20th February 2009

Top Athletes For Aviva GP


20 February 2009

The UKA Indoor Major Event season comes to a close on Saturday with a star studded field taking to the track and field at the NIA, Birmingham. Five reigning Olympic and eight reigning world champions will compete in the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham on February 21.

Ahead of the event Birmingham-born Olympic gold medallist, Denise Lewis, gives her 10 athletes that she will be keeping a close eye on at the NIA:

Christine Ohuruogu – 60m & 200m

Christine Ohuruogu’s stunning performance in Beijing rounded off a superb twelve months for the 24-year-old, adding Olympic gold to the world title she won in Osaka last year. History was in the making too as Ohuruogu became the first British woman to win Olympic gold over one lap on the flat. Here in Birmingham the London athlete will compete in both the 60m and 200m.

Yelena Isinbayeva – Pole Vault

The world, Olympic and European champion competes for the sixth time here at the NIA and another record may be on the cards. In 2005 she broke her own world record at this same meet and in total broken the record a remarkable 26 times. In Beijing, the Russian needed merely two vaults to prolong her reign as Olympic champion and in her first competition in 2009 in the Ukraine last Sunday she improved her indoor record to 5.00m.

Lolo Jones – 60m Hurdles

The world indoor champion had a successful 2008 which built towards a strong Olympic gold medal chance. Devastatingly Jones clipped the ninth hurdle (of ten) in the final and came home in seventh place. After finishing first at the Aviva International Match last month, Jones has recorded further victories in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe and is the world’s number one.

Natalya Dobrynska – Three Event Challenge

Slowly rising up through the ranks, the Ukrainian heptathlete came to form at exactly the right time to take gold in Beijing last August, with Team GB’s Kelly Sotherton placing fourth. Although in overall career head-to-heads, Sotherton has beaten Dobrynska in all but four of the 17 occasions they have met. Meeting again here this weekend, the Olympic gold medallist will look to repeat her victory from Beijing improve those figures in her favour.

Wilfred Bungei – 800m

The 800m Olympic gold medallist signalled his talent with a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in 1998. He continued to grow through the ranks holding the world number one spot for the 800m from 2002 to 2003, and in 2006 took gold at the World Indoor Championships. The 28-year-old last competed at the NIA six years ago in the 800m where he claimed third in the world indoors – he will certainly be looking for the win on his return this weekend.

Mo Farah – 3000m

Last year’s European Cup winner and GB number one over 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000m, Farah made a brilliant start to the year winning the 3000m and claiming the national record at the Aviva International Match. Last week he went on to set the stadium record and win the UK title over 1500m in Sheffield. The hugely talented Farah is determined and confident of a podium place at the European indoors in Turin. Racing in the 3000m here today, Farah could again lower his record.

Bernard Lagat – 1500m

In Osaka in 2007, America’s Bernard Lagat became the first athlete to become world champion in both the 1500m and the 5000m at the same championships. Having won Olympic silver and bronze medals in the Athens and Sydney Olympics respectively, Lagat was disappointed with his result in Beijing, where he failed to make the final, however he has been in superlative form in 2009.

Donna Fraser – 200m

Winning six English school titles in the 200m, Fraser soon made the transition to the 400m and showed her full potential at the Sydney Olympics where she clipped almost a second off her personal best to finish fourth behind British team mate, Katharine Merry. In 2005, the 36-year-old continued to show her strength and became the first woman to win the 200m and 400m double at the UK Championships since Winifred Jordan in 1945 – a feat she duplicated in fine style last weekend in Sheffield.

Maryam Jamal – 1500m

The 24-year-old athlete from Bahrain began her first full season with style in 2005. She gained the national record and led the world in the 3000m in July before being succeeded by Olympic medallist Meseret Defar. She is the current IAAF world champion in the 1500m and became the third fastest ever indoors when she won silver in Valencia last year.

Tickets for the Aviva Grand Prix at the NIA, Birmingham on Saturday 21st February are available by phone on 08000 556 056 or online at www.uka.org.uk