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SPAR European Cup: Men's preview

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Craig Pickering

The Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland men’s team will be looking to maintain their position amongst the continent’s elite athletics nations in this weekend’s SPAR European Cup Super League in Munich, Germany.


The team includes seasoned European Cup athletes Marlon Devonish and Chris Tomlinson, individual winners five years ago in Annecy, France and also two of the form athletes the team will be looking to score heavily in the annual team contest.


Devonish ran a scorching 100m PB of 10.08secs in Friday’s Bislett Games in Oslo, after which he was disqualified due to a little know IAAF rule preventing athletes from racing more than once in the same Golden League event. Devonish had earlier won the 100m B race in 10.20.


Devonish will take part in the 200m in Munich, where Tobias Unger of the host nation will provide the most likely threat.  Tomlinson produced his best leap for almost three years when winning impressively at the Josef Odlozila Memorial meeting in Prague, Czech Republic last week with 8.23m


He faces a tough task in Munich, with five other athletes in the field who have exceeded eight metres this season, led by Louis Tsatoumas on 8.66m. 


The Norwich Union GB & NI Team will also have high hopes for European Indoor triple jump gold medallist Phillips Idowu who laid down a marker for the year when defeating a top-class field, including Olympic champion Christian Olsson, in Oslo last week.


Middle-distance contenders Michael Rimmer (800m) and Andy Baddeley (1500m) also showed up well in Oslo. Rimmer logged a season’s best of 1:45.54 in finishing 4th and Baddeley lopped five seconds off his mile best as he was third in the Dream Mile in 3:51.95.


Both will have experienced opposition to contend with, no more so than Baddeley who has twice European Champion Mehdi Baala to contend with.


Must interest will surround Craig Pickering’s senior outdoor international debut in the 100m. Though if anyone is least likely to be affected by the hype it is the man himself, who has shown remarkable maturity as he continues his rise through the athletics ranks. 


This weekend could provide another stepping stone in his promising career. Based purely on season’s bests, he is the fastest in the field. 


In the 400m hurdles, it could be a baptism of fire for late stand-in Ben Carne, who will line up with European Champion Perikilis Iakovakis (Greece) and Olympic bronze medallist Naman Keita (France).


Fellow hurdler Andy Turner is another with a tough encounter ahead. World Champion Ladji Dacoure heads the line up for the 110m hurdles, which also includes Thomas Blaschek (Germany) who took silver ahead of Turner at last summer’s European Championships in Gothenburg.


On PBs, Steve Lewis is the lowest ranked in the pole vault competition, where he faces a host of major event medallists, including former World Indoor champion Tim Lobinger (Germany) and Denys Yurchenko (Ukraine), winner of European Indoor silver in Birmingham in March. It is a challenge the 21 year-old Brit is likely to relish.


In the shot, Carl Myerscough will be taking part in his first competition of the summer.  But if he can instantly hit the 20 metre-plus form of which he is eminently capable, he should score well.


400m runner Tim Benjamin is another who will be eagerly searching form.  One of the class athletes of the GB & NI  Team, he has yet to click into gear this season.  This could be the weekend where it starts to go right.


He will also go in the 4x400m, where GB & NI has a proud record, having won European Cup gold in 12 of the last 16 runnings of this event.  Whilst in the 4x100m, GB&NI have brought the baton home first on 9 of the last 16 occasions. With strong squads, there is plenty of optimism in both relay camps.  


Of the other events, they are the ones that could be most crucial in deciding the fate of the Norwich Union GB & NI Team in this year’s SPAR European Cup.


None from Nick McCormick (3000m), Chris Thompson (5000m), Andrew Lemoncello (3000m SC), Germain Mason (High Jump), Emeka Udechuku (discus), Andy Frost (hammer), Nick Nieland (javelin) will start as favourite for their event. 


But equally all are capable of scoring well.  Their points will be critical when the tallies are added come Sunday evening.