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UK Athletics

NU Birmingham Grand Prix Preview

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15 February 2008

For results from Saturday's event, follow the link to Norwich Union Grand Prix


The National Indoor Arena proved once more to be the stage of a sizzling afternoon’s athletics for the Norwich Union Grand Prix.


Highlights Included:


There was an immensely impressive 800m win by the ever improving Jenny Meadows (Wigan) as she pushed on to outsprint Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet), and fast finishing Jemma Simpson (Newquay) in a season’s best of 2.00.74. With Okoro clocking a season’s best and Simpson and Susan Scott taking PBs, it was a successful race all round for the GB contingent.


Meadows said: “My confidence is now at an all time high after giving up my job and training full time. It’s made such a big difference in everything I do and the team around me are making sure I’m in the best shape.”


Simeon Williamson was top of the home grown talent in the 60m with a PB that gave him second place in a high standard competition. His 6.57 was the lead performance in a race where four out of the five British finallists also ran PBs; Rikki Fifton (Victoria Park), Harry Aikines Aryeetey (Belgrave) and Leevan Yearwood (Shaftesbury Barnet) all taking chunks off their previous fastest times. Winner Jaysuma Ndure (Nor) took the first prize with 6.56.


Talking of his hopes for the final World Indoor spot, Williamson (Highgate H) said: “It was a PB and that’s all I can do at the moment. I only hope I have done enough.”


In the lesser-run women’s 200m, Christine Ohuruogu (Newham & Essex) stepped down in distance (following a 60m warm up) to face UK Champion Joice Maduaka (Woodford Green EL). After a slow start, Ohuruogu’s strength started to show through as she made up ground on the field over the final 75m, but Maduaka’s class held on to set yet another indoor PB and make it a GB 1-2.


Kenenisa Bekele lived up to his pre-event billing with another world record at the NIA over the two mile distance. His 8.04.35 was another impressive clocking , although the close challenge of Paul Koech helped push him to the record.


Amongst the British Challenge, Mo Farah (Newham & Essex) worked from a conservative start to finish strongly in 8.20.95 in sixth position ahead of fellow brit Nick McCormick (Morpeth Harriers).


Farah said: “I needed to run today to see where I am. I still need to do some work, I did not have an indoor season in mind but running here has helped.”


Allan Scott (Shaftesbury) gave American David Oliver a run for his money, by pressing him  closely for the 60m hurdles win, Oliver setting a PB to beat his Scottish rival. Scott ran 7.59 in second spot to lead in fellow Brits Andy Turner, Dave Hughes and Richard Alleyne.


Michael East (Newham & Essex) continued his impressive comeback from long term injury layoff with 5th place in the men’s 1500m, but more importantly a season’s best of 3.39.42 to confirm he is capable of getting back to his best. The race was won by Bernard Lagat in 3.35.23.


East said: “I have had two major knee operations, so to get back to this standard is great.


Philips Idowu (Belgrave H) led from start to finish in the men’s triple jump once again performing consistently well over 17m. His first round leap of 17.21 was enough to take victory with the second best jump by Dimitrij Valukevic a massive 62cm behind him.


Other key GB performances:


In the women’s three event challenge Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield H) recovered from third place in the opening event of the long jump to dominate the 60m hurdles with a superb 8.17sec PB.  The 400m race proved the decider and Sotherton showed the type of form that made her a fringe part of the GB 4x400m squad before finally making her heptathlon breakthrough in 2004. Her astounding win in 52.47 was the fastest by a British athlete this year, but was only able to secure second place behind Carolina Kluft in the challenge event


Samson Oni recovered from a hesitant start to take second behind Stefan Holme in the high jump. Despite initially struggling to clear 2.19m, he continued through the heights to clear 2.26m and show why he was a worthy winner of the UK title in Sheffield last weekend.


Richard Buck (York) set a personal best in the elite 400m of 46.34 and Steve Green  (Newham & Essex) followed suit with a PB of 46.51 as the two were dragged around the fastest Indoor 400m in the world so far this year by race winner Tyler Christopher of Canada.


Jeanette Kwakye (Woodford Green EL) set a PB in the heat before finishing 3rd in the women’s 60m final. Her 7.16 heat clocking edging ever closer to the UK record of 7.13.


Sarah Claxton (Woodford Green EL) ran her own race to finish 3rd in the 60m hurdles against new World Indoor record holder Susanna Kallur. Her time of 8.07 marks a seasons best for Claxton who is improving race by race and could time her peak to coincide with next month’s World Indoor championships.


The women’s 3000m saw Lisa Dobriskey (Ashford) finish third in 8.50.42 and pull GB colleagues Katrina Wootton (Bedford) and Helen Clitheroe (Preston) to a brace of PBs: 8.50.69 and 8.51.02. The race was won by Ethiopian Gelete Burka in 8.31.94


Steve Lewis (Newham & Essex) narrowly missed out on further improving his pole vault personal best with a 5.65m clearance to finish equal second in a quality line up.


Damien Moss (Rugby & Nothampton) looked impressive in the UKA 800m as he finished 3rd and set a personal best of 1.47.32.


The afternoon’s opening race of the UK 400m saw the first three athletes led by Nick Leavey (Thames VH) set personal bests to put themselves in the frame of World Indoor relay team selection.