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WORLD JUNIORS PREVIEW

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Sophie Hitchon

17 July 2010

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team is confident going into this week’s IAAF World Junior Championships (Moncton, Canada, 19-25 July) in the knowledge that it’s one of the country’s strongest squads in over two decades.

With nine athletes currently ranked inside the top eight in the world and five in podium positions across six events, there is good reason to be optimistic, but team members must not lose their focus, says women’s captain and UK junior hammer record holder Sophie Hitchon (coach: Derek Evely), one of the more experienced members of the team. “I obviously want to compete as well as I can and do myself justice, but I’m quite relaxed,” admits the European Junior bronze medallist. “From my experience I know to take each day as it comes and I’ve had to tell some of the other guys on the team to stay calm rather than get to far ahead of themselves.”

Hitchon, who has thrown consistently in excess of 63m in 2010, took victory against a strong field in the 17th Bauhaus Junioren Gala in Mannheim in early July and goes into Moncton ranked fourth, less than one metre behind world leader Yirisleydi Ford of Cuba with a best of 66.72m.

While she has, undoubtedly, genuine podium potential, the most realistic gold medal contenders are world junior top ranked trio Jodie Williams (coach: Mike McFarlane), Jack Meredith (coach: Donald Moss) and David Guest (coach: Michael Guest).

Decathlete Guest, the England Combined Events Champion, leads the global rankings courtesy of a 7727 PB achieved with the senior implements in June and is second only to double Olympic champion Daley Thompson in the All-Time list in that category.

Meredith, who has demonstrated impressive current form with victories in Mannheim and most recently the Aviva English Schools, is the UK junior record holder over 110mH with 13.32 - a mark he’s now improved on two occasions in 2010 - following a brilliant victory at the Samsung Diamond League under-20 event in Oslo. He’ll represent the team in the official IAAF Press Conference this Monday (19 July), just prior to the opening ceremony.

Having kept a low profile in recent weeks following a sprint double in the Aviva England Under-20 Championships and victory in Mannheim, World Youth champion Jodie Williams is now totally focused on her tough competition schedule which could potentially see her compete at least once daily from Tuesday 20 through to Saturday 24 July.

Currently ranked number one in the world over 200m (22.79) and UK junior record holder and world number three over 100m (11.24) - second going into Moncton in the absence of world number one Octavious Freeman (USA) - she has dominated the domestic sprint scene in incredible fashion in 2010 and will want to extend that domination to a global level this week.

Further demonstrating the strength in the junior ranks, Lawrence Okoye (coach: John Hillier) in the discus and Holly Bleasdale (coach: Julien Raffalli-Ebezant) in the pole vault are also ranked in podium positions and are both realistic medal contenders.

Okoye, who recorded a mark of 63.92m to win the Aviva England under-20 title and go second on the UK All-Time list (under-20), finished second in Mannheim - his only defeat in 2010 to date - before returning to winning form with victory in the Aviva English Schools a week ago, while UK junior record holder Bleasdale, who is likely to line up in a field missing the world’s top two, is also a potential medallist if she can reproduce the form which saw her exceed her own UK under-20 pole vault mark with 4.35m to finish second in the Aviva European Trials and UK Senior Championships.

Kieran Showler-Davis (coach: John Davis) in the 200m and Niall Brooks (coach: Norman Poole) in the 800m have also moved into the world class category following recent lifetime best performances of 20.75 and 1:47.29 and are expected to be in the mix when they line up in Moncton; Brooks, seventh ranked in his 800m, underlined his high quality credentials with an impressive 3:38.62 for 1500m in the recent Aviva British Grand Prix, the fastest time by a UK junior in 31 years and a mark which places him second on the All-Time list.

As the team now prepares to move on to the competition venue following a successful holding camp at the University of Prince Edward Island, Ashley Bryant (coach: Ian Grant), the Aviva GB & NI men’s captain, says he's confident that the group preparation will reap competition benefits. “It's a fantastic venue and training has gone really well here. Training together has been great and has given us a real pre-competition vibe - we’re naturally stepping up a level and raising our game.”

Ranked tenth in world, the decathlete was proud to be asked to take the captain’s armband and believes his own performance will benefit from the company of team mate and world number one Guest. “Some of these athletes - and David has already done it to an extent - will go on to do well at senior level," he says. "With David, I’m just that little bit behind him at the minute but it’s nice to know we’re competing at a high level and we’re out here together, and hopefully I’ll not be too far behind. If I score a good PB I’ll be happy. I know I’m in great form and the group training situation out here has really pushed me on.”

The Aviva GB & NI team won five medals in the previous edition of the World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 2008 and will be aiming to exceed that total on this occasion. If the athletes deliver against their rankings coming into the event, a more realistic target might be the nine medals won in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 1990, the best recorded total since 1986.

Daily session reports will be posted throughout the week at www.uka.org.uk.