Berlin medal chances look as bleak as the British summer
AND so all roads lead from Rome towards Berlin, admittedly via a no-frills flight out of Stansted.
FLYING THE FLAG: Christine Ohuruogu has seen her preparations for Berlin stalled by niggling injuries (Getty Images)
However, unlike our swimming team, when it comes to British track and field success, it's wise to travel more in hope than expectation.
To his credit UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee is doing his best to set an exacting standard, targeting five medals - the same amount won two years ago in Osaka.
But either he's blinded by optimism or he's playing a very clever but potentially embarrassing mind game with a team whose injury-ravaged bodies appear as fragile as their confidence.
When the World Championships last visited Germany, Stuttgart playing host in 1993, it was a week that set the golden standard for British athletics.
One year after the Barcelona Olympics and Linford Christie and Sally Gunnell both added the world titles to their resume while Colin Jackson ran an incredible 12.91 seconds to claim the 110m hurdles gold.
John Regis and Tony Jarrett both won silvers and then joined Christie and Jackson to also finish second in the sprint relay.
There was also success in field events - Steve Smith, Jonathan Edwards and Mick Hill winning bronze in the high jump, triple jump and javelin respectively, while the women's 4x400m quartet also came third.
SHINING STAR: Great Britain's Jess Ennis is ranked first in the world in heptathlon this season (Getty Images)
How times have changed.
Only one member of the almost 60-strong British team is currently ranked in the world's top three for their event - hepathlete Jess Ennis set a world leading 6587 points score earlier this season.
In addition, reigning world and Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu is having a year to forget.
Niggling injuries haven't helped and her season's best ranks her only 25th in the world, while triple jumper Phillips Idowu, an Olympic silver medallist, is placed fifth.
Dwain Chambers might have impressed at the European Indoor Championships but his 'Project Bolt' ambition remains a wishful fantasy that he'd be wise to forget for fear of further embarrassment.
Mo Farah, another to star in Turin, remains the best European in a 5000m event dominated by Kenya and Ethiopia.
Kate Dennison may have broken the national pole vault record for fun this summer but her 4.58 metre personal best may not be good enough to make the final at the Olympic Stadium.
Some Beijing finalists have even failed to make the squad - high jumpers Tom Parsons and Martyn Bernard missing out while Jeanette Kwakye, sixth in the women's 100m at the Bird's Nest, only travels as part of the relay team.
In addition to Ohuruogu's well-publicised problems, there are fitness concerns for world 400m silver medallist Nicola Sanders, 1500m hope Lisa Dobriskey and javelin thrower Goldie Sayers - the latter two both fourth in Beijing but, on the evidence of this season, not favourites for an upgrade.
DOUBT: Paula Radcliffe won the world marathon title four years ago but remains a major doubt for Berlin (Getty Images)
In the endurance events, Britain barely musters a team - in itself a tragedy worthier of lengthier comment.
They've entered no-one in the men's 10,000m or the women's 5,000m and 10,000m. And if Radcliffe fails to make the startline, there won't be a single British vest in the marathons.
Eight years ago, one year after Sydney, Great Britain mustered just two medals at the World Championships in Edmonton - their worst-ever return in the 11 editions of the event.
It's hard to see where Van Commenee's nap hand is coming from, other than a reliance of relays and praying for some good fortune.
The 2012 countdown is ticking louder and louder and it should be deafening for the man charged with reviving British athletics fortunes.
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