17th February 2011

Aviva Grand Prix

17 February 2011

Mo Farah – who recorded a British 3000m record at the NIA in Birmingham two years ago – is targeting the UK 5000m record when he makes his indoor debut over the distance in the Aviva Grand Prix this Saturday (19 February).

The European 5000m and 10000m champion, who returned this week from training in Oregon (USA), will line up against recent training partner Galen Rupp (USA), the athlete he defeated into second on his last UK outing in the BUPA Great Edinburgh Cross Country in January.

Having secured the European Indoor Championships qualifying time for 3000m (7:35.81) in Boston a fortnight ago, Farah is clearly in shape to reduce the UK (indoor) 5000m mark of 13:21.27 recorded by Nick Rose in New York 29 years ago in a confidence boosting performance ahead of his potential title defence in Paris next month.

Coincidentally, Rupp’s coach Alberto Salazar, three-time New York Marathon winner, was in the same race as Rose back in 1982.

On the infield, World and European champion Phillips Idowu (coach: Aston Moore), who will compete for the first time in 2011, will go head to head in the triple jump with last year’s Aviva Grand Prix winner Christian Olsson (Sweden), while Birchfield Harriers’ Tom Parsons (coach: Fuzz Ahmed) returns to high jump action in front of a home crowd after an exceptional lifetime best of 2.31m, Stadium Record and victory in last weekend’s Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships in Sheffield.

Having come agonisingly close to clearing 2.35m on that occasion, expectation will be high for the 26-year-old Olympic finalist who has admitted he wants to clear the height twice in 2011.

It’s also another opportunity for Robbie Grabarz (coach: Ahmed) to improve his indoor best of 2.25m and achieve the 2.28m standard for the European Indoor Championships in Paris before the close of the qualification period at midnight on Sunday.

Also targeting a last-gasp qualification standard this weekend, and adding to the high class Birchfield representation in Birmingham, is Kelly Sotherton (coach: Aston Moore) who impressed when taking her first UK 400m title – and seventh UK indoor title in total – in a UK leading time of 53.46 last weekend, but was half a second outside the required mark for Paris.

In addition, sprint duo Craig Pickering (coach: Michael Khmel) and Gianni Frankis (coach: Tony Jarrett) are battling for Aviva GB&NI team positions for the European Indoors in the men’s 60m and 60m hurdles respectively.

Pickering took third in the Trials with 6.67 and needs to record a mark of 6.65 or less when he lines up in a strong field which includes Jamaica’s Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lerone Clarke and Mark Lewis-Francis (coach: Linford Christie) – runner-up in Delhi and fourth in Sheffield – while Frankis finished second behind European and Commonwealth champion Andy Turner (coach: Lloyd Cowan) in the 60m hurdles last weekend and in doing so equalled his lifetime best of 7.75, just one-hundredth of a second outside the required standard for Paris.

In the women’s 3000m, Gemma Turtle (coach: Duncan Gaskill) just missed out on the Paris qualifying mark when clocking 8:57.24 behind Helen Clitheroe (coach; John Nuttall) in the Aviva UK Indoor Trials and Championships. She’ll be aiming to go sub-8:55.00 for the first time ever on Saturday alongside Charlene Thomas (coach: Aaron Thomas) who trained in Kenya with Clitheroe at the UKA/LM altitude training camp in January.

Jenny Meadows (coach: Trevor Painter) has already clocked the 800m qualifying time for Paris with a season’s best of 2:00.29 in France, but Marilyn Okoro (coach: Ayo Falola) needs to run a more even paced race this weekend if she’s to hit the required 2:02.00 mark; while she held on for victory in Sheffield, it was harder work than she might have expected after a blistering 27.51 opening 200m.

Aviva UK Champion Nigel Levine (coach: Simon Duberley) raced to a UK leading of 46.76 to take 400m gold last weekend but needs to clock 46.70 to earn his place on the Aviva GB&NI team for Paris. A 4 x 400m relay medallist at the World Indoor Championships 12 months ago, the Brunel-based athlete has already reduced his lifetime best this season and will be looking to reduce it further this weekend.

And in a new addition for 2011, an indoor 400mH will take place for the first time in the UK.

Undeniably  a specialist event, especially on a 200m track, former World and Olympic 400m hurdles champion Felix Sanchez will lead a quartet of athletes at the NIA which also includes Britain’s Rick Yates (coach: Malcolm Arnold).

The first event in the Aviva Grand Prix is the men’s pole vault at 13.00. For more information including the full timetable check out the link.