Charles Van Commenee

Charles Van Commenee

On the 1st January 2009 Charles became the man in charge of performance for the entire UK Athletics team. He now offers organisations the chance share in over 30 years coaching experience and benefit from his outstanding record in getting the best out of individuals and teams.

Just 18 months into this demanding role, Charles steered the British Athletics Team to its most successful European Championships with 19 medals at the Barcelona Games. Charles’ main focus is to ensure this success continues as he leads the team to the London 2012 Games.


Whether your event requires a motivating speech or an insightful Q & A session Charles adds value by inspiring audiences to perform at a higher level and achieve more. Charles believes in “clarity in all communications and clearly defined goals with measurable outcomes.”

 He started his professional career as a technical director and national coach for the Netherlands and moved to take up similar roles for the British athletics team in 2001. Additionally, he has personally coached athletes of various nationalities to international medals, including Denise Lewis, Kelly Sotherton and Huang Zhihong.

Charles first became involved in coaching at the age of eighteen; he began teaching children while studying for a degree in physical education. After completing his military service in 1981 he dedicated himself to coaching full time and in 1987 he was appointed as the coach for the Dutch javelin team.

Building upon this coaching success, in 1992 he was promoted to technical director of combined events and throws by the Dutch athletics federation. He took on other coaching responsibilities, including shot-put thrower Huang Zhihong, a double world champion, Charles felt that he was as much a mentor for Huang as he was a coach. She had moved away from home to attend a sports institute at the age of twelve and had not experienced life outside of the centre. Van Commenee had helped her adapt to living on her own and supporting herself in the western world, at the same time as he helped her to a World Championship medal.

In 1994 Charles started working with heptathlete Denise Lewis. Impressed with his work, she moved to Amsterdam to train with Van Commenee in 1997. Lewis went on become champion at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships in 1998 and won silver at the 1999 World Championships. At the 2000 Sydney Games and after 6 successful years and despite the fact that she was injured she took gold to become Olympic Champion. She put much of her success and ‘drive to win’ down to the fact that Van Commenee had been so focused.

Following his success with Lewis, in 2001 he was appointed by UK Athletics as the technical director for the jumps and combined events. As director he took on responsibilities for British athletes including Dean Macey, Ashia Hansen and Jonathan Edwards, though they all retained personal coaches.

In 2003 Kelly Sotherton joined his training group. Ranked 57th in the world for the heptathlon, she went onto to win the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics Charles was unhappy with Kelly feeling she could have won the silver. However Kelly went onto say “People have to remember that Charles was the one who got me in the position to be an Olympic medalist... I don't think any other coach could have got me to where he did."

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing Charles was as Chef de Mission in charge of the Dutch Olympic Team, a delegation of more than 400 people. In that capacity he not only had to deal with performance issues but also with issues in the area of human rights, representation, media, commercial interest of the Olympic sponsors.