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Heroes Gateshead
North East Heroes meet Olympian Tomlinson

4 September 2009

Three UKA Heroes enjoyed a day to remember at the Gateshead Grand Prix last weekend after receiving tips and advice from senior GB&NI International and fellow North East star Chris Tomlinson.

Tomlinson, fresh from finishing eighth in the long jump at the World Championship in Berlin, returned to his native North-East for the annual meet but took time out of his hectic schedule to meet local Heroes Niall Flannery, Ross Murray and Laura Weightman.

All three athletes – who have been part of the UKA Heroes Porject supported by Original Source since May 31 – were photographed with the World Indoor silver medallist, while he also shared tips and advice on what it takes to reach the top.

And the Middlesbrough-born star - who later that day produced a leap of 7.93m to finish fifth - is excited by the talent coming through in the area.

“It’s great to see three young athletes at the start of their career doing so well and making in-roads into athletics,” said Tomlinson.

“The financial support is massive as I know how difficult it can be and it is really important in getting them started.”

Following their time with Tomlinson, Murray and Flannery took their seats in the stands to sample the action, which included a routine victory for world silver medallist Tyson Gay in the 100m, albeit without Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt to contend with.

But there was no such luxury for Weightman, who normally specialises in the 1500m, as she went on to win a highly-competitive 800m ‘On Camp with Kelly’ race in Gateshead.

The Morpeth Harrier beat a field which included English under-23 champion Tara Bird and revealed the victory was the biggest win of her career to date.

“I didn’t think I’d beat them as they were all 800m girls but I just felt so good,” said Weightman.

“This is the biggest race I have ever done - I’ve never ran at a grand prix. All the world champions were in the warm-up area and I was thinking ‘should I be here?’”

Prior to his Gateshead experience, Flannery has enjoyed a superb season to date, lowering his 400m hurdles personal best by over a second to 51.07 seconds.

And the Gateshead Harrier looked set to capture gold at July’s European Junior Championships after romping through his heat and semi-final.

But there was heartache for the 18-year-old in the final when he clipped the penultimate hurdle to drop from first to fourth in the blink of an eye.

But Flannery insists he will be all the better for the experience and will come back even stronger in 2010.

“I knew I could get a medal but I think I wanted the win too much,” said Flannery. “But looking back I’m fourth in Europe so I can’t complain and at the start of the season I never would have expected that.

“I’m still a junior next year so hopefully I can go to the World Junior Championships in Canada and be just as competitive and then move through the senior ranks as well.”

Fledgling middle-distance athlete Murray has endured a frustrating season after representing Great Britain at the 2007 and 2008 European Cross Country Championships.

The 18-year-old missed the trials for the European Junior Championships through injury but still got picked and went on to finish sixth in Serbia.

“Up until June this year everything was going really well and I was in much better shape than I’ve ever been,” said Murray.

 “But I missed two weeks through injury and I was gutted at the European Juniors because I was 0.16 seconds off a medal which was heartbreaking.

“But I feel like there’s plenty more left in the tank and I just want to build on what I’ve done when I start university at St. Mary’s.”

UKA Heroes project sponsored by Original Source is a successful initiative which offers financial support to talented young athletes who are working towards the 2012 and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Learn more about UKA Heroes and meet all the athletes