No fears over Gemili
Comic comments put Games pressures in perspective
Last Updated: June 26, 2012 10:16pm
Adam Gemili: Teenager will run in the London Olympics
UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee has laughed off concerns about teenage sprinter Adam Gemili competing in the London Olympics.
Gemili secured his place on the British team by finishing second in the trials on Saturday, but his coach Michael Afilaka claimed afterwards that the 18-year-old was "an emotional wreck" who might never recover from being thrown into the "cauldron" of the Olympics.
However, Van Commenee put such remarks in stark - and sometimes comic - perspective as he insisted "I didn't see an emotional wreck, I just saw a happy 18-year-old young man who is very level-headed.
"A lot of people in athletics make it sound as if they are living a hard life, as if they have to go to the coal mines in Azerbaijan every morning or maybe have to work for the Daily Mail every day. That's what I call tough. We are doing sport, something fun. Sometimes athletes and coaches forget that.
"A lot of people in athletics make it sound as if they are living a hard life, as if they have to go to the coal mines in Azerbaijan every morning or maybe have to work for the Daily Mail every day. That's what I call tough. We are doing sport, something fun. Sometimes athletes and coaches forget that."
Charles van Commenee Quotes of the week
"When we send an 18-year-old to the Games obviously we look after him, there are things in place so that UKA looks after the welfare of athletes. It's a duty, we do that always.
"We are going to the Games. It's fun, I've been there eight times. I laugh my ass off.
"We have a great support team and that's every day. It's 365 days a year. If someone melts down on Christmas I'm sure we have something in place. It's what we do."
The sprinter confirmed on Tuesday that he will compete in London, insisting his goal is to "not get beaten too badly," and Van Commenee believes the experience will stand him in good stead.
"He is a happy young man who is looking forward to being at the greatest sporting event in the world," the Dutchman added. "The world juniors (in Barcelona from July 10-15) has always been his main focus but one doesn't exclude the other.
"The world juniors was always important to him and you also have to learn how to win, or to medal. I would say any competition helps to build a better athlete. The (Olympic) trials is a good example. It was very useful for him to race there with seven big men next to him.
"Obviously he is talented but it takes more than only talent to become a star. The word talent is usually used in a physical sense. The difference will be the ability to overcome difficulties, making the right decisions, how injury-prone is he, will he make the sacrifices? It remains to be seen, but physically he has really good tools."
Fellow sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis famously turned down a relay place at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 to concentrate on the World Junior championships in Chile - where he won two gold medals - but Van Commenee believes athletes should take any opportunity that comes their way.
"Making the decision for an athlete of any age not to compete at the Olympic Games is a huge thing, a huge responsibility," he added.
"Thinking about Jodie Williams is a good example. She decided not to compete at the World Championships last year and is now not in a position to compete at the Olympics (after suffering a hamstring injury at the trials). That happens.
"My personal view is take the opportunity when it occurs, because you don't know what's happening tomorrow."