"He is therefore not only a world class athletics coach but also a proven leader of Olympic teams, and I am confident this will be a winning combination for athletics in 2012".

Denise Lewis
Lewis says she owes a big debt of gratitude to Van Commenee

The performance of Team GB's track and field team was in stark contrast to other sports, such as cycling and rowing, which propelled Britain up to fourth in the overall medal table.

Collins was blamed for the below-par performances of some of Britain's other athletes, despite the sport receiving plenty of funding.

Van Commenee's appointment has been welcomed by Lewis, the woman he guided to the top of the medal podium in Sydney.

"It's a good appointment and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do in what is a short period of time to try to get the results we are looking for in London," she told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"What he can do is make people think and question whether they are doing absolutely everything that is needed to improve performance. Charles is very good at asking the right questions about what people are doing."

Lewis even conceded she would not have become Olympic champion without his help.

"You need someone who's going to stimulate and challenge you mentally," she said. "I don't think another coach in Britain at that time could have got me to the top. Charles was ambitious and he wanted to get the best out of me.

"If my training was rubbish for that particular day, he would tell me it's not good enough," she added. "But when he didn't know the answers to certain things he wasn't frightened to ask other people."

Former double Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson told BBC Radio 5 Live that Van Commenee was capable of reviving the sport in Britain.

I know Daley very well. I will sit down and talk with him when the time is right

Charles van Commenee
"What Charles will bring to it is a straightness and an honesty," said the 1980 and 1984 gold medallist.

"Maybe because English isn't his first language he's fairly blunt and fairly sharp. In terms of what we need in British athletics, he will be a breath of fresh air."

Thompson added that the time was right for a change and said he would seriously consider taking up a role alongside Van Commenee if approached.

"He should be about performance - he should be taking the top 30 or 40 athletes and giving them direction because that's what's been lost having Dave Collins there," said Thompson.

BBC Sport's Matt Slater
"It's not putting administration in and all that - we're great at that. We've got great medical cover, we've got the best facilities in the world, we've got loads of money coming in, but what we haven't got are loads and loads of great athletes.

"We've just tried to throw a bit of money at it and hope for the best.

"With Charles, before the money is thrown at it, he'll put responsibility on the coaches and the athletes and make them perform to certain levels before they get too much money and enjoy the good life.

"I don't think Dave Collins knew a lot about performance. He was much more of a systems man and getting stuff in place.

"But performing at the sharp end isn't so much about that - its about training really hard and really smart and setting goals and reaching them. It isn't always about the minutiae.

"We get too carried away with what are the irrelevant bits and hopefully Charles will get us back to basics and being competitive."

Van Commenee said he would speak to Thompson about a possible role within the UKA set-up.

"I know Daley very well and invited him into the Dutch combined events programme in 1996/7. I flew him in and he was part of a training camp in the Canary Islands," Van Commenee added.

"I know him very well and have met with him a few times in LA. I will sit down and talk with him when the time is right."

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see also
Chambers 'will be welcomed back'
23 Sep 08 |  Athletics
Van Commenee gets UKA coach role
18 Sep 08 |  Athletics
Collins leaves UK Athletics post
01 Sep 08 |  Athletics
Foster wary of changing UKA boss
31 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Danvers backs under-fire Collins
26 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Sotherton denies rift with coach
21 Nov 04 |  Athletics
Edwards backs Van Commenee
16 May 04 |  Athletics

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