After a GB gold rush on day six of the London 2012 Olympics which featured three gold and three silver medals in sports including cycling, shooting, canoeing and judo, heads now turn to the start of the athletics competition. Hopes for the British athletics team are higher than ever after taking seven medals at the 2011 World championships, including golds for Dai Greene and Mo Farah. With the home support the Brits will be hoping for even more success in the coming ten days.
In Beijing four years ago Team GB took four medals which included gold for Christine Ohuruogu in the women's 400 metres. Athletics coach Charles van Commenee hopes to comfortably exceed that and has set his team a target of eight medals and at least one gold. This is one more medal than the seven he targeted in Daegu last year. He is confident in his athletes as their big moment starts tomorrow in the Olympic Stadium: “We have been off the radar for a long time and now we’re back at a home Games. If these athletes do not make the nation proud, then I think it will not great for the future because it does not look much better than this.”
As well as Farah and Greene the home nation have other gold medal hopes competing in the Olympic's show-piece sport. Jessica Ennis has become the golden girl of British sport over the last few years after an impressive run of performances including heptathlon victory in the 2009 World Championships. She went on to win the European title the following year and is also the British record holder and the best in the world this year. The pressure of expectation will weigh heavily on her shoulders but she has improved significantly recently in her weaker events; the javelin and long jump. She set a personal best of 6,906 points in May which included personal bests in 200m, long jump and javelin. Russia's Tatyana Chernova, the woman who beat Ennis in Daegu, will most likely be Ennis's main competitor but has failed to improve on the personal best of 6,880 that she set in those championships.
Welshman Dai Greene will be hoping to add Olympic gold to his world title over 400 metre hurdles but will face tough competition from Puerta Rico's Javier Culson. Culson has a personal best of 47.72 but came close to that in July with 47.78. Greene has a best time of 47.84 which he also set in July and will be hoping to defeat his rival in front of his home crowd. Fellow 2011 victor Farah will be going for a golden double on the track as he competes in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres. The 5,000 metre world champion could possibly take an unprecedented two golds over the longest distances on the track as he also took 10,000 metre silver in Daegu. On that occasion he was narrowly beaten in his favoured event by Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan.
Team GB will have plenty of other medal chances in the Olympic Stadium including defending 400 metre champion Ohuruogu and 2009 triple jump world champion Phillips Idowu. Idowu also won silver in Bejing and Daegu. Controversy has over-shadowed his preparation after a fall-out with van Commenee and his personal coach Aston Moore. After refusing to join Team GB and Moore on their training camp in Portugal the BOA requested his medical records to make sure that he was fit as he is struggling with a trapped nerve. Van Commenee has no idea what the tripe jumper is doing but is sure that he will be fit and ready for the Games: "All information we have about Phillips is now coming from the BOA. That information is that he's fit and ready to go. He had to hand in medical information. Therefore Phillips Idowu is fit to compete and probably in great shape, because that's the sort of athlete he is. I'm sure he'll be a medal contender."