Olympics: What next for British athletics?

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Farah seals second gold with 5,000m

In nine wonderful days of athletics at these London Olympics, we were stunned and elated by and

There were unforgettable runs, gravity-defying jumps and monstrous throws - faster, higher, stronger everywhere you looked.

With four gold medals, Great Britain's athletes produced a haul that had not been matched in 32 years, and not in 48 years at a non-boycott Games.

For many that will be enough. No more reason will be needed to declare these Olympics a success.

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Watch the moment Ennis secures a memorable heptathlon gold

GB's final tally of six track and field medals is its best since Seoul 1988, outstripping the minimum of five that United Kingdom Athletics required to guarantee its funding from UK Sport for the next four years.

There is one little issue. Charles van Commenee, head coach at UKA, had set a medal target of eight. He had also promised to resign if he failed to deliver on his promise.

Van Commenee, among other traits, is stubborn. So will he now walk away, even as the nation is still celebrating Farah's second gold, and how hard should the sport try to keep him?

"Knowing Charles he will be disappointed, because from what he said I think he had a good feeling about the athletes coming into these championships," says Denise Lewis, coached by Van Commenee to Olympic heptathlon gold in Sydney 12 years ago.

"He really had high expectations because of what they had shown, the attitude and factoring in the crowd's elevation. At the same time, who would change those four fantastic gold medals?"

Colin Jackson, former 100m hurdles world champion and record holder says: "Charles cannot walk away with four gold medals and be disappointed.

"It was a tremendous job done by those British athletes and I like the diversity of those medals that we won.

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Greg Rutherford becomes the first British man to claim long jump gold since Lynn 'the leap' Davies in 1964

"We expected Jessica Ennis to win, but you have still to go and deliver. Greg Rutherford was the big surprise for the majority of people - he had jumped further than anyone else in the world this year but for him to deliver was a tremendous performance."

There is another statistical method of gauging GB's performance.

Under the preferred points system used by athletics statisticians, where eight points are awarded for first place in a final, seven for second, six for third down to one for eighth, a tally can be produced that gives a more accurate indication of strength across the board.

Here in London, GB's tally was 82.5 (half points awarded for a shared place, like Steve Lewis's joint fifth in the pole vault).

Four years ago in Beijing the team totalled 72; in Athens, 69.5; in Sydney, 95. In Seoul '88, the corresponding total was 117.5.

Does this take any of the gloss off London's achievements?

"I think that Charles has done a fantastic job regardless of the medal count," says Michael Johnson, multiple Olympic gold medallist and now, like Lewis and Jackson, a BBC pundit.

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Farah powers to Olympic gold

"The mediocrity that UK Athletics has suffered over the last 10 years only changed when Charles got here.

"He has changed the culture and that is why they have won as many medals as they have. Whether they have reached the target really doesn't matter - I think he's done a phenomenal job."

Not everyone is convinced that Van Commenee is the key man, and not only because he is a head coach who doesn't actually coach any athletes.

One of his key strategies was to centralise British athletics around the performance centres at Lee Valley and Loughborough; Rutherford and 400m silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu both train at the latter. Rutherford is coached by Dan Pfaff, the legendary Canadian that Van Commenee persuaded out of semi-retirement.

At the same time, Ennis and Farah have very little contact with Van Commenee. They have their own coaching and support teams and their own geographical bases - Ennis in Sheffield with Toni Minichiello, Farah with American Alberto Salazar in Oregon.

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Hitchon sets new GB record in hammer

How much credit - or blame - should the Dutchman get for the successes of those two, or the disappointments from others?

On the day itself the athletes have to deliver," he said earlier this year. "There's nothing you can do about that, as a coach, as a system, as a federation."

Many did. British athletes produced 11 personal bests here in London, seven season's bests, two national records and one UK under-20 record.

Young stars who will be far closer to their peak in Rio in four years time served notice of their talent: Sophie Hitchon breaking the British record to make the hammer final, Andrew Osagie going fourth on the UK all-time list in the 800m final, Lawrence Clarke finishing a brilliant fourth in the 110m hurdles.

Laura Weightman, Steve Lewis, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and both Jo Pavey and Julia Bleasdale also exceeded expectations in hugely admirable fashion.

What of the others? Goldie Sayers and Andy Pozzi were unlucky to suffer injuries just before the biggest competition of their lives. Phillips Idowu's entire summer campaign went the same way, as did Paula Radcliffe's.

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Sanchez storms to 400m hurdles gold

Dai Greene may have finished outside the medals having been tipped as a possible champion. But even then he twice ran times that were faster than those he clocked in winning World 400m hurdles gold a year ago.

Britain is due to host the 2017 World Championships in this same stadium in Stratford that has witnessed such ferment this summer. Will Van Commenee be around to see it all, or even stick around beyond this year?

"He has been a success but I wonder if he wants to stay," says Johnson.

"I think he feels 'job done' and he's ready to move on to the next phase, which could be Brazil. You never know, but he has changed the culture. Even if he leaves you will see the results of that in years to come."

"I think he will go," admits Lewis. "Whoever comes in will have to stay for another five years, because whoever takes that job on really needs to stay until the Worlds in 2017. We wave him goodbye."

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