21st February 2009
Aviva Grand Prix
21 February 2009
It may have been one of the strongest international fields assembled anywhere in the world this winter, but it was British athletes who stole all the headlines at the Aviva Grand Prix at the Birmingham NIA on Saturday.
Mo Farah (Newham & Essex) and Kate Dennison (Sale Harriers Manchester) continued their record breaking form, both setting brand new UK records in the men’s 3000m and women’s pole vault respectively, both earning themselves a $5000 bonus in the process.
There were also fine British victories by Simeon Williamson (Highgate Harriers) – men’s 60m, Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet) – women’s 800m and Christine Ohuruogu (Newham & Essex) – women’s 200m.
In addition, six added their names to the list of British athletes who have secured the European Indoor qualifying guidelines in what was a memorable day of indoor athletics.
Farah’s victory in the men’s 3000m gave another taster of the rich vein of form he has hit this winter following training stints in Ethiopia and Kenya. Three weeks earlier in Glasgow he improved the UK record to 7:40.99 and in Birmingham he moved on to a world class level completely clocking 7:34.47 in what was a superb performance.
Setting off at a brisk pace, it was eventually left to Farah and Shedrack Korir (Kenya) to contest the lead. With two laps remaining Farah pulled clear and maintained fine form right through to the finish to send him towards next month’s European Indoors in Turin with his confidence soaring.
He said: “2008 was a bit of a disappointment, so I wanted to come out hard in 2009 and I did that with two British records in the space of a month. I’ve been training really hard and I’m really pleased with the way things went. It was a good race today, I really enjoyed it. It’s my last race now until Turin.”
Farah’s wasn’t the only high point from the men’s 3000m, as Nick McCormick (Morpeth Harriers) – another Turin-bound athlete – placed third with a PB of 7:50.50.
Dennison enjoyed a great breakthrough at last weekend’s Aviva European Trials and UK Championships in Sheffield when clearing 4.45m to set a new UK indoor record for the pole vault. In Birmingham she added a further centimetre to that record with a first time clearance, before some narrow failures at 4.60m to place third in a competition won by Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia) with 4.82m.
Dennison said: “This was my first competition with the big girls and it was great. I was really pleased today, because I felt like I had jumped well. I’m sure 4.60m will come by the end of the season. Pole vault is all about believing you can get over the bar and I really believed it today.”
Williamson won a thrilling men’s 60m in a new PB of 6.53 showing the fruits of his winter training in Jamaica alongside Asafa Powell, followed by some specific speed work back in the UKA High Performance Centre in Lee Valley with coach Lloyd Cowan. Second went to Daniel Bailey (Antigua), just 0.01 adrift.
Williamson said: ”Two personal bests and a victory, you could say it has been a good day. I haven’t done much speed work and I think last week (Aviva European Trials & UK Championships, Sheffield) was just a bit too early. But I knew I had to get it right today because I needed to book my ticket to Turin.”
Okoro won a rousing women’s 800m in a PB of 1:59.27, a PB and just six-hundredths outside the UK record held by Kelly Holmes. She was tracked every inch of the way by perennial British rival Jenny Meadows (Wigan AC) who was 2nd in a PB of 1:59.27. Both will travel to Turin in good heart following a race expertly paced by GB & NI 400m specialist Vicki Barr (Rugby & Northampton).
Okoro said: “I’ve been looking forward to this all season as the send off we need for the Europeans. It’s a brilliant track – everyone’s favourite. I had a brilliant pace-maker which meant I had to go out and be aggressive.
Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu got a superb reception from the crowd and responded in kind with a storming run in the 200m. Showing her trademark strength, she wore down UK champion Donna Fraser (Croydon Harriers) in the closing stages to win in 23.42.
Ohuruogu said: “It was a nice run, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I’ve only had one meet before this, but it was great to perform in front of the home crowd today. It was good to get out there and run well. I’ve done a lot of winter training and it’s nice to break the season a bit and race.”
Elsewhere, Susan Scott (City of Glasgow) and Hannah England (City of Oxford) both grabbed the UKA standard for the European Indoors by placing 2nd and 3rd in the women’s 1500m in 4:09.55 and 4:09.90 respectively in a race dominated by World Champion Maryam Jamal (Bahrain) who led from gun to tape to win in 4:02.74.
In the men’s 1500m won by Augustine Choge (Kenya) in 3:38.52, Neil Speaight (Belgrave Harriers) and Chris Warburton (Notts AC) also bettered the European Indoor qualifying guideline by clocking 3:39.17 and 3:41.13 to place 4th and 6th.
Katrina Wootton (Bedford & County) and Nick Leavey (Thames Valley) were the other British athletes who secured the qualifying guideline; Wootton with 8:56.91 as she finished 4th in the women’s 3000m and Leavey as he won the men’s 400m B race in 46.60.
In the 400m A race, Richard Buck (City of York) put in a gutsy run just failing to hold off World Indoor champion Tyler Christopher, as the Canadian won in 46.08, just 0.14 ahead of the in-form Brit.
Of the vast array of international stars, the outstanding performances came from Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya) who set a national record in winning the women’s 3000m in 8:30.53, Carmelia Jeter (USA) who won the women’s 60m in a world-leading 7.11 and Lolo Jones (USA) who won the women’s 60m Hurdles in 7.82, another world-leading mark.