Sainsbury's Birmingham Grand Prix all set for Fireworks
Olympic and newly-crowned European champions Mo Farah (coach: Alberto Salazar) and Greg Rutherford (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) headline an all-star cast for Sunday's Sainsbury's Birmingham Grand Prix at the Alexander Stadium, which combines IAAF Diamond League and IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final action.
Lining up in front of a sell-out Birmingham crowd, Farah comes in fresh from completing his second European 5,000m/10,000m double in Zurich last week. He will run over two miles in Birmingham and comes up against fellow Briton Andy Vernon (Nic Bideau), who took silver and bronze behind Farah in the two races in Switzerland. Of his performances at the European Championships, double Olympic and world champion Farah said:
“I was so motivated and wanted to do it. I was so fired up after the 10k and I knew I had to do the double and make history. I’m very easily motivated; I love the sport and I love training so when I take time off I realise how much I miss it. That feeling drives me on.
“I think I’m at top of my game and I don’t know how long I’m going to stay there! But I’m in a good place and believe over the next couple of years I will continue to do well.”
Rutherford added the European long jump title to his Olympic and Commonwealth gold medals last week and on Sunday takes on Diamond race leader Jeff Henderson and reigning Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor. British rival Chris Tomlinson is also in the field.
“I've had a week off in the build-up to this to recharge my batteries a bit. That could work fantastically well or it could go the opposite way. But I'm really excited to be jumping here and looking to jump well. I've jumped well in Birmingham before so for me I'll be going out there to win as I do with every single competition I enter.”
Another European champion, Martyn Rooney (Rana Reider) is part of a high-class men's 400m, which includes the man he pipped to the gold in Zurich, rising star Matthew Hudson-Smith (Tony Hadley). But the man they all have to beat in Birmingham is the Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Kirani James of Grenada. On the prospect of racing against two of his idols, Hudson-Smith commented:
“Because I took a gap year I’ve just been watching Kirani on my computer. I’ve always watched their races and now I’m racing against them. It’ll be weird but it will be fun. I’m hoping I step up to the challenge.”
There's an exciting line-up in the women's 100m where three of Britain's record breaking 4x100m relay squad from the European Championships are up against a world-class field.
Jodie Williams (Christine Bowmaker) and Ashleigh Nelson (Michael Afilaka) took 200m silver and 100m bronze respectively before combing with Asha Philip (Christine Bowmaker) to take relay gold. They will face an impressive American trio at the Alexander Stadium, which includes four-times 2014 Diamond League winner Tori Bowie, Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter, world bronze medallist over 100m in Moscow last year.
The new women's European 400m hurdles champion, Scotland's Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold), has a chance to turn the tables on Glasgow 2014 champion Kaliese Spencer, who already has four Diamond League wins under her belt this season. Shona Richards (Marina Armstrong), Britain's world junior silver medallist is also in action, making her Diamond League debut.
And it's a similar story in the sprint hurdles where Britain's Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider), newly-crowned European champion, races Australia's Sally Pearson who denied Porter gold in Glasgow.
In the women's 800 metres, another of Britain's stars of the summer Lynsey Sharp (Rana Reider) goes up against the athlete who denied her Commonwealth gold in Glasgow, Kenya's world champion and Diamond race leader Eunice Sum. Sharp also has fellow Scot Laura Muir (Andy Young) and GB & NI team-mate Hannah England (Bud Baldaro) for company.
One of the highlights of the afternoon should be in the rarely-run 600m where Kenya's Olympic 800 metres champion and world record holder David Rudisha lines up against the new European 800m gold medallist Adam Kszczot from Poland and Scotland's Guy Learmonth (George Gandy), a finalist at the Commonwealth Games. Rudisha was excited for his debut over the distance, telling the media:
“This is going to be my first 600m so it will be quite difficult to judge the pace. I’m hoping for 47.0 at 400m and then I’ll push the last 200m and see how fast I can go. It’s going to be an exciting race as 600m is between the two races I like the most, 400m and 800m. I’m hoping it’s going to be very close to a world record. I’m targeting 1.12 so it will be close.”
There's a powerful field in the men's high jump with the new European and current world champion Bogdan Bondarenko looking to continue his brilliant run of recent form. The Ukrainian tops the Diamond race and will be challenged by Commonwealth champion Derek Drouin from Canada and world indoor champion Mutaz Essea Barshim of Qatar. GB & NI’s European finalist Chris Baker (Sharon Heveran) also lines up.
Valerie Adams is undoubtedly the queen of track and field, her unbeaten run stretching 54 competitions over four years and one day. She already has the Diamond League race sewn up, but wants to keep her unbeaten run going in tomorrow’s shot put competition, despite a long term shoulder problem that she’s been managing all year.
“My goals are to be unbeaten for as long as possible but my biggest goal is to go to Rio and be dominant there. I'm going to try and defend my title again but I know it is going to be tough. Every year you have to seek goals to aim towards but Rio is the ultimate.”
There's a strong British presence in the men's 100m, with European bronze medallist Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, world indoor 60m champion Richard Kilty (both Reider) and one of the finds of the season, sub-ten man Chijindu Ujah (Tawiah-Dodoo) taking on a field including the new Commonwealth Games champion Kemar Bailey-Cole.
Britain's world champion Christine Ohuruogu is one of four Britons in the women's 400m. Ohuruogu, who just missed out on a medal at the European Championships last week, is joined by British champion Kelly Massey (Stephen Ball) as well as American Natasha Hastings and Jamaican Shericka Williams.
Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg) will be looking to atone for the disappointment of his fall in the final of last week's 1500m at the European Championships with a strong performance in the Emsley Carr Mile. He faces a truly world class field which includes no fewer than six Kenyans, including world champion Asbel Kiprop, Diamond race leader Silas Kiplagat and 2011 Diamond League winner Nixon Chepseba. Also in the mix are Olympic 1500m silver medallist Leo Manzano and world silver medallist Matthew Centrowitz, both of the USA.
There's also a large Kenyan contingent in the men's 3,000m steeplechase including world silver medallist Conselsus Kipruto. European champion Yoann Kowal of France also lines-up, with GB & NI’s James Wilkinson (Phil Townsend) looking to build on his promising fifth place at Glasgow 2014.
Finally in the women’s two mile event, Genzebe Dibaba headlines a quality field, which also includes Glasgow 2014 winner Mercy Cherono and Britain's Emilia Gorecka (Mick Woods) and Laura Whittle (George Gandy).
The IPC Athletics Grand Prix final immediately follows the IAAF Diamond League action and headlining the fields will be newly crowned IPC European Champion Dan Greaves (Jim Edwards) after he broke the European record to take gold in Swansea on Friday. Once more, he’ll do battle with compatriot Aled Davies (Anthony Hughes) in the F42/44 discus, less than a month after the pair lined up at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Greaves (F44) took gold on that occasion, but Davies – the F42 world champion - has been in terrific form all year, smashing the 12-year-old world record with a throw of 48.69m at the IPC Grand Prix in Italy in May.
Greaves will also be relishing the chance to take on his F44 rival Jeremy Campbell, the man who has denied him gold at both the Paralympic Games and the IPC Athletics World Championships. American Campbell holds the F44 world record with 63.46m, but after his 62.34m throw in Swansea, Greaves has that mark firmly in his sights.
Other European champions in action will be triple European champion Sammi Kinghorn (Ian Mirfin) in the T53/54 1500m, double European champion Hannah Cockroft (Jenni Banks) in the T34 100m and women’s F44 long jump champion Stef Reid (Reider) who is in great form having broken the F44 world record twice this year, most recently at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix in July.
Unfortunately there will be no Jonnie Peacock (Steve Fudge) versus Richard Browne showdown in the T44 100m as the newly crowned European champion has had to follow David Weir and Libby Clegg in withdrawing from Sunday’s event. With Weir out with injury and Clegg succumbing to illness, Peacock was devastated to have to join them on the side-lines:
“I’m gutted to have to withdraw from the Sainsbury’s IPC Grand Prix Final tomorrow with a small injury. After winning European gold this week, I was really looking forward to putting a marker down against the likes of Richard Browne and the rest of the guys lining up in the 100m in Birmingham.
“Through training this week I've picked up a sore on my leg and have been advised by the medical team to rest. I know I’ve got to do what’s right for my body and it’s a big few years ahead for me, which is why I’ve had to make this difficult decision. I’m really sorry to all my fans, but I know it’s going to be a great show in front of a full house in one of the best athletics meets in the world.”