Tarlton Visits the Aviva Athletic Grand Prix

23rd February 2010

Since the explosion of Usain Bolt onto the professional Athletics circuit there’s no doubt that the sport has been in the ascendance. It was on the back of this that I made the short trip over to Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena to watch the latest instalment in the sport’s calendar – the UK Indoor Grand Prix.

Athletes representing a number of different nations were present but undeniably the real interest of the crowd was the performances of the British contingent of the field. Indeed they weren’t the only people casting a keen eye over home-grown performances, as selection for the British Indoor Squad for the World Championships in Doha commences on Monday. With so much at stake then, it was unsurprising that many GB performances exceeded expectations and across the board, as it became clear early on that a very high standard of athletics was set to be on show.

The opening event saw a weak 400m sprint contested among GB representatives, won by Chris Clarke, cousin to footballers Justin and Gavin Hoyte in the time of 47.15 – just outside the Doha Qualification time. Meanwhile, a thrilling high jump event was underway, which saw excellent performances from Britain’s Samson Oni and Tom Parsons, who finished second and third respectively, with the win eventually going to reigning world outdoor champion Russian Yaroslav Rybakov. Later Parsons commented that “Hopefully Samson and I can hunt the big Russian down” and based on their efforts it would be foolish to rule them out of the chase for the podium in Doha.

There were blistering sprint performances in both the men’s 60m and 60m hurdles, the latter of which saw Olympic champion and world record holder Dayron Robles stamp his authority with a victory in 7.44secs, annihilating the rest of the field, while a closely contested 60m ended with a win for American Michael Rodgers in 6.57secs, but encouragingly yielded a Scottish record and new personal best for Nick Smith, the top British competitior who came in 3rd behind Rodgers and Antiguan Daniel Bailey. Mark Lewis-Francis and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey also performed well and with Dwayne Chambers already assured of a place in the Squad, this surely will provide the biggest headache for selectors.

The performance of the day, however, belonged to 800m runner Jenny Meadows, as the World Championship bronze medallist broke Dame Kelly Holmes’ seven year standing British 800m indoor record, smashing her own best by fourth tenths of a second in the process, an overall feat for which she received a special prizes totalling $6500.

Another talking point came in the women’s pole vault, where Kate Dennison also improved her own GB record for the third time this year with an effort of 4.60m, an improvement of 3cm.

Further impressive performances included Irish 400m runner David Gillick, who finished in 45.52 to equal the Irish record and who should now be a serious contender for gold in Doha, while new UK indoor 800m champion Andrew Osagie, produced a breathtaking late sprint to clock a new personal best of 1:47.71 and achieve the Doha qualifying time, grabbing third behind Kenyan Richard Kiplagat and Polish winner Marcin Lewandowski in the process.

A further big moment was the women’s 60m head-to-head with the two fastest women in the world with American Carmelita Jeter just pipping Laverne Jones on the line with both running 7.06s.

However, the latest British Athletics Hero Philips Idowu couldn’t produce a winning display against rival Christian Olsson who sealed a win on his comeback from injury with a jump of 17.32, while Idowu produced a season’s best of 17.25 in the end he had to settle for fourth place.

So then a promising set of performances from the British athletes in Birmigham and they will certainly be confident of bringing back medals from Doha in March.

A full list of results can be found at:
http://www.uka.org.uk/results/20100220_Birmingham/timetable/index/index.html

by Ed Tarlton