The “elusive” Phillips Idowu, carrying the Olympic torch through London, 21.7.12
If Team GB head coach Charles van Commenee is to be believed, no athlete at the Games is in a worse state of physical preparation than Phillips Idowu. Van Commenee has given repeated press conferences complaining that Idowu does not want to speak to him. (Here’s a clue, Charles, if you go to the press criticising one of your top athletes, maybe the athlete won’t be minded to return your calls…).
Van Commenee has threatened to compel Idowu to attend a fitness test, the implied threat being that if he didn’t attend he would not be allowed to compete at the Games. (So poor was van Commenee’s performance in front of the cameras that UK Athletics chief executive Niels de Vos was then required to do a further set of interviews explaining what his boss had meant to say – which was rather different from what he did say). Idowu, to his considerable credit, has simply ignored the Dutchman, successfully calling his bluff.
How did it get to this? Idowu, who was the silver medallist at Beijing 2008, suffered injuries in 2011 and has been suffering them again in 2012. In 2011, to deal with the possibility of having to compete with insufficient preparation, Idowu’s coach Aston Moore (whose salary, as van Commenee points out, is paid for by Team GB), encouraged him to practice on a regime which would see him jumping just once outdoor all year (Idowu’s first meeting of the year duly saw him jump 17.57m, the longest jump in the world to that point).
This year Idowu declined to attend Team GB’s training camp in Portugal (the crime which Van Commenee will not forgive) and has pulled out of three of the six meetings he had planned to attend – most recently, in mid-July, because he was suffering hip tightness. Idowu is 33, this is his fourth Olympic Games, and he knows his body well enough to err on the side of caution rather than to compete just to keep the press on board. He doesn’t need a non-athlete like Van Commenee to sanction his decisions.
Where’s Phillips? In London, making his final preparations for the Games.