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BIG attractions for Olympians and Paralympians

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Olympians and Paralympians will compete alongside prospects for London 2012 and beyond at the high quality Bedford International Games (BIG2007) on Sunday 10 June. The action starts at 11am. To book your seats, call the ticket hotline: 01234 351115.


Many athletes are taking in the BIG leg of the UK Challenge as they aim for this summer’s World Championships, European Under 23 Championships, World University Games, European Junior Championships and IAAF World Youth Championships.


Perri Shakes-Drayton is due to face Inter-Counties champion Hannah Douglas in the 400m hurdles. The Tower Hamlets teenager ran her first-ever 400m hurdles at last year’s BIG – and finished the summer by reaching the World Juniors final. “It’s so satisfying when an athlete succeeds like that,” says meeting organiser Carol Jackson.


Similarly, the women’s 100m features Loughborough International winner Hayley Jones, fellow Under 20 Anike Shand-Whittingham and Under 17 Asha Philip up against speedy seniors Susan Deacon, Montell Douglas, Joey Duck, Emily Freeman and Laura Turner.


Turner, Deacon, Douglas and Duck are also in the 200m, which has attracted Donna Fraser.


And, as ever, the women’s 100m hurdles will be one of the features of the track programme with Hollman seeking to uphold the honour of the heptathletes against specialists Zara Hohn and Julie Pratt.


Meeting organiser Jackson will have special interest in the Men’s high jump: the trio she coaches – senior Mark Crowley, junior Alan McKie fresh from clearing 2.16m and under-18 Chris Baker – are due to face UK Challenge defending champion Tom Parsons, who is on the way back from a knee injury.


The triple jump will be equally fascinating with Larry Achike, UK Challenge champion Julian Golley and fit again Welsh record holder Steve Shalders lining up against two visitors from Sweden, Anton Andersson (who has a best of 16.49m) and Martin Eriksson (16.07).


In the women’s competition, UK Challenge champion Nadia Williams, 19-year-old Nony Mordi who broke the Scottish record last week, Becky White, Stephanie Aneto and Denae Matthew face Sweden’s Sara Brankell (who has a best of 13.40m) and Anna Göransdotter (13.38m).


Jackson said: “The sole purpose of the meeting is to help athletes prepare for the major championships ahead, and it’s excellent that we have a few European entries among the domestic talent.”


There are also high class domestic fields in all the other jumps … UK Challenge pole vault champion Scott Simpson against Paul Walker, Christian North and Mark Christie – all hoping for friendlier weather than fell on the Inter-Counties; Scottish duo Stephen Fleming and Jonathan Ritchie against former Inter-Counties champion Chris Kirk and Inter-Counties silver medallist Andre Fernandez in the long jump; Susan Moncrieff high jumping against under-23 Steph Pywell who beat her at the Loughborough International; Julie Hollman long jumping against Scotland’s classy Under 17 Jade Nimmo; Janine Whitlock returning to the competition at which she has set three UK pole vault records and facing current UK No.1 Emma Lyons.


Similarly competitive throws are in prospect, with the men’s discus proving so popular that entries closed early. UK Challenge champion Emeka Udechuku heads the discus entries. Andy Frost seeks to maintain his hammer dominance over home favourite Glen Kerr, Man of the Matches after both of his BAL competitions so far this year, plus Alex and Peter Smith and Alistair Williamson. UK Challenge javelin champion Neil McLellan comes up against three men currently ahead of him in the Power of 10 rankings, Melvyn Luckwell, David Parker and James Campbell, the teenager who already holds the Scottish senior record. Kieren Kelly will be the favourite in the shot.


The women’s throws also promise quality competition. Eden Francis is in the shot and also faces in the discus her biggest junior rival, Shaunagh Brown, plus seniors Emma Carpenter, the reigning UK Challenge champion, Kara Nwidobie and Kirsty Law. There’s a glimpse of ‘the futures’ in the other throws with junior Hayley Murray facing in-form hammer seniors Zoe Derham and Carys Parry; and UK Schools javelin champion Sarah-Anne De Kremer, still an Under 17, gaining more invaluable experience against UK Challenge champion Jo Blair, Laura Whittingham and Louise Watton in the event that has been set alight by Goldie Sayers’ UK challenge record and victory at last weekend’s Norwich Union Glasgow Grand Prix over all three of last summer’s European Championships medallists.


Equally important, BIG2007 will include “the very best sprint athletes with disabilities likely to be spotted anywhere in the UK and anywhere else outside of the major championships,” reports UK Athletics’ Disability Performance Manager Glynn Tromans.


The stars include Ben Rushgrove, European 100m record holder and World 200m record holder in the T36 category; Graeme Ballard in the same classification who will be racing three times on Sunday; John McFall, leg amputee attempting to establish himself as a world leader in his classification; plus youngsters Katrina Hart, Katie Arnold, Jenny McLaughlin and Bethany Woodward, who have London 2012 potential.


Tromans adds: “Because these events are pan-disability (mixed classifications) it is not necessarily the case that the fastest athletes are the best athletes but even with mixing the classifications, we should have some excellent races.


“We are very grateful to BIG organiser Carol Jackson for staging these races. It is important that we can showcase our best athletes at the best of the domestic meetings. I hope it will be a success and these races become an established part of BIG in the future.”


The start lists have altered a few times due to injuries and changing priorities but the races at BIG now look like this:


Men’s 100m: Ian Jones, T44 les autres sprinter, 4th in World Championships 200m. Michael Churm, CP sprinter, T37 European 100m and 200m Champion. Ben Rushgrove, CP sprinter, T36 100m European record holder and 200m World Championship bronze medallist. Graeme Ballard, CP sprinter, T36 100m World Championship silver medallist and European Champion. Stephen Herbert, CP sprinter, T37 World Class Podium (WCP) athlete. John McFall, T42 leg amputee, double medallist in 100m and 200m at World Championships. Jamie Harding, CP sprinter, T37 WCP Development athlete. Thomas Wilson, CP sprinter, T36 young World Class Development athlete.


Men’s 400m: Jones, Ballard, T38 CP Sprinter, World and Paralympics bronze medallist. Matt Cliff, T12 visually impaired sprinter with guide Chris Smith. Stephen Leigh, CP T38 middle distance runner converting to long sprints. Lee Hunter, CP T36 sprinter, World Championship finalist.


In addition, the 4x100m CP relay team of Graeme Ballard, Michael Churm, Stephen Payton and Ben Rushgrove, who were fifth in the World Championships, will be getting together again.


The Women’s 200m promises equal excitement: Tracey Hinton, T11 blind middle distance runner and sprinter, multiple World and Paralympics medallist including the 800m silver medal and 400m bronze at the last Worlds, with guide Darrell Maynard. Lisa Daly, T13 visually impaired sprinter. Katrina Hart, T37 CP Sprinter, World Championships finalist in 100m and 200m. Katie Arnold, T46 arm amputee Elite Cymru development athlete brand new to the sport having moved over from swimming. Hazel Simpson, T36 CP Sprinter, multiple Paralympics and World medallist including 200m bronze at the last Worlds. Jenny McLaughlin, Elite Cymru Welsh Talent Academy athlete who has shown lots of promise. Bethany Woodward, T37, another young sprinter spotted showing great promise at the CP Sport Grand Prix.