UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee to step down

 

Charles van Commenee is to step down as UK Athletics head coach after the team failed to meet his medal target at the 2012 Olympics in London.

UK Athletics says he will leave when his contract expires in December.

Dutchman Van Commenee, 54, set a target of at least eight medals at London 2012, including one gold, but the team fell two short.

In a statement, he said his job needed "new energy and approach" through to the World Championships in 2017.

UKA chief executive Niels de Vos said: "Charles has done an excellent job preparing British Athletics for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Who is Charles van Commenee?

Born : Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1958

2000 : Coaches GB's Denise Lewis to Olympic heptathlon gold

2001 : Becomes UK Athletics (UKA) multi-events & jumps performance director

2004 : Coaches GB's Kelly Sotherton to Olympic heptathlon bronze before criticising her for not winning silver

2004 : Becomes performance director for the Dutch Olympic committee & steers them to 12th in the 2008 Olympic medal table

2009 : Rejoins UKA as head coach

"There is no doubt Charles has helped to transform our culture and we can now look forward to further success under the leadership of a new team."

That new team will be announced at a press conference in Birmingham on Thursday.

Van Commenee added: "Niels and I have worked hard to implement accountability as it is vital to the culture of elite sport. My decision has the interests of British athletics at it's heart in sustaining this culture."

Van Commenee was appointed head coach in 2009, his second stint in British athletics, following a disappointing showing at the 2008 Games, in which the team fell short of their target and won just one gold medal.

With his direct and tough-talking manner, he was charged with reviving British athletics and ensuring athletes thrived at a home Games.

He had a proven track record, having coached Britain's 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis to gold in Sydney and heptathlete Kelly Sotherton to Olympic bronze in Athens in 2004.

Despite Britain failing to achieve his London 2012 target, Van Commenee guided the team to four gold medals and took fourth place in the track and field medals table, their best since 1964.

But there were disappointments, with 400m hurdles medal contender Dai Greene finishing outside the medals, as did Lisa Dobriskey in the 1500m. The 4x100m men's relay team was disqualified for a poor changeover.

Analysis

"I think he has done a fantastic job. Love him or hate him he has come in and was given a remit to change the mentality of British athletics, which he has done and it's disappointing for me to hear that he has decided to step down. Fair play to him because he asked his athletes to go out there and not rely on funding without achieving success. He gave them a target which they had to achieve at the Olympics, they didn't reach that target so now he has stepped down."

Some GB athletes have defended Van Commenee in the wake of London 2012, although he often cut an outspoken figure on the need for athletes to raise their expectations and goals.

This caused some public disagreements, most notably with leading triple jumper Philips Idowu, who demanded an apology from the head coach when he criticised the athlete's use of social media website Twitter in July last year. The pair have not spoken since.

For others, Van Commenee's leadership produced an environment for success and improvement, as Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford told BBC Radio 5 live.

"In the build-up, Charles did everything he could have done to get us where we needed to be," he said. "It's not just down to Charles, it's down to the athletes to perform."

Tasha Danvers, who won 400m hurdles bronze in Beijing, was positive on the legacy Van Commenee will leave behind.

"You've got to look at the results," she said. "He's been successful. We got one gold medal in Beijing and this time around, four."