10th May 2011
Lewis Francis Diamond Date
10 May 2011
European and Commonwealth silver medallist Mark Lewis-Francis admits he is chomping at the bit to test himself against star sprint duo Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell twice this summer after announcing his plans to compete at both the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix and Aviva London Grand Prix.
The 28-year-old Olympic Gold medallist will compete first in the home of his upbringing at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium on 10 July, when the city holds its first ever Samsung Diamond League meet. Then later in the summer he will perform in front of his current hometown crowd at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre on 5-6 August, exactly a year to the day before the 100m final at the 2012 London Olympics.
Lewis-Francis comes into the outdoor season on the back of a dream 2010, which saw him mark a superb return from injury with an individual major medal, his silver at the European Championships in Barcelona, before repeating the feat at the XIX Commonwealth Games in New Delhi three months later.
The Eton runner suffered heartache after missing out on a place in the European Indoor Championships in March after injuring his groin at the NIA in the Aviva Grand Prix weeks earlier, but with the IAAF World Championships in Daegu just a month after the Aviva London Grand Prix, Lewis-Francis is desperate to make up for lost time.
“Everyone knows that Tyson and Asafa are top sprinters, which makes both the Birmingham and London meets good opportunities to test yourself against the best and see where you are,” said Lewis-Francis, who has just returned from training in the USA.
“As a Birmingham-born athlete based in London I feel close to both meets and feel the love from fans at both. It’s exciting for the fans that the 100m at London this year is going to be exactly 12 months out from the men’s final at the Olympics, which is something everyone who lines up Crystal Palace I’m sure will have on their mind.
“The indoor season started really well for me, wearing the Aviva Great Britain & Northern Ireland vest in Glasgow and scoring maximum points. I’d love to have pulled it on again for the European Indoor Champs but these things happen, I’m now fit and back from injury and looking forward to the outdoor season.
“Training has been hard but good in the States and I feel like I’m in great shape and ready to get some races under my belt. Last year was unbelievable for me and knowing what I’ve achieved over the last 12 months gives me the confidence ahead of this summer. It’s a big year with the World Champs and I definitely want to build on the two individual medals I won last summer.
“Competing in the Aviva Series events in both Birmingham and London is very much part of preparing for Daegu and will be vital in my progress this year.”
The Samsung Diamond League match-up between Lewis-Francis, Gay and Powell also holds significance in that it will also be another chance for a West Midlands-based athlete to welcome American and Jamaican athletes to the city ahead of their return for pre-Olympic training camps next year.
Lewis-Francis took time out of his busy training schedule during the indoor season to join Jamaica’s Lerone Clarke and the USA’s David Payne for a traditional curry master class in famed Birmingham restaurant Shimla Pinks and the Olympic gold medallist is keen to spend time with Gay and Powell to ensure both athletes are comfortable ahead of their return to their adopted city.
He added: “I had fun in February showing some of the Jamaican and American athletes around Birmingham, it definitely makes you proud to be a Brummie. I guess they’re pretty much here to stay in my city for the next 18 months or so, but us Brits will definitely be doing all we can to remind them that they’re on our turf.”
The Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix will be at the Alexander Stadium on 10 July and the Aviva London Grand Prix will be at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre 5-6 August. For tickets or more information go to uka.org.uk/aviva-series or phone 08000 556 056