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Page last updated at 19:47 GMT, Monday, 21 February 2011

UKA chief confident over GB hopes at European Indoors

Mark Lewis-Francis

Lewis-Francis pulls up with groin injury

By Jessica Creighton
Olympic sports reporter

UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee remains upbeat about Britain's European Indoor Championship medal hopes despite a number of injuries.

Sprinters Mark Lewis-Francis and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and pole vaulter Steve Lewis were all injured at Saturday's Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham.

"I had high hopes for Mark. His injury might cost us a medal," he said.

"Saturday started off a bit depressing but when I look back at the whole day there were very positive things."

UK Athletics will announce the 30-35 strong British team for the championships (which run from 4-6 March) on Tuesday and Van Commenee is upbeat about their chances.

"A number of our athletes have chosen not to compete indoors but whilst we won't have the biggest team, we'll have a competitive team. I think the ones that do go will do really well," he added.

First competition out of training to jump like that I thought was fantastic. Phillips [Idowu] looked really, really sharp

Jonathan Edwards

Steph Twell is another to miss out with a broken ankle but Van Commenee revealed hopes were high for heptathlete Jess Ennis, who has been struggling with a niggling ankle injury, to take her place in Paris saying the likelihood of her competing was "much higher" than not.

If sprinting stuttered in Birmingham, British distance running looked in very healthy shape with Mo Farah breaking the European record for the 5,000m with a time of 13 minutes 10.60 seconds and strong performances from Jenny Meadows in the 800m and Helen Clitheroe in the 3,000m.

"Mo couldn't be in a better place," Van Commenee said.

Former GB distance runner and BBC commentator Steve Cram also applauded Farah's performance: "It's a sign of how far he's come - 13:10 minutes indoors, that's something he would have struggled to do outdoors before last year. He's a great competitor.

"[USA distance runner] Gael [Rupp] and Mo are the spearhead of taking on the Kenyans. They are the head of the non-Kenyan and Ethiopian dominance."

Double-European champion Mo Farah

Farah breaks record in stunning victory

Farah, 27, has recently decided to move to the USA to train with new coach Alberto Salazar to enhance his Olympic ambitions. "Alberto is someone who I have always seen as a great coach and looked up to. He's coached many of the great athletes, he was a great athlete himself," Farah said.

"Last year was a great year for me but if I'm ever going to get close to a medal in a world championships or Olympics in 2012 something needed to change a little bit."

Cram said British distance running is looking promising generally.

"Jenny [Meadows] is in good shape. She's going to have a tough battle at the Europeans with the Russians. Helen [Clitheroe] is the fastest in Europe this year over 3000m, so a lot of our experienced distance people are in good form," he said.

Van Commenee said Farah, Meadows and Phillips Idowu, who produced a final leap of 17.57 metres on his home Birmingham turf to defeat old rival Christian Olsson, were three "outstanding" performances, but added:

"I was also pleased with Nigel Levine and the other 400m athletes. It's quite promising for the 4x400m in Paris, although the opposition there is very strong. Helen Clitheroe and Lawrence Clarke [60m hurdles] ran personal bests so altogether we've had many days in British history not as good as Saturday."

Jenny Meadows
Jenny Meadows was one of the strongest performers in Birmingham

While Idowu looked impressive, he has chosen not to compete in Paris, and instead 21-year-old Frenchman Teddy Tamgho will be favourite for gold, having extended his own world indoor triple jump record to 17.91 metres on Sunday at a meeting in France.

But former GB triple jumper Jonathan Edwards now believes Idowu can go on to more success: "First competition out of training to jump like that I thought was fantastic.

"He looked really, really sharp and he's got a lot of confidence now. He's desperate as an East End boy to do well in 2012 and he's going to be tough to beat."

Cram also singled out Idowu for praise: "Phillips in the field was fantastic. He's not going to the Europeans but he's got a big two years. He's doing exactly the right thing, picking his competitions. He's well on track to having a good summer and carrying that on into 2012."

In the absence of Lewis-Francis and Aikines-Aryeetey, the onus may now fall on Joel Fearon and Craig Pickering to fly the flag for British men's sprinting, although both failed to impress in the 60m at the weekend finishing seventh and eighth respectively.

There will be full coverage of the European Athletics Championships on BBC TV, Red Button, 5 Live and online.

see also
Injuries hit Brits in Birmingham
19 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Farah & Idowu shine in Birmingham
19 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Farah changes coach for Olympics
18 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Ennis out of Birmingham meeting
16 Feb 11 |  Athletics
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics

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