The world’s premier indoor grand prix returns to Birmingham on Saturday and features the likes of Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah
As the distance-running club athletes take to the turf at Parliament Hill for the historic National Cross, the sport’s main shop window this weekend is the revamped Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham as arguably the world’s premier indoor grand prix meeting takes place.
BBC cameras will be there to ensure the event is in the spotlight and world-class athletes are set to fill a range of sprints, hurdles and jumps events. Even Mo Farah prefers the attraction of the indoor circuit as he resists the temptation to win his first senior National cross country title to instead tackle the two-mile distance in a meeting where the emphasis is on entertainment.
The double Olympic champion will once again be the star performer on an afternoon that sees his event scheduled to bring the house down at just after 4pm. He has been training in Ethiopia recently and is expected to be in good shape, which he will need to be if he is to see off the challenge of Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia and Paul Koech of Kenya, together with Bernard Lagat of the United States.
Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford is also among those in action as he makes his first competitive appearance of 2015 to take on a field that includes fellow Brit Chris Tomlinson and last weekend’s national champion in the event, Dan Bramble. Fresh from her big leap at the British Championships, Abigail Irozuru leads the domestic entries for the women’s event. Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who is aiming to compete in the pentathlon at the European Indoors in Prague, also competes.
European 60m hurdles champion Tiffany Porter takes on the new British champion Serita Solomon plus the runner-up in Sheffield, Lucy Hatton, over the barriers, while British champion Lawrence Clarke is set for a big test in the men’s event as he takes on Olympic champion Aries Merritt of the United States, former Olympic champion Dayron Robles of Cuba and reigning world indoor champion Omo Osaghae of the United States.
Over in the women’s 60m in-form British champion Dina Asher-Smith faces some of the world’s best including Murielle Ahoure and Carmelita Jeter, while the men’s event sees CJ Ujah take on the likes of the evergreen Kim Collins, who leads the world rankings this year with his 6.47 PB.
Jenny Meadows is in flying form this year but could be given a test in the 800m by super-talented Icelandic athlete Anita Hinriksdottir. The programme comes to an end with the men’s 2 miles. The world indoor record is Kenenisa Bekele’s 8:04.35 but Farah’s main goal will be to win the race and his rivals include Lagat, the amazing 40-year-old American who recently set a 3:54 world masters record for one mile, and Kejelcha – the Ethiopian who won the world junior 5000m last year.
» See the February 19 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine for a much more in-depth event-by-event preview over three pages