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Hannah England Aviva Grand Prix 2012
16 February 2012

Birmingham-based World silver medallist Hannah England today welcomed some of the USA and Jamaica’s leading athletes to the city she calls home ahead of this Saturday’s Aviva Grand Prix at the National Indoor Arena.

England will be one of the stars of the show as a world-class line-up of athletes take to the track on Saturday in the biggest annual indoor athletics event on the planet.

With both the US and Jamaican athletics squads basing themselves in Birmingham this July ahead of the Olympic Games, Hannah met American sprint duo Danielle Carruthers and Bianca Knight, as well as Jamaican speedster Michael Frater and spoke of her excitement at racing against the world’s best at home this Saturday.

England said: “I’m so excited to race in front of a home crowd this weekend. I do a lot of my training right in the city centre here and I run past the NIA every other day.

“I feel like all year I’m waiting for this event and the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix in August so that I can show everyone what our sport is all about. I’ve got a lot of friends from university and some family who are coming along so it should be really fun.”

Racing in her favoured 1500m event on Saturday, the 24-year-old will go head-to-head with Ethiopian threat Genzebe Dibaba, with fellow Brit Claire Gibson also lining up against her.

England recently competed in the unfamiliar 3000m at the Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships last weekend, scooping her first indoor national title in the process, and the Oxford athlete admits the contest in Sheffield has left her confident in the showdown ahead.

She added: “I’ve done two indoor races and they’ve both gone really well but my coach yesterday called them my warm-up races and this the big one. It’s a really good quality race and Ian Stewart’s [UKA Meet Director and Head of Endurance] managed to put together a world-class field. It’s my last indoor race so I’m really going to give it my all.”

The Aviva Grand Prix will again host an array of the world’s best athletes on the NIA track this Saturday, with none more pleased than America’s Carruthers and Knight to be back in a city where they have enjoyed past success.

Furthermore, this July, the duo’s American athletics squad will base themselves at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium for a 10 day pre-Olympics training camp.

Carruthers, the World Championships 100m hurdles silver medallist and the athlete most likely to challenge World Champion Sally Pearson for Olympic gold, said: “I’m feeling good and it’s great to be back in Birmingham. I’ve finally got a full week of training in so I’m feeling fresh and ready.

“I’m really hoping to win this Saturday. The time is irrelevant - I just want to be aggressive and execute so if it’s a tight race, I want to out-execute everybody else.”

Her American compatriot Bianca Knight will compete in one of the most anticipated events of the meet on Saturday, the 60m sprint.

Racing against British hopefuls Jeanette Kwakye, Asha Philip and Laura Turner as well as the world’s fastest woman Tianna Madison, Knight is excited about her prospects: “I always enjoy coming back to Birmingham. I’m undefeated here – I won here indoor and outdoor last season so I really enjoy the city.

“The crowd is always very supportive of the athletes here in the UK and I know for sure that it’s going to be a great, great crowd and they’re going to be 100% getting behind all of the girls. I’m looking forward to it and it should be a nice competition with a lot of talented athletes.”

Also based in the UK’s ‘second city’ this summer ahead of London 2012 will be Jamaica’s Frater, who will stay on campus at the University of Birmingham with the Jamaican athletics squad for two weeks of Olympic preparation.

Frater, a 4x100m relay Olympic and World gold medallist, will be part of an incredibly strong line-up in the 60m sprint on Saturday that includes former 100m World Record holder Asafa Powell, fellow Jamaican Nesta Carter and World bronze medallist Kim Collins.

Frater, however, remains quietly confident: “I’m very excited about this Saturday. I’m really looking forward to running against the best, that’s what I’ve done my whole career. I’m using this as a base to test myself ahead of the outdoor season.

“I’ve competed here before and I’ve got wonderful memories of Birmingham. Last year I ran really well at the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix and I’m ready to go this weekend.”

Cheruiyot withdraws from Aviva Grand Prix due to illness

Meanwhile Kenyan star Vivian Cheruiyot, the world 5000 and 10,000m champion and Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, has had to withdraw from Saturday’s event after coming down with a bout of flu. Cheruiyot, a star at British events over the past few years, spoke of her disappointment at not being able to compete at the Aviva Grand Prix.

She said: “Sadly I have withdrawn from the Aviva Grand Prix on Saturday in Birmingham at the NIA. Just before I began my journey to the UK on Wednesday, I developed flu and do not feel well enough to travel. I need to take a few days off to recover so I can resume training as soon as possible in this important year.

“I was looking forward to the competition.  Training has been good in the past few months and I was looking forward to improving my Kenyan Indoor 3000m record.  The standard of athletes at the Aviva Grand Prix is very high and the sell-out crowd are really passionate supporters.  

“I have been competing in the UK meets every year since 2006.  UK events are some of the best in the world, I hope to come back to Birmingham to race in the outdoor season. Until then, I have my sights firmly set on the Olympics in London less than six months away. I wish all my competitors a great meet on Saturday.”

The stellar line-up of athletes competing at the Aviva Grand Prix on Saturday include Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Asafa Powell, Holly Bleasdale, Liu Xiang, Dayron Robles, Hannah England, Kim Collins, Mark Lewis-Francis and Helen Clitheroe. 

The Aviva Grand Prix will be at the NIA in Birmingham on 18 February. Tickets are now sold out; for further event information go to uka.org.uk/aviva-series. The Aviva Grand Prix will be shown live on BBC 1 from 1pm.