Dean Macey’s Norfolk visit
Home advantage could be a double-edged sword for Great Britain's athletes when they compete in front of 80,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium next summer.
That is the view of Dean Macey, the nation's top decathlete for a decade, who finished an agonising fourth in his event at the Games in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.
London 2012 has come just a little too late for the 33-year-old former world championship silver medallist and Commonwealth champion, who retired from athletics three years ago, but he does not believe performing before his home crowd would have given him a better chance of a medal.
'It can do one of two things. It can give you that added little extra 10pc. For me it never did,' said Macey.
'If you said to me 'This is for an Olympic medal' I could run with one person watching me or 101,000 people watching me, it wouldn't matter. It was the fact that it was the Olympics that meant so much to me.
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'Whether I was in London, Sydney or Athens, for me it wouldn't have made much difference because it was always going to be that performance.
'I could never have squeezed out one single point more because I over-performed every single time I was there but for some people, it might just get an extra 10pc out of them. Other people might lose 10pc because they try too hard.'
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Macey believes the IAAF World Championships currently being held in Daegu, South Korea, should have pushed thoughts of the Olympics into the background for British athletes until now.
'It's their last chance to prepare, to practise, to peak for a big event and so if they get that right, they should know 100pc what they're going to be doing in 2012 as long as they make the team,' he said.
'And because of that, they should have a routine so that, regardless of whether they're home or away, whether they've got 101,000 cheering for them or cheering for everyone else, it shouldn't make much of a difference.
'The fact that it is in London means every GB athlete is going to be competing in front of the biggest home crowd they're ever going to see. I think when they get announced, that's when they will get goosebumps.
'It's going to make them feel a million dollars when they actually get called up to the line because they will remember that moment, whether they win or lose, for the rest of their lives. But I don't know whether it's going to make a difference to their performance.'
Britain achieved a post-war best of 19 Olympic gold medals in Beijing in 2008, but only one in athletics – Christine Ohuruogu in the 400 metres – and Macey believes it will be as tough as ever next year.
'We will win medals in a few events,' he said. 'It's such a fine line in top-class competition whether you're going to win gold. I came fourth in Sydney in what I believe was the highest-scoring decathlon in Olympic history. There were 74 points between me and the gold medal, there were three people ahead of me.
'I scored a personal best, I did the best I could possibly do and it still wasn't good enough. If anyone is going to find that extra one per cent they have half a chance, but we all know who are going to be the potential medallists.
'It's not going to change. We're not going to find anyone come through in the next 12 months and win a surprise gold medal for Britain. The guys who have been around for the last two years are the guys that we're banking on. Whether they win a gold medal or not, I don't know.
'Even Jessica Ennis, who has to be probably the biggest dead cert – and I say that very loosely because there are no dead certs in athletics – you can't guarantee is going to win a gold medal.
'She has every single ability, she has the talent, she has the mental focus, she has everything it needs to take a gold medal but whether somebody's going to come through, whether any of those girls are going to pip her on the line, I can't tell.
'You can never tell what's going to happen but we've got a good chance of having the best Olympics, results wise, that we've ever had, purely because British athletics at the moment is in a really good place and over the last couple of years, the results at the major championships speak for themselves.
'I think what the British public wants to see now is sprinters start to make finals, in the blue riband events, the 100 metres and the 200. They want to see people competing with the Jamaicans and the Americans. If I'm absolutely honest, I can't see that happening in the next 12 months. But then we've got the relays and we are a good relay team.'
Macey, from Canvey Island, was visiting Norfolk as a guest at Langley School sports day. Since retiring from athletics, he has competed in bobsleigh, presented a TV angling programme, run athletics master classes and worked in broadcasting, which could offer him his best hope of a place at London 2012.
He said: 'I've got some good gigs this year with various different TV companies. Whether I get a gig at the big one I don't know. I'd love to, but if not, I'll be watching it.
'I didn't get any tickets. I'm not sore about that at all – and I mean that – but the fact is it's going to be awesome. The fact that I've been to two Olympic Games, and two of the best in my opinion, means that London has a lot to live up to, but I'm sure it will.'
Macey will get his first close-up look at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford in October. 'I have a couple of gigs, corporate sort of stuff, so that will be the very first time I've seen it,' he said.
'If I'm honest, I like to see stuff when it's built because I'm really bad when it comes to imagination. If I had gone down there two years ago when it wasn't built, I would have been pulling my hair out thinking it's never going to be ready but from now on, if anyone goes down there, you can't help but be impressed.'
Macey is confident the Games will provide a lasting legacy, especially in British athletics.
'It won't come and go. The wake from the Olympics, the waves that will be left rippling around, not just in England or the United Kingdom but around Europe, will be magnificent and I think a couple of years after that it will certainly still be buzzing,' he said.
'After 2012 you've got the 2013 World Championships in Moscow but there will still be an awful lot of buzz from the Olympics in this country and I think it will inspire kids to pursue a career in athletics. I think the wake will continue well after 2012.'
He just wishes he was still able to compete.
'I retired in 2008 and I miss it every day,' he said. 'I still train and I've got a great job at the moment. I do various different things in my life which I'm very fortunate to do, but I would drop every single one of them in a heartbeat not just to go to 2012 but just to be a professional athlete again because I loved it.
'It was everything I wanted to be and it broke my heart when I retired. I'll probably feel like that for an awfully long time to come but it just shows how much it meant to me.'