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UK Athletics

Loughborough International preview

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A steady stream of established international athletes will give themselves stern early-season tests when the Loughborough International – the second fixture in this summer’s UK Challenge series – pits Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland Juniors against senior teams representing England, Scotland, Wales, British Universities and Loughborough Past and Present at Loughborough University on Sunday 20 May.


For the seniors, this match is a step towards the IAAF World Championships to be staged in Osaka, Japan, on 25 August to 2 September or the World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand, on 8-18 August while younger athletes are targeting the European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, on 12-15 July or the European Junior Championships in Hengelo, Netherlands, on 19-22 July – and, in the case of Under 18s, the IAAF World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on 11-15 July or the European Youth Olympic Festival in Belgrade, Serbia, on 22-27 July.


Christian Malcolm (Cardiff AAC / Wales) lines up in the 100m against former European Junior 100m champion Leon Baptiste (Enfield and Haringey AC / England) and 19-year-old Alex Nelson (Sale Harriers Manchester / GB Juniors), who aims to be among the favourites for this summer’s European Juniors sprints.


Lee McConnell (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers) is in the 400m hurdles for Loughborough against Eilidh Child (Pitreavie AAC), who earned the right to represent Scotland by winning the BUSA title in 59.05 seconds earlier this month, and GB Junior Perri Shakes-Drayton (Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC), who reached last summer’s World Junior Championships final.


Joice Maduaka (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies / England) aims to maintain her 100m dominance in a field including 16-year-old Asha Philip (Newham and Essex Beagles / GB Juniors), who finished fourth in last summer’s World Juniors final, and Alex Nelson’s 15-year-old sister Ashlee (City of Stoke AC).


Established high jumpers Julie Crane (Sale Harriers Manchester / Wales) and Susan Moncrieff (Trafford AC / England) set out to eclipse heptathlete Jessica Ennis at the top of the UK rankings in a competition that includes Vikki Hubbard (Grantham AC / GB Juniors) and Under 23 Steph Pywell (Sale).


Fresh from equalling the UK high jump record of 1.95m on her way to beating Denise Lewis’s UK Under 23 heptathlon record, Ennis (City of Sheffield / England) contests the 100m hurdles and long jump for England and will guest in the javelin, one of her weak events. She will face her training partner Hannah Francis Smithson (Leeds City AC / GB Juniors) and in the long jump she would have faced her training partner, Louise Bloor (Trafford AC / Loughborough) if she was not out injured. Ennis’s coach Toni Minichiello says: “It’s a shame we can’t get her into the Men’s shot to face yet another of her training partners, Jamie Williamson (City of Sheffield / England) … not that she would want to put that heavy a ball!”


European Under 23 110m hurdles champion David Hughes (Trafford AC/ England) confronts William Sharman (Belgrave Harriers / Loughborough) and World Juniors finalists Gianni Frankis (Basildon AC / GB Juniors).


Current 800m rankings leader Richard Hill (Notts AC /England) aims to reassert himself in a field that includes 19-year-old Andy Osagie (Harlow AC), who defeated him at the BUSA Championships, and James Brewer (Cheltenham and County Harriers / GB Juniors), who made his mark among the seniors at this winter’s European Indoor Championships and is now targeting the European Junior Championships.


The England 4x100m squad includes three of the gold medal-winning quartet from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens – European Indoor 60m champion Jason Gardener (Wessex and Bath AC), Marlon Devonish (Coventry Godiva Harriers) and Mark Lewis-Francis (Birchfield Harriers).


Athletes wondering about the importance of this meeting should talk with MLF. His career took off after he beat all the seniors in the Loughborough International 100m in 2000. A few months later, he turned down the chance to go to the Sydney Olympics so that he could concentrate on the World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile, where he won the 100m title and led the Norwich Union GB&NI squad to the 4x100m gold medals.


While England are expected to win this weekend’s match, they can expect a close battle with Loughborough, whose advantage in having first pick of available athletes enables them to field stars such as Commonwealth Games 1500m champion Lisa Dobriskey (Ashford AC) in the 3000m and European Throws Cup silver medallist Goldie Sayers (Belgrave Harriers) in the javelin.


Statistically, though, they could all be eclipsed by Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield / England), who was a fabulous 15th in the senior women’s race at this year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kenya. She has started the new track season in such sharp form, she is expected to go close to the UK women’s 3000m steeplechase record of 9:48.51 set by Lizzie Hall in a UKA Endurance Initiative race at Watford last summer.


The first field event begins at Loughborough University at 11.00am on Sunday with the first track event starting at 12 noon. Tickets are available from Loughborough University's sports reception on 01509 226250 or spectators can pay on the day. Adult tickets are £5 with concessions £3.