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BRITISH SPRINT DUO TO LAUNCH 2012 CAMPAIGNS WITH AVIVA SERIES TEST

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Mark Lewis Francis
Mark Lewis Francis won gold at the 2011 Aviva International Match in Glasgow

18 January 2012

Mark Lewis-Francis and Simeon Williamson will line up against world class sprint powerhouses Asafa Powell and Kim Collins in the Aviva Series 2012, offering fans a sneak preview of this summer’s track action at the London Olympic Games.

Lewis-Francis will line up in the hotly contested 60m sprint at both the Aviva International Match in Glasgow on 28 January and the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham on 18 February, while Williamson will join the high calibre 60m field at the final meet of the UK indoor season at the NIA.

Twenty-nine-year-old Lewis-Francis sustained an agonising hamstring injury at last February’s Aviva Grand Prix, which derailed his 2011 international campaign, but he is determined not to dwell on the disappointment and will instead look to commence his Olympic year on the right note.

He said: “I’m feeling positive about the year ahead. I had a good year in 2010, winning silver medals in the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games, but injury held me back in 2011.  I hope 2012 will be another good year and free of injury. In sport you never know what’s going to happen next, so I’m feeling excited about what’s to come.

“I really want to get in some good performances in the indoor season and make sure I start the year right. I’ve had a good winter and I’m ready to race. If I can get some good results under my belt I’ll take a lot of confidence from that.

“I’ve competed at the Aviva International Match and the Aviva Grand Prix before and they’re two very different meets but both are really important to me this year. The Glasgow meet will be the first time most athletes compete in 2012 so it’s going to give us a good indication of where everyone’s at after the winter. I won the race last year and I want to do the same again in 2012.”

At the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 Lewis-Francis rose to national acclaim when he out-sprinted the USA’s Maurice Greene in the anchor leg of the 4x100m relay to win gold for Great Britain.

This winter he will take on two stalwarts of the international sprint circuit in Kim Collins, a dual bronze medallist at last year’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, and Asafa Powell, the former World Record holder over 100m, who will make his UK indoor debut.

“Racing a world class field on my home track in Birmingham is going to be a real test but that’s exactly what I need before the World Indoors. It’s great to have strong competition from both international athletes and the top British sprinters and it’s going to be a great race.

“Hopefully with the home crowd on my side I can get on the podium and start the year on a high.”

Twenty-six-year-old Williamson, once touted as Britain’s best hope for a sprint medal at this year’s Olympic Games by track king Usain Bolt, will return to competition at the NIA next month intent on a strong performance to kick-start his Olympic year.

“I’m raring to go this year, I had knee surgery which caused me to miss the 2010 season and most of 2011 but I’m fit and healthy now and I can’t wait to get out there,” he said.

“The indoor season is really important to my development this year, it’s been a while since I’ve really been out on the racing circuit but now that it’s 2012 I want to be in top form and that’s only going to come from getting out there and racing. I want to succeed in 2012, I want to do well at the Olympics but I’m not really one for talking, I just want to get out there and show that I can do it with my performances on the track.”

Williamson, who took victory at the Aviva Grand Prix in 2009, and whose resume also boasts second and third place results in 2008 and 2007 respectively, will return to the NIA next month intent on another podium finish.

He said: “I’m looking forward to competing at the Aviva Grand Prix, the crowd is always really enthusiastic and that makes a big difference. I’m pumped to get out on the track, I’ve been training with Asafa in Jamaica and I’m looking forward to racing him. Hopefully I can pull out a great performance.”

Lewis-Francis will be joined in Glasgow by a host of British stars in the Aviva GB & NI Team’s final outing on home soil ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games, including 5000m World Champion Mo Farah, World Championships 1500m silver medallist Hannah England and World Championships 110m hurdles bronze medallist Andy Turner, whileFarah, Powell and 800m star Jenny Meadows will headline the action in Birmingham.

Both Kelvin Hall and the NIA will host capacity crowds as Britain – and the world – gears up for the 2012 Olympic Games, now just over six months away.

The sold-out Aviva International Match will be at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow on 28 January and shown live on BBC 1 from 1:30pm.

The sold-out Aviva Grand Prix will be at the NIA in Birmingham on 18 February and shown live on BBC 1 from 1:30pm.

For more information on both events visit uka.org.uk/aviva-series.