Darren’s latest Telegraph blog: Daegu dress rehearsal is Team GB’s last big test before 2012

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IAAF World Championships 2011: Daegu dress rehearsal is Team GB’s last big test before 2012
With less than week to go until the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea get under way, Olympic gold medallist Darren Campbell picks out some people and events to watch.

Head coach of UK Athletics, Charles van Commenee: He’s had his ups and down but it’s very difficult to say that Charles isn’t doing a good job. We saw with the performances at the European Championships in Barcelona that the athletes are taking on board his ways.

Love him or hate him, he’s managed to get the athletes concentrating on what’s important.

When you represent Great Britain the focus has to be on competing and making finals. We have traditionally been a strong force in athletics and maybe we’d lost our a way a bit, but the tough love that he’s introduced to the squad is paying off.

I’m sure Charles knows that a successful World Championships with lots of the athletes making finals and hopefully a good number of medals will give GB some momentum for next season which we know will be a massive one.

The Daegu dress rehearsal promises to be mouthwatering with some intriguing contests and plenty of opportunities for Team GB to do well.

Before the Aviva Grand Prix meeting at Crystal Palace earlier this month, I would have bet my house on Asafa Powell who has been the form sprinter, running a full tenth of a second faster than Bolt this season.

But he was forced to pull out with a groin injury so now things are up in the air again. We all know that in the major championships he’s been unable to keep his nerve, costing him not just the win but medal places too.

For the first time, though, he’s started to admit to that he’s been be a bit fragile in the big competitions. I believe the first step to him recovering his confidence is facing up to his limitations, so look for a major improvement in Korea.

If Asafa can get over his groin niggle injury and get his head right then he is definitely someone who can challenge Bolt (as far-fetched as that sounds) because for the first time in about four years Bolt himself is looking a little fragile.

He missed most of last season with a back problem which has affected him. From experience I know that when returning from injury the hardest thing to do is find consistency out of the blocks.

As we have seen so far this season, his starts have been shaky. He will have cut back on the heavy weightlifting needed to help with explosive power at the start of the race.

Bolt’s start isn’t the most important part of his race – we know once he’s up and running he’s phenomenal – but if he hasn’t got the rhythm that he would like in the first 30m it affects the last part of his race.

This is why we’re seeing tension in the last 60m. He doesn’t seem that comfortable. In the past we’ve been used to seeing him get out of the blocks at the same time as the other guys.

Bolt has had three weeks of training to iron out his problems and find to find that rhythm again. In the meantime Asafa Powell waits in the wings.

110m hurdles: This will be a three-way contest between Cuban world record holder Dayron Robles, China’s Lu Xiang and fastest hurdler this year, David Oliver of the USA. This promises to be a fantastic race. If the athletes are able to go in with no injuries than it’ll be between these three for sure.

Our own Andy Turner will find it difficult to compete but this is a unique event. Andy has to be focused on his own race. If he makes the final he has to believe he can get close to those guys and pick up any pieces if anyone drops off. This is hurdling. People can crash and fall over.

400m hurdles: This event could be a huge, huge indicator of where Dai Greene is headed. He has had a great season so far. On the Diamond League circuit he’ has managed to beat all of the big names and he’s been magnificent. It’s just a case of him holding his nerve and not changing anything.

Going into the UK trials he picked up a virus so I just hope he can shake that off, get some good training and push on. Confidence-wise I don’t think there’s a problem there.

He knows what it takes to win and he’s got a good team behind him lead by coach Malcolm Arnold who helped me early on in my career.

In the trials Dai ran in the 400m in order to test his endurance and flat speed. That was a great idea and just shows how meticulous his preparation has been.

I’ve felt for the last 18 months that Dai could be someone who could surprise everybody at the London Games, but who knows? He might peak a bit earlier in these championships and come home with gold. He will have done the work. It could be his time.

In the women’s event we have the brilliant Perri-Shakes Drayton who performed so well in the UK Championships and trials.

The extra work she had to put in to win those 400m and 400m hurdles finals will have been great preparation for Daegu. She had to work extremely hard and she can be confident that can win a medal.

400m: Unfortunately our boys aren’t really cutting it in this event, which is disappointing. You’ve got to give credit to Martyn Rooney though.

He entered the UK trials having only trained for a month and won the final so he fully deserves his place on the team. Realistically, he’ll do well to make the final given the little amount of preparation he’s had.

He has big-competition experience but has he got the endurance to get through the rounds? With the likes of LaShawn Merritt and 18-year-old Grenadan Kirani James in the field, I think probably not.

Mo Farah: At the moment we’re not sure if he’ll double up in the 5000m and 10000m, but he’s moved on after his European victories in Barcelona, moved to Portland, Oregon to train with Alberto Salazar, and become the world No1.

It has been truly fantastic to see him develop and be able to not only challenge, but to beat the competition.

At this moment in time he looks like he has all the tools to beat anybody in any circumstance and I for one can’t wait to see him run in front of his home crowd in London.

Victory in Daegu against the Kenyans and Ethiopians would certainly justify the sacrifices he’s made.

Long jump: we’re looking at two medallists in Greg Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson, two top British athletes who are going head-to-head and driving each other on to beat the best in the world. I think if they can get it right they’ll do well in Daegu.

Philips Idowu: He’ll be hugely, hugely disappointed if he doesn’t win the world champs, especially since his main rival, Frenchman Teddy Tamgo is missing through injury. He really does need to put recent controversies behind him and go and consolidate his number one status.

Tiffany Porter: has performed so well in the Diamond League. She’s a genuine medal prospect in the 100m hurdles.

Jenny Meadows: a fantastic athlete and a fantastic ambassador for the sport. This could finally be her time to win a gold medal in the 800m.

Relays: Difficult. We have to put the right athletes on the right legs. When runners are placed where they aren’t comfortable then there are problems.

A lot of the sprinters will be under pressure, especially since our luck with the baton has been missing recently in the bigger competitions.

Future funding often depends on how sprinters fare in the relay, so they will want to get this right and challenge the Americans and Jamaicans. Remember they have the potential to drop the baton too. Anything can happen.

Darren Campbell is an ambassador for Aviva, the No 1 sponsor of British athletes since 1999.


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