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NU Glasgow Grand Prix Preview

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Jason Gardener
Jason Gardener

Several British athletes hoping to make the plane for this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan will be in action in Sunday’s Norwich Union Glasgow Grand Prix at Scotstoun Stadium.


In Scotland, they could well be coming across some of their main opposition in the chase for finals places and medals come August.  This is the first of four televised Norwich Union meetings this summer and promises some superb action right across the programme.


In the men’s 200m, European bronze medallist Marlon Devonish renews rivalry against the man who took a golden double in the sprints at last year’s European Championships in Gothenburg, Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu.  Tim Abeyie and Christian Malcolm complete the home challenge.


Much anticipated is the women’s javelin with new British record-holder Goldie Sayers in the form of her life after her superb 65.05m effort in the recent Loughborough International.  Here she comes up against all three medallists from last year’s European Championships, led by gold medal winner Steffi Nerius of Germany.


Goldie finished 12th in that particular final, but under the tutelage of new coach Mark Roberson, she is a whole different prospect and will be hoping to continue her fine form.


Also in the field, GB & NI youngster Martyn Bernard will be severely tested in the men’s high jump, where he will face up to modern legend, Olympic champion Stefan Holm of Sweden. He is unlikely to be fazed by the big occasion though, as he proved when winning bronze in March’s European Indoor Championships in Birmingham.


The men’s 1500m gathers a strong international field including current World no1 Augustine Choge of Kenya.  Andy Baddeley will lead the British challenge.  Returning to track action after a recent successful foray onto the roads is Jo Pavey.


Racing over 5000m as part of her preparation for a possible outing for the Norwich Union GB & NI Team in this month’s European Cup, she will face a host of tough Africans, including Derebe Alemu of Ethiopia and Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya.


The men’s 400m is one of the most eagerly awaited events of the day, featuring crowd-pleaser Xavier Carter (USA), the second fastest man ever over 200m, Gary Kikaya (Democratic Republic of Congo), the fastest ever non-American over one lap and – fitness permitting – UK no 1 Tim Benjamin.


The experienced Joice Maduaka and rising talent Jeanette Kwayke will take on a tough field in the women’s 100m, including Aleen Bailey of Jamaica, Cydonie Mothersill of Cayman Islands and Stephanie Durst of USA.  The men’s 100m is a domestic affair, with training partners and European Indoor Championships gold and silver medallists Jason Gardener and Craig Pickering going head-to-head.


Pickering is coming fresh off the back of setting another record this week.  He broke the Guernsey all-comers record with a hand-timed 10.4 (-1.8m/s) on the island on Wednesday. 


Gardener’s team-mate in winning 2004 Olympic 4x100m gold, Mark Lewis-Francis is also in the line-up.  The pair will also test their current baton-changing skills as four GB & NI quartets take on international opposition from USA, Spain and Portugal in the men’s 4x100m.


Since clocking a superb 50.02 to win gold at the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March, Nicola Sanders has been preparing thoroughly with coach Tony Lester for a similarly impressive attack on the outdoor season.


Sunday will be the first chance to see how she is likely to fare.  She will race over 300m, where the British record of 35.46 could well be in her sights, barring any problems presented by the notoriously unpredictable Glasgow weather.  Donna Fraser and local girl Gemma Nicol are also in the field.


Probably the loudest cheer of the day will be reserved for Glasgow resident Lee McConnell who will race in the 400m hurdles, where she faces UK rival Tasha Danvers-Smith and leading American Sandra Glover.


The middle distance races will offer an opportunity to see how Britain’s young talent is progressing in these events.  In the women’s 1000m, Marilyn Okoro will be hoping to build on her superb season-opening victory in 2:00.70 in Hengelo last weekend.  Jenny Meadows who also dipped below 2:01 in that race will contend too.


The men’s 800m will see last year’s fastest Brit Richard Hill go against BUSA 1500m winner Michael Coltherd, rising prospect James Brewer and leading international opposition such as Kenyan Sammy Rono.


On the jump runways, a number of high quality athletes coupled with the strong support of the Scotstoun grandstand could result in some fine distances.  In the women’s long jump, Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton will face domestic rival Jade Johnson and a strong international field, including seven-metre jumper Tatyana Kotova of Russia.


In the men’s triple jump, European Indoor Championships gold and silver medallists Phillips Idowu and Nathan Douglas are set for an exciting re-match to launch their 2007 outdoor campaigns.


Sunday’s meeting, which also includes a special SPAR men’s 110m hurdles race, On Camp with Kelly women’s 800m, women’s disability 200m, men’s invitation 100m and 200m races gets underway at 14:16.  TV coverage begins on BBC 2 at 15:00 and will finish at 17:30.


For live results from Sunday's Norwich Union Glasgow Grand Prix, click here.