Thursday, 30 September 2010

A Selection of Commonwealth Previews - Delhi 2010


Open Race in One-Lap


With the Jamaican duo of Germaine Gonzales and Ricardo Chambers not named in their unusually-weak national squad, a trio of young pretenders look set to take advantage of this open event.

Australia’s Ben Offereins has been in fine form this year, storming to 44.86 in February and holding his speed right through the season to finish sixth in Split. Ranked fourteenth in the World, the 24-year-old is closely matched to Demetrius Pinder from the Bahamas.

Pinder, 21-years-old and with a impressive 44.93 to his name from May, will be one to watch but the most intriguing participant in the one-lap will Grenada’s World junior champion Kirani James.

The 18-year-old sped to a 45.01 clocking this summer and with a global championship title already under his belt, will certainly be hungry for more.

Leading the way for the English will be European semi-finalist Conrad Williams. The 28-year-old from Kent has a personal best of 45.45 from June and with a World indoor bronze and European silver medal in the relays, will be determined to show what he can do on his own.

World semi-finalist Rob Tobin ran 45.56 in Gateshead in July and contributed to the continental relay silverware. The 26-year-old from Basingstoke and Mid Hants also reached the semi-final of the Games four years ago and will be looking to make the final this time around.

n Predictions: 1 Offereins, 2 Pinder, 3 James

n Reigning champion: John Steffensen (AUS) 44.73

n Commonwealth record-holder: Innocent Egbunike (NGR) 44.17

n Games record-holder: Iwan Thomas (WAL) 44.52

n Home Countries: England – Rob Tobin, Conrad Williams

n Did you know? British pair Michael Bingham and Martyn Rooney are ranked fourth and sixth in the Commonwealth but are taking a break after their medal-winning exploits at the European’s in Barcelona

Gold no.2 for Turner?

110m Hurdles

Nearing the end of the season of his life, England’s Andy Turner is seeking gold medal number two in India. Ranked second in the Commonwealth courtesy of his speedy 13.28 when collecting victory in Spain, Turner will be hoping to improve on his bronze from Melbourne.

The 30-year-old Sale Harrier, who is sat just inside the World’s top ten for the year, recently won the Bupa Great Manchester CityGames whilst captaining Team England to prove he is not ready for a rest just yet.

With no Dwight Thomas of Jamaica, Ryan Brathwaite from the Bahamas could pose the biggest threat after registering 13.34 in Rome back in June but the 22-year-old could well be eclipsed by an inspired Will Sharman.

The 26-year-old Belgrave Harrier will be looking to make amends for his disqualification in the Barcelona semi-final and after pipping Turner to the UK title in June and clocking 13.39 in London last month, the 2009 World fourth-placer could well be in for a medal shot.

The third Englishman tacking the short-sprint barriers will be 20-year-old Lawrence Clarke. The2009 European junior champion recorded a big lifetime best of 13.69 in France last June and claimed the English title after finishing third in the UK champs behind the two aforementioned Brits. Clarke would do well to make the final.

n Predictions: 1 Turner, 2 Sharman, 3 Braithwaite

n Reigning champion: Maurice Wignall (JAM) 13.26

n Commonwealth record-holder: Colin Jackson (WAL) 12.91

n Games record-holder: Jackson 13.08

n Home Countries: England – Lawrence Clarke, William Sharman, Andy Turner. Scotland – Chris Baillie.

n Did you know? England’s Turner and Sharman are originally from close areas of Nottinghamshire but didn’t find out until a fortnight ago

Brit Verses Former Brit

Triple Jump

England’s Phillips Idowu will be attempting to retain his Commonwealth crown but in the event of end-of-season fatigue setting in, a former British rival will be ready to upstage him.

The World and European champion is known for his ability to peak at major championships, having registered lifetime bests at the past three but after taking continental gold in July, the 30-year-old Belgrave Harrier has been well short of his 17.81m best.

Second on the World rankings and the runner-up in the 2006 Games, Idowu leapt only 16.54 in the Crystal Palace Diamond League last month but improved to 17.24m for third place for Team Europe in Split.

Ready to pounce on the Olympic silver-medallist will be Nigeria’s Tosin Oke. A dual citizen with Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the 30-year-old is a new athlete of late, jumping over 17m for the first time in his eleven-year career with a best of 17.22m when taking the African title in July.

Competing in Britain earlier this summer, Oke leapt 17.05 in June and went onto finish sixth in Split for Team Africa. Tenth in the global lists, he will surely be ready to better his Commonwealth best-placing of fifth from 2002.

Others who will be hoping to rock the boat include Grenada’s 31-year-old Randy Lewis, who has jumped 17.29 this summer but has not made a championship final since the 2006 Games, where he placed sixth and Leevan Sands from the Bahamas.

Sands, 29, has a 2010 best of 17.21m and England’s Nathan Douglas will have him in his sights. The 27-year-old from Oxford disappointed in tenth in Barcelona but his 17.03 from the UK championships could make his Commonwealth debut an interesting one.

England’s third entrant, Larry Achike, has fond memories of this championship after tasting glory in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur edition but the former Zambian only has a season’s best of 16.67m from May and the 30-year-old has only jumped in two competitions all year.

n Predictions: 1 Idowu, 2 Oke, 3 Sands

n Reigning champion: Idowu (ENG) 17.45m

n Commonwealth record-holder: Jonathan Edwards (ENG) 18.29m

n Games record-holder: Edwards 17.86m

n Home Countries: England – Larry Achike, Nathan Douglas, Phillips Idowu

n Did you know? Oke used to compete internationally for Britain and has been a member of Woodford Green with Essex Ladies for the past ten years

Clash of the Caribbean’s


With the dominant American and Russian teams absent, both Jamaica and the Bahamas will start as the top contenders for glory in the long relay.

The Jamaican squad clocked 3:01.68 in July to go ninth on the World lists but are fielding a young team, whilst the Bahamians have a season’s best of 3:01.82, potentially making the final – if both teams get there in one piece – a very close one to call.

If the outfits were to be compared on championship history, however, then the Bahamas would win hands down. Highlighting their athletic CV are 2008 Olympic silver, 2006 Commonwealth gold and also they were also the victors in the 2002 Manchester Games.

Jamaica meanwhile, failed to go beyond the heats of the World championships last year and were only eighth in the Beijing Olympics two years ago. They did, however, take the bronze in the last Commonwealth event.

Other squads expected to feature are Grenada and Australia, and although England have not fielded a team this summer, the Great Britain outfit featuring two of the sprinters here are ranked twelfth in the global lists.

Running in the individual 400m, Conrad Williams and Rob Tobin, the Englishmen will be hoping to improve on their fourth placed-position from 2006.

Woodford Green with Essex Ladies pair Graham Hedman and Nick Leavey will join the duo, as will 800m-specialist Darren St.Clair.

Hedman, 31, with his 46.17 from the UK championships where he finished sixth is the eldest of the group as Leavey and St.Clair, with 2010 bests of 46.46 and 46.64, respectively, are in their mid-twenties. The athletes additionally took the English 400m and 800m crowns this summer.

n Predictions: 1 BAH, 2 JAM, 3 ENG

n Reigning champions: AUS 3:00.93

n Commonwealth record-holders: JAM 2:56.75

n Games record-holders: JAM 2:59.03

n Home Countries: England – Graham Hedman, Nick Leavey, Darren St.Clair, Rob Tobin, Conrad Williams.

n Did you know? Three American college teams are in the World top-ten rankings.

First Title for Montsho?


Her name has come to the fore this season and for Amantell Montsho, 2010 is the year to steal her first piece of gold on the international stage.

Representing Botswana, the 26-year-old has a scintillating 49.89 to her name this year whilst taking a surprise victory in Split to go third on the World rankings.

Eighth in the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World championships, and fourth in the World indoors back in March, Montsho appears poised to make the step up onto the medal rostrum and improve on her fifth place from the 2006 event.

Jamaica’s Sherika Williams and Novlene Williams-Mills are absent, leaving the event wide-open for the top English and Scottish sprinters to take advantage.

With reigning Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion Christine Ohuruogu conceding defeat after an injury-ravaged year, the Englishwomen will be lead by Victoria Barr.

The 28-year-old Rugby and Northampton runner was only fourth in the UK championships but turned her season around by clocking a 52.40 lifetime best in Switzerland in July. Part of the relay squad that was fourth in the 2009 World’s, Barr will be joined by a new name to the international scene.

Nadine Okyere from Birchfield has been a revelation this summer, after registering 52.99 in Belgium last month – a personal best by almost one second and a half. The 23-year-old was third in the UK championships and would do well to reach the final in her Commonwealth debut.

Scotland’s Lee McConnell lies tenth on the Commonwealth lists after a 51.55 season’s best when claiming the UK title back in June and could well be in contention for the silver. The 31-year-old Olympic semi-finalist recorded only 53.15 in her heat at the Europeans but could be set to replicate her 2002 position.

n Predictions: 1 Montsho, 2 McConnell, 3 Barr

n Reigning champion: Christine Ohuruogu (ENG) 50.28

n Commonwealth record-holder: Cathy Freeman (AUS) 48.68

n Games record-holder: Sandie Richards (JAM) 50.17

n Home Countries: England – Victoria Barr, Nadine Okyere. Scotland – Lee McConnell

n Did you know? McConnell took bronze in the 2006 Games over the 400m hurdles.

Pearson’s to Take

100m Hurdles

With world-leader Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, World indoor silver-medallist Perdita Felicien and World bronze medallist Delloreen Ennis-London not competing, the hot favourite for the gold will be Olympic silver-medallist Sally Pearson in one of the most eagerly-anticipated events of the Games.

Australian Pearson, with a 12.57 season’s best, was fifth in Berlin last summer and returned from injury to claim victory in Split recently. Barring disaster, the 24-year-old is certain to improve on her last Commonwealth appearance, where at aged 20, she failed to go beyond the heats in Melbourne.

Pearson’s mother is from Kent but unfortunately for the English, has insisted on keeping with her Australian roots.

Jamaica’s Vonette Dixon and Aleesha Barber from Trinidad and Tobago should feature in this strongly depleted field, following their 2010 bests of 12.75 and 12.85, respectively.

The sole English entrant is heptathlon-specialist Louise Hazel from Birchfield. The 24-year-old set a 13.32 personal best when taking the UK title last June after finishing fifth the year before and will be lucky to reach the final.

n Predictions: 1 Pearson, 2 Dixon 3 Barber

n Reigning champion: Brigitte Foster-Hylton (JAM) 12.76

n Commonwealth record-holder: Glory Alozie (NGR) 12.44

n Games record-holder: Gillian Russell (JAM) 12.70

n Home Countries: England – Louise Hazel

n Did you know? Britain’s World and European heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, currently on an end-of-season break, is a nifty sprint hurdler lying seventh in the 2010 commonwealth rankings with her 12.85 clocking from New York last May

Smith to Retain Title?

Triple Jump

Trecia Smith, the 2006 Commonwealth winner looks set to retain her title with ease after leaping 14.13m in London last month to threaten her younger rivals at aged-34.
The experienced Smith will be hard to beat following her fifth place in Berlin, eleventh place in the 2008 Olympics and bronze-medal from the 2002 Commonwealths.

Others set to compete include Trinidad and Tobago’s Ayanna Alexander, who set a 13.99 personal best indoors in America in February and Canada’s Tabia Charles, who registered the same distance in the US back in July, following her tenth place in Beijing.

Leading the English trio will be 19-year-old World junior runner-up Laura Samuel. Ranked sixth in the Commonwealth courtesy of her superb 13.75m when collecting global silver in Canada last July, Samuel’s mark was a lifetime best by 77cm, emphasising how the Leicester athlete is ready to step up into the senior ranks.

For Samuel, the UK senior and English under20 champion, Delhi will mark her senior international championship debut at the end of a sensational breakthrough season, where she could cause the shock of the English team by claiming the bronze.

Nadia Williams and Yasmine Regis complete the squad, following 2010 best’s 13.68 (a personal best for Williams) and 13.32, respectively.

Williams, the 28-year-old from Shaftesbury Barnett, was third in the 2006 Games and after claiming UK silver and English gold this summer, will be aiming to feature in the final. Regis meanwhile, was ninth four years ago and the 23-year-old has had a disappointing season by her standards, placing tenth in the UK and fourth in the English champs, respectively.

n Predictions: 1 Smith, 2 Charles, 3 Samuel

n Reigning champion: Trecia Smith (JAM) 14.39m

n Commonwealth record-holder: Francoise Mbango-Etone (CAM) 15.39m

n Games record-holder: Ashia Hansen (ENG) 14.86m

n Home Countries: England – Laura Samuel, Yasmine Regis, Nadia Williams

n Did you know? Hansen, the 1999 and 2003 World indoor champion, set the Games record in Manchester 2002 - a month after claiming the European title and four years after claiming her first Commonwealth crown.

Young Lions Hope to Roar


With Jamaica the clear favourites and the Nigerians close behind, the destination of the bronze medals appear not as clear-cut a result to decide.

As the Bahamians have failed to show their relay form this summer and the Indians appear at a similar level to the Brits, the English girls could very well be within a shot at a minor medal.

The English women clocked an average 3:36.64 in May but a youthful and energetic squad – even minus Olympic, World and reigning Commonwealth champion Christine Ohuruogu – could still upstage their more illustrious counterparts.

Barr, with her recent 52.40 personal best, leads the team which will also include Okyere and her breakthrough 52.99 this season.

Also in the 400m hurdles, Meghan Beesley will add her useful 52.91 form to the squad as will Kelly Massey and her 53.11 lifetime best set in Belgium last month after taking the English crown. Completing the outfit is 2007 European junior champion Hayley Jones, who has a best of 53.23.

At the sharp end of the race, Jamaica are expected to dominate, following their 3:27.72 from April which puts them in seventh in the World rankings. Although with a younger, slower team, the Caribbean squad look set to add to their World indoor and outdoor silver and Olympic bronze, despite finishing fourth in 2006.

Unless the Bahamas field a strong team, Nigeria appear the closest challengers after their 3:29.26 clocking last month. Sixth in Berlin and seventh in Beijing, the Africans have taken the bronze in the past two Commonwealth events.

n Predictions: 1 JAM, 2 NGR, 3 ENG

n Reigning champions: AUS 3:28.66

n Commonwealth record-holders: JAM 3:19.73

n Games record-holders: AUS 3:25.63

n Home Countries: England – Victoria Barr, Meghan Beesley, Hayley Jones, Kelly Massey, Nadine Okyere. Scotland – Eilidh Child, Kathryn Evans, Claire Gibson, Lee McConnell, Gemma Nicol. Northern Ireland – Amy Foster, Katie Kirk, Ciara Mageean, Joanna Mills, Christine McMahon, Kelly McNeice, Joanna Patterson

n Did you know? Despite being an island known for its sprinting pedigree, their appearance in New Delhi will only be the Jamaican teams’ second outing in the women’s 4x400m relay.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Back with a Bang


After years in the wilderness, Mark Lewis-Francis has returned to the international sprint scene with renewed vigour, as the 100m man is now a different character and hungry to make up for lost time, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 28-year-old Birchfield Harrier burst into athletics’ consciousness back in 1999 when, at aged 16, he captured the World Youth 100m title before sensationally scorching to a 10.10 clocking the following summer ahead of impressive European and World junior victories.

A British age 14-18 record-holder, many tipped Lewis-Francis to be a future Olympic champion but his form in the past five years has witnessed him fail to live up to expectations.

Coached by 1992 Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie in London, Lewis-Francis took five national titles around the turn of the ‘noughties’ but has not clinched the UK senior crown since his 2002 victory at twenty-years-old.

Nevertheless, ‘MLF’ as he is affectionately known as to fans and the press, has returned from obscurity in 2010 to capture European 100m silver – his first outdoor senior international medal – and is looking forward to a brighter future and to putting the critics straight.

“I don’t do my athletics for anyone else, just myself and my family so if I’m enjoying it that’s all that matters,” Lewis-Francis explained.

“I started as a hobby and was over the moon with all I achieved as a youngster. I wouldn’t be as strong now if I hadn’t gone through all the tough times, both on and off the track.

Athletics has taught me a lot about myself and being a good person and it’s made me who I am today. I’ve still intentions to go out and be the best athlete Britain’s ever produced, I just need to keep my head down.”


With lifetime bests of 6.51 (for 60m indoors in 2001), 10.04 (100m, 2002) and 20.78 (200m, 2005), respectively, Lewis-Francis has unsurprisingly had many years of experience on the global stage.

After a smooth transition to the senior ranks in 2001, the Midlands man stormed to World indoor 60m bronze before reaching the World 100m semi-final stage that summer.

Registering a blistering 9.98 at aged 19, Lewis-Francis does however, still yearn for his initial sub-ten-second clocking in his sporting career - for his would-be World junior record was never ratified on a day which saw a wind-gauge malfunction occur.

Understandably frustrated, Lewis-Francis used his anger for motivation when claiming the runner-up spot at the 2002 European 60m indoor final and in 2003, he overtook Dwain Chambers as the British number-one when taking fourth place in the World indoor championships.

The stagnation began to arise in 2004 however, as Lewis-Francis became no more than a semi-finalist at the subsequent Olympic, European and two World championships but he was part of a successful GB 4x100m relay quartet which took Olympic glory in the Athens Games six years ago before claiming European gold and World bronze on two occasions.


In more recent years, the affable athlete missed the 2007 World final by just one position and has spent the past two years on the sidelines with a troublesome Achilles injury.

Though, following surgery and a diet overhaul courtesy of former Olympic 200m silver-medallist Darren Campbell, Lewis-Francis has this summer showed glimpses of his former self and has comfortably slotted straight back into the union jack vest with ease.

After running 6.59 indoors last winter and taking fourth place in the UK championships, Lewis-Francis began his outdoor campaign with victory at the Bupa Great Manchester CityGames over 100m in respectable 10.21.

One month later, despite finishing only fifth in the UK outdoor championships in 10.42, Lewis-Francis earned a last-gasp spot on the team for the European championships after impressing selectors the following week with a 10.26 clocking.

Regardless of his late selection, ‘MLF’ was confident he had peaked to perfection as he caused the shock of the championships for Team GB out in Barcelona last July when claiming 100m silver in 10.18 – his fastest time for three years.

“Barcelona needed to happen for my confidence and self-belief – it gave me the motivation to carry on with inspiration to train a lot harder in the winter and to stay focused, also for 2011 which won’t be easy,” Lewis-Francis revealed.

“I was quite surprised I got a medal but I trained really hard this winter, I was amazed to run so fast after being out of the big races for two-years.”

Further, to prove his ‘comeback run’ was no fluke, Lewis-Francis went onto represent Europe in the IAAF/VTB Continental Cup in Split earlier this month, storming to 10.16for third place and went on to win the Bupa Great North CityGames 100m a fortnight ago.

“Training’s really hard (with Linford) but that’s what we need,” Lewis-Francis explained of his return to form.

“He doesn’t mess about, he always says ‘when I was training, I trained twice as much and hard’ which inspires us to dig in and do more. He was a great athlete and is a great guy – I owe him my career right now.

Hopefully he can take me all the way, I have faith in him. I really appreciate what he does for us all.”


Now, almost back to the shape of his life, the father of two is relishing the prospect of claiming his second medal of the summer at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi next month. After finishing seventh over 100m in the 2002 edition when suffering from injury, Lewis-Francis went onto suffer more disappointment in four years later when being disqualified in both the 100m and the 4x100m relay therefore he is subsequently hoping for ‘third time lucky’ in India.

“I’m over the moon at the moment – my season’s gone particularly well, European silver was amazing so the next stage for me is the Commonwealth Games, it’s all about stepping stones,” Lewis-Francis revealed.

“It’s tough in Team GB – we’ve got 6 or 7 guys who can run 10.1 or below so that’s what it needs to be to raise our game,” Lewis-Francis continued.

“It’s great for relays as well, a spot in 2012 will be hard to get - the guys will want to go out into the Olympic stadium at home. Every year’s a fresh slate for me, I keep telling myself how low I’m ranked in the world so as long as I can perform for the team, I’ll be happy.”

Living in South London away from his young children in Manchester, Lewis-Francis concluded:

“It’s been really hard not to see them as often as I’d like. I’m doing this for them, setting up a future for them. It’s hard but it’s the icing on the cake when I run well as its proof that the sacrifices are paying off in the end.”

And with the fast-approaching Commonwealth’s, World championships next summer and Olympics on home turf in two-years’ time, perhaps the quiet years will turn out to be a blessing in disguise after all for the well-rested ‘MLF’.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Big Turner-round


Two years ago, Andy Turner was suffering from injuries and a drop in form which led to him losing his funding status and struggling as a full-time athlete. Now though, the 110m hurdler is the European champion and looks set to add the Commonwealth crown to his growing resume next month, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 30-year-old Sale Harrier was outspoken during his much-publicised annoyance over the withdrawal of support in 2008 but has since turned his athletic career around by using the frustration as his motivation to become one of the world’s best.

Coached by Lloyd Cowan in London, Turner has transformed from the athlete who relinquished in the heats of the Beijing Olympics and World championships in Berlin last summer to clinching continental gold and becoming the hot favourite for glory in New Delhi next month.

“Since it kicked off I’ve moved on, as I didn’t care if I was dropped - I just wanted to prove to myself that I could run well, it’s a chapter that’s closed now,” Turner explained.

“I raced in every race I could find to fund the physiotherapy and it was extra tough with two kids. Berlin was the lowest point of my career – I tore my hamstring the week before and had so many downs, I was devastated I wasn’t in the final. It was a really tough time but I couldn’t give up like that, I wasn’t quite ready to hang up my spikes.”

Dream Season

A six-time national champion indoors and out, Turner spent much of last winter cross-training through an Achilles problem before suffering from a prolapsed disc in his back on New Year’s Day. Determined to battle beyond his issues and assert his authority in the event in 2010, however, Turner worked hard to set his stall out, come springtime.

Just as he promised, this summer has been a breakthrough for the father-of-two and it started with a bang, too. In scintillating fashion, Turner sped to a 13.34 clocking to beat a world-class field in Hengelo at an IAAF World Challenge meeting back in May, before taking a surprise double victory at the Bupa Great Manchester CityGames.

On an elevated track surrounded by the public in the middle of Deansgate, the 2007 and 2009 European indoor 60m hurdles fourth-placer stormed to glory ahead of former Olympic silver-medallist Terrence Trammell in 13.37.

To cap off a great day’s work just thirty-minutes later, Turner also took the rarely-run 200m hurdles over the Olympic 400m hurdles bronze-medallist Bershawn Jackson – in an unofficial World record of 22.30.

Shocking even himself at such early-season form, Turner went onto take the European team championships in Norway but then suffered a minor blip when losing the UK title to his rival, the 2009 World fourth-placed William Sharman.

Not one to be thrown by a bad performance, though, Turner – the third-fastest sprint hurdler on the British all-time list – bounced back in blistering shape to win the European title in Barcelona with a season’s best of 13.28 before representing Europe with pride at the IAAF/VTB Continental Cup in Split earlier this month, placing as runner-up in the process.

“This summer’s been a dream-come-true – Manchester gave me a lot of confidence going into Barcelona – my aim was the gold and it’s been crazy since,” Turner revealed.

“I’ve really enjoyed it and have kept my head with Delhi coming up, as I hope to win the gold. (Winning the Europeans) has been my biggest achievement to date – I watch the race every day and still find myself cheering at the TV.”

Icing on the Cake

Last weekend, too, Turner captained the home nation in the annual England V Australia match at the Bupa Great North CityGames, winning in 13.40 to prove his form is still holding firm ahead of his second major championship test of the year.

A promising footballer with Notts County F.C and offered a trial with England as a rugby player in his youth, Turner is relishing the opportunity to add more gold to his collection in India, despite the recent security, sanitation and health scare reports.

Four years ago, he claimed Commonwealth bronze in Melbourne and after improving on his third-place from the 2006 Europeans this summer, Turner is hoping to repeat the same position in his next appearance.

“Delhi will be good – my body’s been aching a little but I’m going with one thing in mind, the gold,” Turner explained.

“I’m doing the relay too – I did it in 2006 on first leg (but the team failed to finish). It’s a different pressure, as I don’t train for it but it will be great if I could get a medal in both – I’ve not done a relay in two-years. It would really be the icing on the cake in a wicked season.”


Questioned on how he managed to finally make this year his own, Turner divulged:

“There haven’t been any changes this year – the hurdles is difficult, some people have that natural rhythm but I’ve had to work at it over the years and it’s coming together now. The consistency and being mentally right’s been the key – Manchester got me a off to a flying start, making me believe more.”

Evidently happy with the support he is receiving from his coaching set-up and family environment, Turner continued;

“Lloyd’s amazing and he’s buzzing right now – everything he’s achieved with Christine (Ohuruogu, the Olympic 400m champion)’s been amazing and now he’s got his first European medal from me.

I live in South London so sometimes can’t get to Lee Valley so I train by myself a lot. I sometimes drive past the Olympic stadium to join the group and my daughters sometimes come to the local track with me.

I’ll set the little hurdles out, pretend to lose to them then I’ll have to present them with my European medal on the rostrum - they love it so I’d be happy if they get into athletics,” Turner revealed.

Hoping to train in Florida with World number-one David Oliver over the winter, Turner is evidently still on cloud-nine and excited about the future:

“I ran 13.28 in Barcelona into a head-wind so that shows I can do more. I know I can improve but I’m taking each day as it comes, London 2012)’s always on my mind – the dream’s to do well there.”

Bupa Great North Run - women's report - 2010


Women’s Wheelchair

Shelly Woods added title number three to her 2005 and 2007 victories here with a dominating 52.59 winning display.

The 24-year-old Blackpool athlete, who competed amongst a classy men’s field, started strongly and held her form all the way through the 13.1-miler to the finish.

Coached by Pete Wyman and competing in the T54 category, Woods finished over four minutes ahead of Italy’s four-time London marathon winner and world marathon record-holder, Francesca Porcellato, just two days after taking the Tyne Tunnel 2km dash.
Woods, the British half-marathon record-holder and 2007 London marathon winner, now plans to contest the Berlin marathon this Sunday, followed by an appearance over 26.2-miles in New York in November.

Woods explained: “I felt really good. It’s not easy on your own, but I was chasing the lads and got close to some of the up-hills so it was different.

Winning in 2005 was my breakthrough with the course record, which I’m trying to get back. It’s such a great course and event and atmosphere, we were lucky the rain slowed down. My main focus is training for the World championships in New Zealand in January, I really want to get the gold so I’ll be training away a lot but I like keeping busy.”

Portcellato, still going strong at 40 and nicknamed the ‘Red Wheel’ was recently made the Italian equivalent of becoming a Dame and her 57:09 time was well clear of third-placed Nikki Emerson, the 22-year-old Brit who continued her fine form from fourth in London last spring.


Experience prevailed over youth in the women’s event, as 37-year-old Ethiopian Berhane Adere gave Ana Dulce-Felix of Portugal a lesson in – albeit dubious – winning tactics.

Evidently lacking confidence and curiously, despite a long illustrious career, the ability to keep her eyes ahead to focus, the 2009 runner-up clocked a victorious 68:49 to 27-year-old Dulce-Felix’s 69:01, which is a lifetime best for the third-place-finisher from last years’ event.

Adere, the former World 10,000m champion and Dulce-Felix, 15th in the 2009 World cross-country and winner of the Bupa Great Ireland Run last year, forced the pace from the outset with Britain’s Olympic marathon sixth-placer Mara Yamauchi and Portuguese duo Sara Moreira and Marissa Barros in the leading group.

Passing the one and two-marks at a blistering pace in 5:10 and 5:07 respectively, the pack of five was highlighted by the eventual winner’s multi-coloured headband which sported the Ethiopian colours as Adere’s return to form since finishing only 14th in the London marathon back in April, was quite unexpected.

The veteran’s win was, however, aided by the last-minute withdrawals of defending champion Jessica Augusto from Portugal and Germany's Irina Mikitenko, the former two-time London Marathon champion, but nevertheless, recorded an eye-catching victory.

Miles three to seven were registered at 5:14, 5:29, 5:33 (26:33 for five miles) 5:10 and 5:10, respectively and, locked tightly together until the eighth mile, (at 42:01) where Yamauchi was dropped with ease, the pack dwindled to three with Moreira, the European 5000m bronze-medallist, relinquishing in fourth comfortably ahead of the Tokyo-based 37-year-old Brit.

The following miles were passed in 5:08, 5:24 and 5:15 (52:40 at ten miles) and at 49-minutes in, Adere and Dulce-Felix pulled away from Barrios, eighth in the European marathon this summer, who became five-metres adrift for a short while before the leading duo decisively pushed further ahead.

Dulce-Felix continued to press on relentlessly but Adere stubbornly hung on just behind, with the gaps further back becoming more significant. With Moreira, Barrros and Yamauchi running solo, victory was at this stage, ascertained as a two-athlete race.

At the 57-minute mark just before eleven miles, Adere opened a yard gap after constantly glancing over her shoulder to estimate her advantage in the closing stages and both notably dug deep to snap the other.

In a real cat and mouse display, the European was eventually dropped at the 58-minute mark only to claw her way back into contention again in a gutsy demonstration of determination, before losing 10m on Adere at the hour mark.

Amazingly, Dulce-Felix, who was only sixth in the Adidas Women’s 5km challenge in London recently, came back again to draw level and even poke Adere’s back in a frustrated gesture against the African’s crafty tactics on the road.

Evidently unimpressed, Adere responded by flying off to stride out comfortably with a mile to go and, safe from any danger, sprinted from 500m out, still looking behind in the final metres despite ultimately finishing twelve seconds clear.

The winner explained afterwards: “It was a nice race which I’ve run many times and I’m happy with my time. She (Dulce-Felix) really pushed me and I used my tactic after 15km so I pushed on until the finish. I’ve not decided what race to do next.”

With the final three miles passed in 5:22, 5:12 and 5:00, the two Portuguese runners-up finished strongly to improve on their 2009 placings. Barros, ninth in the World marathon championship last summer, clocked 6:09 to finish a minute ahead of their third runner Moreira in 70:08.

Sidelined during the summer with a foot injury, Yamauchi hoped for better after returning from a spell of high-altitude training in St Moritz but the Harrow AC athlete was using the race as preparation for the ING New York marathon in November and now heads to Albuquerque to hone her race fitness.

Over two minutes shy of her best, the Bob Parker-coached athlete replicated her 2005 performance but was disappointed with her 70:38 time:

“I’ve still got some sharpening up to do and I guess it’s what I expected considering the training I’ve been doing. I expected to run quicker but it was really slow compared to what I hoped for. I’ve got to go away and do a bit of work but it wasn’t a disaster,” Yamauchi divulged.

“Shige (my husband) often trains with me on the bike so I don’t normally train alone. It’s hard with the Africans but it’s not impossible. I wasn’t well with a cold ten days ago so I think I’m possibly not quite over that yet but I hate making excuses.

Sometimes you feel fantastic but today I didn’t feel I had enough in the tank, hopefully come New York, I’ll be feeling better. I still believe that I can prepare to do well (for 2012). I might do a low-key fun-run for training over in Albuquerque but continue to train really hard for New York, my last race this year.”

Winchester’s 27-year-old Louise Damen made a startling return to racing after an 18-month absence to finish second British woman in 73:24. The 2008 European cross-country ninth-placer caused a pleasant surprise and will be hoping to get back to the shape which saw her register 70:47.07 for the distance in the past.

Damen, who is self-coached revealed: “I was pleased because it was tough as I ran the whole race on my own until the last 200m. It was a real mental battle with myself but I’m chuffed to do well in a strong elite field.

I would have liked to have run quicker but I can’t moan too much. I came in today fairly relaxed, not knowing what shape I’m in so I had nothing to lose. It’s good to know where I’m at and what I need to work on and I’m going to do the Great South (in October).”
Alyson Dixon of Chester-le-Street claimed the third British spot, one place behind in eighth overall to clock 74:15 after a recent fourth place in the Bupa Great Yorkshire 10km. Behind the 31-year-old Dixon, European marathon representative Rebecca Robinson put in admirable performance to clock 75:02 despite the 27-year-old’s tired legs and the recent death of her coach Norman Matthews. Fifth Brit went to Emily Pidgeon, who had a strong debut with 75:26 which took the 21-year-old Stroud runner to eleventh place overall.

2004 Olympic marathon champion Constantina Dita of Romania, meanwhile, was below-par, as the 38-year-old had to settle for 77:07 just ahead of European cross-country champion Hayley Yelling (77:40). The 36-year-old Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow runner was ill in the lead-up to the race and although disappointed, remained positive ahead of her third Commonwealth Games – over 10,000m - next month.

• Quite a while back down the field in the mass race was former two-time winner Sonia O’Sullivan.

The Irishwoman accepted a challenge from the organisers to start the race dead-last and to then see how many people she could pass.

With a 67:17 best here from 2002, O’Sullivan gained £1 for Leukemia research for every runner she caught and managed to pass half the field to clock 2:15 and raise around £20,000 for the charity before heading off to her Australian home the following day.

Great North City Games & kids reports - 2010


Junior Wheelchair

Kicking off the days’ proceedings in impressive style, a trio of talented wheelchair racers graced the Tyneside for the junior race. With only two male and one female entrant contesting the one-mile event, victory went to 14-year-old Will Smith from Norwich.

Racing in the T54 category, Smith – the World junior silver medallist for the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m sped to a 3:46 clocking after failing to dip under the four-minute barrier last year.

The second boy unfortunately crashed and failed to finish after colliding with a barrier, coming off the Millennium Bridge into the finishing straight. Such an incident will hopefully force the organisers to re-think the tightness of the race-gantry around corners for the chair racers in future.

Middlesborough’s Jade Jones, the prodigious 14-year-old World junior champion for distances ranging from the 100m right up to the 1500m also in the T54 class, clocked an impressive 4:11 to mix it with the boys the day after taking the Tyne Tunnel 2km dash.
Mini and Junior Run

Hundreds of wide-eyed children embarked on the Newcastle-Gateshead quayside for the Bupa mini and junior runs, as the ‘Toon army’s’ ran the entire way before beaming, cheering and even dancing their way across the finish line with – for the mini run competitors - their adult companions for company and motivation.

Standing up to its tag of Britain’s biggest running event for children, over 5,000 participants between the ages of three and sixteen years covered the mile-long course to huge applause from the crowds.

The 2010 Bupa Junior and Mini Great North Runs featured three different categories for youngsters of all abilities and attracted a record field with over 5,000 children, many of whom were also raising much-needed funds for good causes, including the 2010 official charity, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

Also present were characters from the popular CBeebies programme ZingZillas, who started the Bupa Mini Great North Run and performed a song written especially for the event.

Other TV characters as well as Great North Run legends Liz McColgan and Sonia O’Sullivan started the following waves and the children of the famous Scottish and Irishwoman also took part.

The Bupa Mini Great North Run for girls and boys saw children aged from three to eight years participate and was staged over a one-mile course along the Quayside. Impressively, each of the three starting waves boasted around 800 young runners.

The three girls’ waves contests were taken by Caitlin Llewellyn from Chester le Street, Chloe Davies from Cramlington and Jenna Laine Roberts from Cannock, respectively.

The boys’ winners meanwhile, were James Salt from Penrith, Daniel Buffham from Newcastle upon Tyne and James Garraghan from Peterlee.

Following the Bupa Great CityGames elite events, was the Bupa Junior Great North Run, which was divided into two age categories – for boys and girls aged 9 to 11 and for boys and girls aged 12 to 16 – both racing over a distance of three-miles.

The female winner of three-mile event in the 9-11 year contest was 11-year-old Olivia Bateman of Birtley Athletics Club (19:25), who only began racing in May from Rhain Purves of Gosforth Harriers & AC (19:36) and third-placed Eleanor Twite from Sale Harriers Manchester (19:37).

The boys race was won by Markhim Lonsdale of Gateshead Harriers & AC, also 11 years of age and the North Eastern counties champion over 100m, 800m, 1500m and long-jump (17:08) from Charlie Lowrie of Wharfedale Harriers (17:49) and Alfie Manthorpe (City of Sheffield AC) in 18:02.

Scarborough’s sixteen-year-old North Yorkshire schools cross-country champion Joshua Schofield was an impressive winner of the three-mile event in the 12-16 category, coming home in 15:09 from Shaun Barras (Jarrow & Hebburn AC, 15:14) and Liam James Ayton of Durham City Harriers & AC in 15:30.

Birtley AC’s 13-year-old North of England cross-country silver-medallist Lydia Turner was a class apart in the girls 12-16 category, winning in 17:27 from Mollie Williams of Stockport Harriers & AC (17:40) and City of York AC’s Katy Wood (17:43).

All mini and junior runners received an event t-shirt, medal and finisher’s pack and the junior runners were chip-timed to give an accurate finishing time to enable them to see their official clocking published on the Bupa Great Run website.

Women’s 100m Hurdles

Olympic and World champion Sally Pearson was, as expected, a class apart in this, her specialist event in a comfortable 12.85 clocking.

Fresh from her recent victory in the IAAF /VTB Continental Cup, Pearson gave herself the perfect early birthday gift ahead of her 24th the following day by clinching the win by over six-tenths of a second from England’s Angelita Broadbelt-Blake (13.49).

Coming over to the UK from her training base in Cologne four days beforehand, the hot contender for the gold medal London 2012 has been a revelation this summer after returning from an eight-month injury lay-off to register 12.57.

“The hurdles were a bit slow but considering the competition and the track, I’m happy I got the point,” Pearson explained.

“All of my mum’s side from Kent are here to cheer me on – but no, I’m staying put to compete in Australia. Usually I get a PB every year so I want to keep doing that and going in (to the Commonwealth’s) as favourite, I want to do really well.”

Broadbelt-Blake endured a long train journey up from London the night before in a last-minute call-up and after a week-long celebration for her 25th birthday, is shortly set to jet off across the Pond to live in Florida with new coach Dennis Mitchell.

The New York-born sprint-hurdler and UK silver-medallist revealed: “I leave for Orlando next month so I’m really looking forward to that - a different group, environment and weather. My plan’s to stay healthy so there’s going to be greater things for me next year I’m sure.”

The long-term partner of Jamaica-based British 100m man Simeon Williamson,Broadbelt-Blake continued: “I haven’t put down any kind of training in for the past three weeks as I was on my break so this was unexpected. I only committed to coming two days ago so I’m really happy with that. The journey was very draining but I knew once I got here, the crowd would be good and they were awesome. They made me run fast.”

After an injury-ravaged 2010 campaign, 26-year-old Gemma Bennett finished third in a disappointing 13.64.

Australian under23 record-holder Shannon McCann failed to finish.

Women’s One-Mile

UK 1500m champion Hannah England retained her one-mile title in exhilarating fashion, proving her late-season form and trademark scintillating finishing-kick are back to their best, following recent injury woes.

The 23-year-old sped to a 4:38 victory ahead of 36-year-old Helen Clitheroe in an exhilarating race in which England, tenth in the recent European championships, decisively scorched away in the final 150m to annihilate her 4:49 2009 winning time ahead of Australia’s Erica Fountain (4:45) and team-mate Jenny Meadows (4:51) in third and fifth, respectively.

Heading to New York for the Fifth Avenue road mile next week before attending the Commonwealth preparation camp in Doha, England explained: “It went really well, I felt really strong and the head to head with Helen was really great - it was nice to come out on top again.

We ran to 800m quite fast but then lost a bit of time on the hilly sections but I was pleased I could kick in at the end. I had a few physical problems out in Barcelona which were mentally very hard to get over and I let it get on top of me. So I’ve re-built the base and come back stronger.”

Set for her fourth Commonwealth appearance, Clitheroe divulged: “The wind during the first part of the race was really tough so we gritted our teeth before the real race started on the climb - I’m happy to run in such a fantastic event and atmosphere. I would have liked to have won but it was still great, it shows that my flat speed’s where it needs to be.”

Meadows, the World indoor and outdoor 800m medallist, was gracious in defeat after a solid piece of over-distance work.

Women’s 150m

Pearson continued her impressive display by upstaging the flat sprint specialists with another comfortable 16.86 victory to Laura Turner’s 17.07.

With a season’s best of 11.39 for 100m and a 200m personal best of 23.19, Pearson was always going to be recognised as a threat but it was the ease at which she took the win which may have surprised her rivals.

“This is a big birthday present,” Pearson exclaimed, “I was really nervous but I did my job for Australia and I’m really happy. I’m still working on a few things so I hope to come out on top and get faster in Delhi. We’re staying here for another eleven days for our camp then we head off to Delhi on the 29th.”

Barcelona 100m semi-finalist Turner lead the home charge and in a season where the 28-year-old has registered an impressive 11.11 for the 100m, Turner is hoping to capitalise on her in-form speed in Delhi:

“It was ok, the first 50m was pretty ropey but I felt really strong towards the end, which is promising for Delhi but I really need to sort out my first 50m if I want to do well there, Turner explained.

“I want to win every race I run but in Delhi it will be hard so I’ll try my best. I’m off to Doha next week to prepare early and sharpen up in the sun to get ready. I hope to run another couple of 11.1’s,/11.2’s to be more consistent.”

Struggling with injuries since returning from knee surgery in the winter, 24-year-old British record-holder for the 100m Montell Douglas came home in fourth (17.85) just behind Australian Jody Henry (17.51).

Invitational 100m

City of Plymouth’s Katherine Endacott took a surprise 11.47 victory in the guest 100m from fellow Brit Joice Maduaka and Australia’s Melissa Breen.

With a 11.46 lifetime best from Crystal Palace last month, the mother of one is in fine form at the right time going into the Commonwealth 100m in a fortnights’ time and took many positives away from her good days’ work:

“It was good, I executed my start well and I’ve been practicing on my start and drive phase a lot,” Endacott explained.

Looking trim and ready to race, the 30-year-old continued: “I’ve had five years out after having my little girl and this year’s been my first year back so for me, I’ve done really, really well. I wouldn’t have believed at the start of the year I’d be going to the Commonwealth’s and I’m coming into good form, ready to nail it.”

Maduaka meanwhile clocked 11.56 to come close to her 11.62 season’s best and bound for Delhi in the 200m, the 36-year-old Woodford Green with Essex Ladies athlete is rounding into solid shape for her Commonwealth debut in India.

In third, Australian 100m champion Breen was relatively happy with her 11.62 performance after celebrating her 20th birthday the evening before and Sale’s 400m specialist Victoria Barr closed the field with 11.11 for fourth – a huge improvement on her 11.90 personal best set earlier in the year.

Monday, 20 September 2010

North-East Extravaganza


Tyneside will once again play host to a jam-packed programme of exciting world-class and community events this Saturday, as the BUPA Great North CityGames returns to the picturesque Newcastle-Gateshead quayside, writes Nicola Bamford.

Thousands of athletics-mad spectators will be treated to the annual England V Australia track and field extravaganza as well the usual mini and junior runs and ‘The Great North Run Show’.

The unique and refreshing event is free to watch and now in its’ second consecutive year, will be using its’ familiar main attraction of the purpose-built Great CityGames running track set against the spectacular backdrop of the iconic Tyne Bridge and Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

With the track and field events positioned either on South Shore Road or a short hop across the River Tyne on Baltic Square, the viewing public will be able to embrace the rare opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the biggest stars in world athletics.

Many recently-crowned European championship medallists will be appearing for Team England, as many of them hone their final preparations before travelling to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi next month.

European 110m hurdles champion Andy Turner will captain the home side that will be seeking to retain the victory which they emphatically took last year, whilst Olympic and World champion pole-vaulter Steve Hooker will steer the Aussie contingent.

The Bupa Great North CityGames take place from 13.00 -14.30pm on Saturday the 18th of September as part of the BUPA Great North Run weekend and will be televised live on BBC One.

BBC Radio Five Live will also be presenting four days of programmes from the North East, totalling 35-hours of live programming from the region in what is going to be Five Live’s biggest ever domestic outside broadcast.

BUPA Great North CityGames preview:

Men’s Pole Vault

Steve Hooker is the star draw of the day and should be a sure-fire cert for glory.

The 28-year-old Australian is fresh from victory at the IAAF Continental Cup in Split, Croatia and as team captain, the World and Olympic champion will be determined to provide a strong example.

Steve Lewis will lead the British challenge and will be eager to make up for a disappointing summer. The 24-year-old registered a best of only 5.41m in just six competitions during the 2010 outdoor season and has a point to prove after switching coaches and re-assessing his technique. Seventh in the World championships last summer, Lewis went onto win this event in 2009 with a 5.45m leap.

Another Brit using this duel as preparation for Delhi will be Luke Cutts. The 22-year-old European under23 silver-medallist has a season’s best of 5.45m from May but only flew to 5.01m in the McCain Challenge Final in Cardiff recently so will be looking to make amends in his national kit.

Nineteen-year-old Blake Lucas, the 2009 Australian outdoor champion, completes the field.

Women’s 100m Hurdles

Olympic and World champion Sally Pearson will start as the red-hot favourite here
and the Australian, who took victory in the Continental Cup, will turn 24 on Sunday.

Gemma Bennett will lead the England charge, as the 26-year-old ran a solid 13.31 last month to win the Bedford International Games.

Third behind her in the same event with 13.62, 22-year-old Zara Hohn will be hoping to get closer to her 13.41 personal best and gain valuable experience.
Shannon McCann, a 21-year-old 14.16 hurdler, completes the line-up.

Men’s Two-Mile

Craig Mottram and Chris Thompson will renew their rivalry on the back of Mottram’s one-second victory in the BUPA Great Yorkshire Run a fortnight ago.

Mottram, the 2005 World 5,000m bronze-medallist, ran 7:45.87 in the IAAF Diamond League Crystal Palace leg last month for eighth behind his British counterpart and the 30-year-old’s form is sharpening as fast as his legs in his eagerly-anticipated return from a two-year injury hiatus.

European 10,000m silver-medallist Thompson has a 7:43.34 3,000m clocking to his name this year and the 29-year-old will be hoping to stretch his season’s form a little further until his Commonwealth appearance over twenty-five laps next month.

Proving it’s more than a two-horse race will be Australia’s Collis Birmingham who is having the season of his life with personal bests over 1500m (3:35.50 in Brussels), 5000m (13.10.97 in Eugene) and 3000m (7:38.77 in Rieti) recently. The 25-year-old national record-holder for 10,000m was also sixth in the Continental Cup over 5,000m.

Andy Baddeley, Andy Vernon and Stuart Stokes complete the England outfit and the trio have all been in fine form of late.

Baddeley, with his recent strong 3:34.50 after a summer to forget will be looking to retain his title after his 2009 4:02 victory, whilst Vernon’s recent 7:55.45 (3,000m), 13:28.60 (5,000m) and 64:43 (half-marathon) performances are promising. Stokes (33) will be using his 8:33.00 2010 steeplechase pedigree to make a long-awaited international comeback. All three are off to India, also.

Ben St Lawrence and Mitch Kealey provide further opposition from Down Under.

Women’s One-Mile

World 1500m silver-medallist Lisa Dobriskey will be hoping to bounce back from her fourth place disappointment in Barcelona here. The 26-year-old won this event in 2009 and recently scorched to a 3:59.79 1500m clocking to show fine form ahead of her 800m-1500m double in Delhi.

Her top challenger will be World 800m bronze medallist Jenny Meadows. The 29-year-old was second here last year and following her third place in the European’s, she will be coming in from a 1:58.88 season’s best from finishing third in the Continental Cup.

Helen Clitheroe is proving age is no barrier as the 36-year-old, who is also off to the Commonwealth’s over 1500m, has run 4:06.40 (1500m) and 8:51.82 (3,000m) recently before a superb 4:45.25 road mile in Middlesborough for Team England a fortnight ago.

Completing the squad and eager to show a return to form is Hannah England. The 23-year-old sped to a 4:04.33 clocking in July but was disappointed to finish tenth in Barcelona. She will need to find another gear to replicate her 4:49 2009 winning display.

4:08.78 runner Kaila McKnight will be joined by Laura Nicod and Erica Fountain in a weakened Australian squad.

Men’s Long Jump

On a high from his European bronze medal and 8.23m personal best from Barcelona last month, Chris Tomlinson should be the man to beat. The 29-year-old was second in last year’s competition so will be hoping to go one better here - his last competition saw a best of 7.77m, though so the North-East man needs to find consistency before Delhi.

Tomlinson’s main rival for the top spot here will be Chris Noffke. The 22-year-old leapt to 8.33m back in April but the 2005 World youth champion may be a little rusty as he begins his summer season.

Fellow Delhi-bound Brit, Greg Rutherford has finally put his injury woes behind him after missing most of the summer and will hope to find the kind of form which helped him to victory in 2009. Then, he jumped 8.17m and to date, he has a 8.10m best for the season.

With a best of 7.62m this year and a 7.13m lifetime best, Australia’s 28-year-old Shaun Fletcher completes the line up.

Men’s 100m

England’s comeback kid Mark Lewis-Francis is the main attraction in the short sprint, following his shock silver medal in Barcelona. The 27-year-old has a best of 10.16 from this season and following a strong third place in the Continental Cup, will be full of confidence heading into his second major championship of the year.

Australia’s Aaron Rouge-Serret may be able to push Lewis-Francis all the way if his recent form is anything to go by. The 22-year-old was seventh behind the English number one in Split with 10.45 but is also the owner of a solid 10.17 personal best.

His team-mate Matt Davies will again provide stiff opposition, following his 10.23 lifetime best but as the 25-year-old’s mark was set in February, England’s second counter, Ryan Scott will still be within a chance.

Twenty-three-year-old Scott has run 10.34 this season but will need more than his average 10.7-8 range of late to make a statement here.

Women’s 150m

Pearson is an intriguing entrant in this, her second event of the day - the English sprinters will undoubtedly want to assert their flat speed authority over the Australian here.

Barcelona 100m semi-finalist Laura Turner will lead the home charge, following the 28-year-old’s 11.11 lifetime best back in July. Joining her this weekend and again over 100m in Delhi will be Montell Douglas.

The 24-year-old 2009 runner-up has a best of 11.40 this season but only registered 11.78 recently in Italy. Perhaps a different distance will breathe fresh life into the athlete.

Melissa Brenn, turning aged 20 on Friday, has run 11.34 this season and the Australian 100m champion should not be overlook despite her tender years.

Men’s 150m

Fourth in Barcelona, 34-year-old Marlon Devonish is in form to retain his 2009 title and most possibly eclipse his 14.88 winning time. With 100m and 200m clocking of 10.18 and 20.55 this season, this race is the Commonwealth 200m-bound sprinter’s race to lose.

Also heading to India in the English 200m squad is Jeffery Lawal-Balogun. The runner-up here last year with 15.21, the 24-year-old reached the semi-finals in Spain with a 20.85 registering and has also set a 10.27 personal best in 2010, making an English one-two quite possible.

Determined not to let the home boys have it their own way, however, will be 2005 and 2006 World and Commonwealth finalist Patrick Johnson. The 37-year-old ran 10.18 and 20.74 back in the spring and will be backed up by 24-year-old Jacob Groth, who clocked 10.65 and 20.80 also.

Men’s 110m Hurdles

Team captain Andy Turner is the man of the moment, following continental glory last month and the 29-year-old will be hoping to get near the same 13.28 form he showed when speeding to gold. Second last year with 13.54, Turner was recently second in the Continental Cup and is maintaining his form nicely in time for Delhi.
As yet, the second English competitor has yet to be confirmed but Australian duo Daniel Small (22) and Greg Eyears (28) will be on the start-line. Despite marks of 14.09 and 14.44 in 2009, neither however has competed this year.

Invitational 100m

European 200m silver-medallist Christian Malcolm requested an invitational 100m in order to hone his speed prior to representing Wales in Delhi. The 31-year-old has 2010 bests of 10.41 and 20.38 (200m), respectively, and was recently fourth in the Continental Cup.

Joice Maduaka and Katherine Endacott will battle it out over the women’s invitational 100m. At 36, Maduaka is still going strong with a 11.42 2010 best whilst Endacott ran a 11.46 personal best at Crystal Palace last month. The duo will head to Delhi to contest the 200m and 100m, respectively.

10am – 6pm - BUPA Great North Run Show
10:30am - BUPA Great North Junior wheelchair race
11am - BUPA Mini Great North Run – Wave 1
11:30am - BUPA Mini Great North Run - Wave 2
12pm - BUPA Mini Great North Run - Wave 3
12:15pm - 100m Elite Guest Race - Women
12:25pm – 100m Elite Guest Race - Men
1pm-2:30pm –
Pole Vault - Men
100m Hurdles – Women
BUPA Great North 2 Miles – Men
BUPA Great North 1 Mile – Women
Long Jump – Men
100m – Men
150m – Women
150m – Men
110m Hurdles – Men
2:20pm – BUPA Junior Great North Run – Wave 1
3:10pm – BUPA Junior Great North Run – Wave 2

The BUPA Junior and Mini Great North Run is Britain’s biggest running event for kids with over 5,000 participants.

The event takes place the day before the world's biggest half marathon, the BUPA Great North Run and features three different categories for youngsters of all abilities.

The BUPA Mini Great North Run is for girls and boys aged from 3 to 8 years and covers approximately 1 mile. The BUPA Junior Great North Run is divided into two age categories - for boys and girls aged 9 to 11 and for boys and girls aged 12 to 16 - both over a distance of approximately 3 miles.

All three courses start and finish on the Newcastle side of the Quayside.

The BUPA Great North Run show will have interactive sporting activities including workshops and demonstrations on extreme sports by Guinness World-Record holders Team Extreme.

Visitors will also be treated to Q&A sessions with a plethora of international stars –
11am – Liz Yelling and Martin Fagan.
12pm – Haile Gebrselassie.
12:50pm – Martin Lel and Dathan Ritzenhein.
2:45pm – Mara Yamauchi and Andrew Lemoncello.

Members of the public can try their hand at sports commentating at the BBC Radio 5 Live area and let loose on the climbing wall and inflatable duel podiums.

Visitors will also be able have their photo taken against a backdrop of Great North Runners and the Great North Run Chelsea Flower Show Garden has been reconstructed within the Show allowing all a chance to see the Silver medal-winning exhibit.

The UK’s largest free Pasta Party will also be in full swing with a free bowl of pasta for every runner, and participants will be able to purchase a limited edition replica 1981 Great North Run t-shirt.

The Ever-Present fanatics

With this year’s race celebrating its’ 30th anniversary, AW sought out some fascinating stories from a bunch of BUPA Great North Run ‘ever-presents’ – a crazy clan who for one reason or another, have participated in every race since its’ inception and will be toeing the line for their big 3-0 this weekend, Nicola Bamford writes.

Kicking off our tales of torture, satisfaction and memories galore is 78-year-old Frankie Gilmore, who is an inspiration to all and has aspirations of completing his 32nd event in 2012, aged 80:

“It’s now the only organised race that I do each year because it’s such a special event for me, having managed through good luck and determination to have done them all,” Gilmore explained.

“I don’t want to miss one! I’m always working towards the next one. I have the Great North Run to thank for giving me the incentive and motivation to keep fit all year round and a positive attitude and outlook on life.”

Competing in the World’s most popular half-marathon has become a family tradition in

Peter McDonald’s household. With one brother an ever-present like himself and another who has run 15 of the editions, Peter is maintaining a strong competitive streak with his siblings:

“I was 29 when I ran my first Great North Run. The main reason I have run them all is to stay fit, but it has now become a family tradition,” McDonald revealed.

“My son has run every year since he was eligible and he is up to seven runs.”
Just as impressive is the friendship that has carried Joe McConnell and Simon Rodden through the past 30 events.

Back in 1981, the duo - aged 23 at the time – decided they fancied a test of sporting ability and three decades on, have completed each annual edition as a pair:

“Now the same two grumpy old men will hopefully stumble across the finishing line in South Shields with no particular interest in our time or our speed...we’ll just be looking forward to the refreshments, the humour and the leg massage in the St. Oswald’s tent!,” they explained.

Dennis Hewitt is another who stumbled across his ‘ever-present’ status by accident:
“Having crossed the line I can remember thinking – well that’s a half marathon done, cross that off the list, no need to do that again,” Hewitt recalled.

“Within half an hour I was thinking – maybe I could apply again next year. Twenty nine years later I’m still applying every year. I was 22 when I completed the first run.”

Further proof that sometimes just male pride can be enough to push you beyond your comfort zone is David McGuire and his story that will resonate among many:

“I was 22 years-old at the time of the first Run when a number of us from Tynemouth Rowing Club, after a few drinks one night, thought it would be a good idea to enter the first race, mainly because it was something new, was taking place in the North East and was the chance to ‘prove’ we could actually run a half-marathon!” McGuire explained.

“I’m now the only survivor of this little group who is still entering the Run.”
Robin Armstrong now has the enviable experience and knowledge of travelling logistics for getting to the World’s biggest half-marathon:

“It seems such a long, long time ago now but I remember thinking to myself what a good idea and maybe I should give it a go,” Armstrong recalled.

“This was shortly after an over excessive Christmas period when I was feeling a bit lethargic and maybe a bit overweight. Getting started and past the end of the street was the first big hurdle.

Over the years I have perfected the travelling to and from the event and now have it down to a fine art and I usually manage to get a great view of the Red Arrows over South Shields from the Ferry after I finish. Oh, and I was 23 in the first Great North Run.”

Another whose life has obviously been changed for the better by the BUPA Great North Run is self-confessed ‘addict’ John Tomlinson:

“The Great North Run is as much a part of my life cycle as Christmas, Easter and summer,” Tomlinson proudly exclaimed.

“I was 29 when I ran the first time and my sister-in-law was nursing on the kidney unit at the RVI, Newcastle and told me I should do the Great North “thingy” for kidney research. My wife, Barbara, reckons I now have obsessive compulsive disorder!”

Emphasising how the event has a positive effect on the local community, David Westhead explained:

“I was 38 when I ran the first one after having been a long distance pleasure walker before taking up running,” Westhead reflected.

“I was born in South Shields but now live in Sunderland and I’ve stuck with the Run all these years as I felt I was running home so to speak, as I still have an affinity for South Shields.”

That same affinity is certainly evident in all of the BUPA Great North Run ‘ever-presents’ so AW would like to say a huge ‘congratulations’ to you all and ‘good luck’ on Sunday...!

The Life of a Scribe – An Insider’s View of How Athletes Behave at the Great North Run Weekend...


After weeks of anticipation, the Bupa Great North Run weekend was finally here and I was determined to make this year’s memories far better than those in my last two experiences.

Two years ago, after wrangling an elite entry for the half-marathon aided by my friendships with several of the Nova guys, I ended up embarrassed after pulling up after five miles into the race – a humiliating result later explained by a rather nasty rash– lesson number one, don’t race, let alone in the world’s best 13.1-miler, when you’re on antibiotics!

Last year was a fun experience but nevertheless, a frustrating one as yet again I was resigned to the bit-part act of handing out thousands of leaflets –for free – for a running tours company and oh so wishing that I was really doing what I love the most, reporting and interviewing the athletes.

So hurrah! It’s the 2010 edition and my wish has come true and as they say ‘third time lucky’ and it’s proven the case – I had a ball of a long weekend! and here’s how it unfolded...

Thursday 16th

I arrived at the Gateshead Hilton hotel for the 11am CityGames press conference. Greeted by a bleary-eyed Pete Riley and his fellow NOVA crew, who were evidently worse for wear after supposedly having to stay up late each night at the bar ‘in case the athletes needed them’ – which to be fair is true and they don’t drink that much, NOVA’s head of communications David Hart introduced me to ‘the man behind the voice’ Paul Dickenson.

Inside, only myself, Hart and ‘Captain’ Dave Martin, the company’s media mogul, were in attendance but perhaps it was I that was dumb for I latter found out that the athletes’ quotes and all the news would later be sent out to the national press anyway, but regardless, I enjoyed the event. Dickenson compared the proceedings with his famous soothing and uber-knowledgeable voice . Banter followed between the competitive England and Australia athletics chiefs but John Graves won the battle for the home side, insisting the score would finish at 5-4 to England – let’s see... Australia said they were embarrassed about last year’s performance so bringing out Steve Hooker, Sally Pearson and Craig Mottram was a positive move indeed.

Hooker, with his marvellously long, frizzy strawberry-blonde hair, began the session with tales on how he deals with the pressure after winning nearly everything on offer, his aims for Delhi next month and interestingly, his passion for cooking.

Pearson meanwhile, forgets to tell us that it’s her 24th birthday on Sunday and that her mum’s actually from Kent before the lovely Jenny Meadows becomes the belle of the, er, room and latter takes an interest in my babblings about the pad not far from her and Helen Clitheroe – oh goodness, I hope I’ve not inadvertently invited myself on a run with them.

Cheeky chappy Mark Lewis-Francis is next up and – still buzzing from his Barcelona exploits – he looks lean (but not quite so mean). Last but not least was team captain Andy Turner, who jokingly headlocks Hooker who dared to suggest they’ll lose – Turner revealed he wasn’t looking forward to the final decision potentially going down to the wire in his, the final event of the day.

A photo-opp on the terrace overlooking the river followed and I admit, I felt a little out of place with my tiny pink camera but hey, I’m a fan as well as a journo and need more ‘athletics memories’ to go in my glorious new athletics-centred home office.

The lovely NOVA ladies suddenly produce Hooker and Pearson for an interview so I tried my best to stay cool and professional whilst switching the mic between the pair at ‘er...same question...’ intervals. Next is MLF who exudes a confidence and maturity that the TV cameras fail to capture at times. Explaining how his two children live up north in Manchester while he’s based for training in London with Linford Christie, a tear is almost evident in his eye. That sure is dedication for you and thankfully it’s paying off!

Turner’s slouched and so engrossed with his mocha that I have to ask chief elite-coordinator Andy Caine to bring him over and we chat amongst other things, how we’re both from close areas of Nottingham. Reliving the finest moment of his career to date – his recent Euro victory – Turner actually and very amusingly literally sprints in his seat as he admits to watching the race video every day – aww! He also explains how rather than travelling the extra distance and passing the Olympic stadium to Lee Valley to join coach Cowan too often, he prefers to take his two young daughters to the local track, where they enjoy copying daddy and taking his European medal a-top of the podium.

After a few hours of work in the bar and a comforting email from the AW ed saying he’ll be ready to help if needed from the comfort of his armchair over the weekend, I bumped into the ridiculously-tall Craig ‘Buster’ Mottram, who’s nearing the end of a fortnight’s stay in the UK and looks pretty homesick.

Riley’s stressed to the hills trying to organise a last-minute Visa for Gharib, whilst former Irish 1500m Olympian Gareth Turnbull is the epitome of sarcastic humour but a genuinely nice guy, just like the entire posse of former/current internationals forming the NOVA team. Andy and MLF take some flack for returning from a clothes shopping trip.

Too knackered and pre-occupied to run, I admired the runners from the river-view window in my room and enjoyed a meal with my beau, who is moonlighting from his job at Nike to help Caine and Riley over the weekend. England Athletics’ Andy Day greets us on our return to the bar, where he ponders whether his wife actually misses him anymore due to being away so often, next stop’s Doha then Delhi – oh dear.

Friday 17th –

The Nova boys have doubled over night but they need the extra help with most athletes arriving today. Surrounded by information boards, Lucozade drinks and the 2009 event continuously played on a loop on a plasma TV, it could appear to be a scene from an X Factor audition but with no cameras around yet and with the abundance of Lycra and Aussie accents, no worries there. The double-trouble duo of MLF and A-er-T again cause mischief by asking for a ride to the nearby exhibition centre – a whole 400m away.

A dozen or so media turned up for the GNR press conference but it was the radio people, who annoyingly only ever ask athletes what they think to the city, who get preferential treatment. New York City Marathon elite-coordinator David Monti and the Independent’s athletics man Simon Turnbull kept me entertained while the star of the show, the great – and very late – Haile Gebrselassie was yet to appear.

Martin compared this time and starts with Dita who, in an unusually nasal voice, explains that her goal is to run in London 2012 – at aged 42! Sporting identical Asics gear, Mara’s next and reveals her recent travel adventures as well as causing great excitement when hinting that Newcastle would be the city of choice should she ever move back to the UK– Martin duly offered to sell her a house.

The tall and trim Ritz, recently a father for the second time to baby boy Jude, continued the procession with tales of how Haile has been his idol since aged 13 and it’s the first time they will do battle. We additionally all hope that he’s not jinxed himself by divulging the tale of getting stuck in a lift for an hour in Birmingham (before finishing third in the World half last autumn).

Applause greets Haile who begins by re-telling the story of the ’10-year promise’ and reveals how this race, not the New York marathon in November, has been his priority throughout training – Monti must have been happy with that comment. With his usual huge beaming smile, he bounced off for another photo-opp before the world’s media appeared to descend – no wonder he claimed coming the day before is amble, at least then he gets a chance to breathe – and train! Quote of the day undoubtedly “Why not come the day before – I don’t need to see the course, I can’t change it!”

Jenny and hubby-coach Trevor remain romantically glued to the hip, lounging around with stats supremo Mark Butler, who then yabbers away to Greg Rutherford, who in turn, today launched his new website – crafty but smart!

Making my day for remembering me since Manchester in May, Geb and his glorious grin vanish as quickly as he appears. After years of swapping emails, Mara and I were finally introduced and she lived up to all of my expectations for sure.

Parking myself in the cafe in ear and eye-shot of the goss and happenings for this column, I was kept alert by the wonderfully-funny, and now my partner in crime, Day who finally let me crack on to work as well as being shocked at the miserably thin women’s wheelchair field. In between my Dictaphone blasting out (I really need to buy some ear-plugs!) Caine’s buzzing around at a thousand miles per hour, keeping the athletes and their entourages happy.

The GNR Show, I can confirm was far better than last year and AW’s stand had a strong presence. In finally meeting my colleague for the weekend, David Lowes, I found a lovely chap with bags of passion and interesting facts before swiping a few copies of the latest issue to spread around the hotel.

Barcelona marathon representative Rebecca Robinson met me after the GNR fitness show, which she attended due to her role in the NHS. Amazed by her commitment and focus, she explained how in addition to working at a practice in Sheffield, she is also now doing a part-time Masters degree in Nottingham – oh and that’s combined with 80-miles per week – go girl.

Brief chats then ensued with Helen Clitheroe, Hannah England and AW’s top snapper Mark Shearman before Dan Vernon – the brother of runner Steve, promised to take ‘work action’ shots of the Nova team for a forthcoming feature, UKA’s Spencer Barden was spotted looking rather sweaty post-run and Irish but US-based Martin Fagan appeared cheery but tired after a 20-hour journey from Arizona!

Phew! What a day so to the restaurant and bar I strolled to join my ‘Mr Swoosh’ and the Nova team, to re-fuel for the gruelling weekend ahead – couldn’t wait...!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Leaping to Glory


He made headlines this summer for competing in baggy basketball shorts and dancing in the rain before the biggest event of the year, but high-jumper Martyn Bernard has still proven himself to be a medal contender despite his relaxed attitude, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 25-year-old first caught the media glare back in June when winning the European trials and UK championship whilst sporting the unusual attire, which many criticised for surely inhibiting his performance.

The second occasion where the Wakefield Harrier caused a stir, albeit producing a more entertaining display, was during the warm-up for the final of the European championship in Barcelona the following month.

In pouring rain, Bernard decided the best way to keep warm and to also keep the crowd in high spirits in the 1992 Olympic stadium was to give his best Gene Kelly impression by dancing to the classic tune ‘Singing in the Rain’ – accompanied of course, by a twirling umbrella.

Coached by Dan Pfaff in London, Bernard explained his unorthodox approach: “I’m just comfortable in basketball shorts. I sit around the house in them all day and sometimes train in them so I thought ‘why not jump in them?’ – they don’t get in the way or inhibit me in any way, as they’re so light.

Barcelona was great – I was relaxed and I had a fun time. Who’d have thought so many people would have been watching me?”


Many eyes have been on Bernard since 2005 in fact, when the tall Liverpool psychology graduate – who began high-jumping at aged 16 and has taken a bundle of national titles since he turned 18 -made his international breakthrough by placing third in the World University Games.

Subsequent years saw Bernard take Commonwealth silver at aged 21 (in 2006 with 2.26m) but also witnessed disappointing displays in the European championships that same year and fourteenth position (2.21m) in the 2007 World championships.

Slowly but surely, however, the outgoing athlete began to make his mark. First, he captured European indoor bronze (2.29m) in Birmingham 2007 then he produced a promising ninth place (2.25m) on his Olympic debut in Beijing 2008 – the same year in which he leapt to his current personal best of 2.30m.

Last year represented Bernard’s first major setback, though – an ankle injury which required an operation, resulting in him missing the World championships in Berlin but, staying as upbeat and determined as ever, Bernard has returned in 2010 in better form than ever.


Despite his ankle still ‘looking like a pin cushion after so much acupuncture treatment’ Bernard leapt 2.29m in Spain this summer to claim a much-deserved bronze medal in the continental championships. His heel, too, was suffering, as he was forced to have an injection for a bruise but Bernard had had his fill of disappointments.

Making a bold tactical decision to pass on the opening height of 2.19m, the British number one had two failures at 2.23m and another at 2.26m before gambling on his medal-winning height, which temporarily landed him the gold before a Russian duo pulled ahead.

After failing to make the 2006 European final, it was a performance to savour – especially after all of the heartache and Bernard continued to capitalise on his fine form by replicating the same position (with 2.25m) in the IAAF Continental Cup whilst representing Europe in Split, Croatia earlier this month.

“2010’s gone really well and I’m excited about what’s to come,” Bernard revealed.
“It’s a crazy season – it’s rare having two championships. There’s pro’s and con’s to it, with the Commonwealth’s being so late but also providing the opportunity to get another medal. I’m excited and looking forward to it and the experience over there.

This season’s been about coming back from the operation and trying to get the best out of myself. It’s all about patience and it was great to get a medal this season. Now, I’m training hard to hopefully do well in the World’s (in Daegu, South Korea) next summer.”


With only one competition remaining – the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi next month –Bernard has another score to settle. In the 2006 event, despite being happy with his silver-medal-winning 2.26m jump, Bernard fell into a dispute with the officials, which somewhat soured the occasion.

Angry after first his take-off mark was moved and then experiencing more anguish over a misunderstanding about which height he next wanted to attempt, Bernard did well to remain cool and calm to perform admirably under the pressure.

Using the memory as motivation to go one better in India, Bernard explained:

“It would be fantastic to go one better – I see 2006 as a happy time when I was young so it was a surprise that I got the medal. Now, I’m older and wiser so the gold would be a dream-come-true. There won’t be any Russians out in Delhi so the competition won’t be as strong but it will be hard regardless.

The competition season’s dried up now so it will be interesting to see how people fare after not competing for a month or so. I’ve just got to try to make the most of the situation – I’ve had a break and I’m now preparing for October with technical sessions. I’m probably in better shape now than I was in Barcelona.”

Joining English team-mates Samson Oni and Tom Parsons out in Delhi, Bernard’s big date with gold-medal destiny falls on October 8th. Training with European 200m silver-medallist Christian Malcolm and former British long-jump record-holder Greg Rutherford for extra speed, Bernard explained:

“It’s good that high jump’s doing so well – we’ve got three or four Brits on the world stage. The domestic pressure’s helping us to prepare for international championships.

Obviously my big aim’s London 2012 and to make the best of that, to hopefully be in the best shape of my career. After high-jump, I’ll see if I can give back to the sport in some shape or form.”

Monday, 13 September 2010

Stoked to Run


A semi-retired athlete twelve months ago, 3,000m steeplechaser Stuart Stokes will compete in his third Commonwealth Games next month and now settled into a new life, the dedicated athlete has high hopes leading up to 2012, writes Nicola Bamford.

For the 33-year-old Bolton runner, his days are long and hectic – fuelled by his passion to reach his athletic dream and to additionally provide for his young family. Not only has he recently become a father for the first time but Stokes has also just begun life as a PE teacher – arduously ensuring that training begins before 5am daily.

Disheartened with the politics of the sport in 2008, Stokes spent last year running for fun but is now very much back to his committed best:
“Mine is a pretty hectic day now but it’s amazing how much you can fit in if you stay focused, disciplined and remain positive,” Stokes explained.

“2008 was a strange year because most of my rivals either changed sports or events - I suspect somewhat disheartened as well. It’s been nice this year trying to help out the steeple event by pace-making the few races I’ve ran in.”


The sacrifices and dedication are nothing to the athlete who once caused controversy whilst at the same time, attracting much praise and admiration from his peers - such is his pride when wearing the national vest.

The ‘outburst’ came during the post-race interview at the European team championships in Portugal last summer where Stokes – who answered Team GB’s last-minute call to race to spontaneously come out of semi-retirement - spoke out in protest for disgruntled athletes who failed to make the 2008 Olympic team despite fairly earning selection.

The outspoken view summed up Stokes perfectly – passionate, patriotic and a people-person. The Sale Harrier was after all, in his element when proudly wearing the England apparel in the past two Commonwealth Games in 2002 and 2006, where he finished fourth and fifth over the barriers, respectively.

“I’m very much looking forward to Delhi,” Stokes revealed about the Commonwealth’s next month.

“I’ve never been there before and it’s one of the blessings we have as sports people that we get to travel and see some wonderful places and experience different cultures. My goal is to have fun, enjoy the experience, race hard and perform well but ultimately step off the track knowing I could not have given any more."


Few would have guessed that the likeable Lancashire lad - who would be the first to admit that age is not on his side – would be heading to India for the October 6th-14th event as a medal challenger once more.

“My training has changed so much over the years, as I’ve got older I’ve had to firstly adapt to the way my body has changed and what it can still cope with but also at the start of every year I always look for ways to improve on training methods of the previous year,” Stokes explained.

“Not just from a running perspective, but whether my nutrition could be better, are my weights and strength work the best they can be, are the supplements I’m taking the best to help my body recover - as I’ve got older and the margins for improvement narrow I’ve realised the devil is in the detail.”

Despite the upheaval in his life of late, Stokes’ times on the track and road this summer have not been far off his best marks set in 2008, registering an impressive 8:33.30 (3,000m steeplechase) and 30:03 (10km road) recently.


Stokes has only raced over the barriers on four occasions this summer so as to delay his fitness ‘peak’ until the Games in India. Whilst his times have been consistent and encouraging, he also captured the English championship crown and more recently upstaged many of Britain’s distance specialists over a 10km in Sheffield.

“It’s been a strange season to some extent as for me, as it’s only just getting going,” Stokes revealed.

“I had a couple of niggles earlier in the year but luckily this year there was the opportunity to go to the Commonwealth’s and with it being quite late in the year it has actually worked out quite well.”

Admitting he is not blessed with great talent, Stokes continued:

“I’m most proud of the way I’ve approached trying to be the best athlete I can be. I’ve never won championship medals so people can often mistakenly think that you aren’t training hard enough or you aren’t dedicated enough but I can honestly say over the years I couldn’t give anymore and I’m not sure there are many athletes who can say that.

I’ve worked incredibly hard in getting the best out of my body. I think back to 2008 when my wife was pregnant but I knew if I carried on doing the training I was doing, I wouldn’t run the Olympic standard.

I bought a one-way ticket to morocco and knew I wasn’t coming home till I felt I could run sub-8:24. I was away thirteen-weeks in total and thanks to some incredibly hard training and an even more incredibly understanding wife, I managed to run 8:23.

I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on and I’m not sure how many other British athletes would have done that.”

Stokes’ next appearance will be for England in the annual England V Australia two-mile match in the BUPA Great North City Games in Newcastle next weekend and should his dedication pay off in the remainder of 2010, then Stokes will aim for the ultimate post-retirement gift – a place in the London Olympic squad in 2012.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Wizard from Aus


After 18-months away from competition with a career-threatening injury, Australia’s ‘great white hope’ Craig Mottram is back and looking to make up for lost time, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 30-year-old runner began to suffer from Achilles issues shortly after finishing only fifth in his 5,000m heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was subsequently forced to miss the World championships in Berlin last summer.

It was not until last November that the Victoria-born athlete made his tentative return to racing with a strong 13:23 5km clocking on the roads in Japan and now several months on, Mottram is fast-returning to a glimpse of the form that took him to global bronze five years ago over twelve and a half laps.

Following a solid 7:45.87 3,000m clocking for eighth in the Crystal Palace Diamond League last month, ‘Buster’ as he is affectionately known to fans, got back into winning ways with a 28:50 victory over 10km on the roads in the BUPA Great Yorkshire Run last weekend.

“I’m actually feeling pretty good at the moment,” Mottram explained. “I’ve got a couple of weeks in the UK then back home to Australia for our summer. My season has progressed nicely. Off the back of 18-months of injury I had no expectations this summer. I just wanted to run and enjoy my return to the track.”


Coached by Chris Wardlaw and sponsored by Adidas despite the rollercoaster ride, Mottram has turned down many lucrative offers of late to continue his comeback over the Pond, such is his desire not rush his return.

“2009 was an interesting year. I was injured and I tried to return to running on several occasions with no luck,” Mottram recalled.

“Time was the biggest factor in settling down my Achilles. The toughest part was allowing them the time to heal. I was productive in other areas of my life during this period. I finished my marketing degree and made sure I did as many 'normal' things as possible.

I’m most proud of the last two years of my career. Yes, I was injured but I stuck it out and I’m now back running at a very high level. Sport is easy when everything is going smoothly. When it’s not, many athletes stop. I pressed on.”

British background

At 6ft2, Mottram cuts an impending figure over his rivals and he will next appear for Australia in the annual England V Australia match at the BUPA Great North CityGames in Newcastle next weekend. Racing over two-miles, the Sunderland FC fan will feel very much at home before returning to his Melbourne base for summer Down Under.

His family is from a British background, too – Mottram’s father is a Londoner and his mother hails from Scotland. The clan immigrated to Australia in 1980 and Mottram himself has a British passport, though that is more for travel convenience during the European summer season.

Running up to 160km a week, Mottram lives in Melbourne from October to May then travels through America and Europe from May through September – time away from home he claims as being the ‘worst part of being an athlete’.


A silver medallist from the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Mottram will not be participating in the 2010 edition in Delhi next month, instead preferring to train hard in his quest to get back to his best 7:32.19 (3,000m) and 12:55.76 (5,000m) shape of the past.

A former Australian junior triathlon champion before he turned his attentions to athletics, Mottram has high hopes of returning to world-class form and stepping up onto the podium once more:

“London 2012’s my big aim,” Mottram revealed. “I wouldn’t be back if I didn’t believe I could be better than I was. (After I retire) I hope to work in some capacity in sport in Australia. I love the business and media side behind sport.”

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Pur-fect Performance


Despite an injury-ravaged build-up, teenage distance-running sensation Charlotte Purdue has had a record-breaking summer en route to her senior championship debut in the Commonwealth Games next month, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 19-year-old Aldershot athlete will tackle a 5,000m-10,000m double in New Delhi in the October 6-14th event and judging by her current form, few would be surprised if she failed to make an impact in both regardless of her tender years.

Coached by Mick Woods, Purdue has amassed an impressive twenty national medals over the past five years and has this season stormed into the British record books with a scintillating 32:36.75 under20 10,000m record on the track to seal her selection for India:

“I am really pleased with how my season has gone so far,” Purdue explained. “I feel that everything is going really well and is moving in the right direction ahead of the Commonwealth Games. I am really excited about competing there.
It will give me a great opportunity to experience a Games environment ahead of the London Olympics in 2012.”


A second-year history student at St Marys University College in London, Purdue hopes to go even quicker over twelve and a half and twenty-five laps, respectively, next month as she continues her comeback from injury over the winter:

“The stress fracture (of the knee) had healed by Christmas and I had started back running in early January for a few weeks but there was a totally different problem within the knee joint, which took a while to be diagnosed and required a minor operation which was frustrating as I could have been back running a lot earlier,” Purdue explained.

Cross-training hard on the bike in the gym and aqua-jogging in the pool sometimes twice a day, Purdue simulated the effort of her usual running workouts during her setback to keep her fitness level high and her hard graft and determination certainly worked a treat.


Following her recovery, the European junior 5,000m silver-medallist took in only six races during the summer before speeding back into personal-best shape.

Purdue’s times of 9:17.20 (3,000m) and 15:23.4 (5,000m) respectively, were eye-catching – most notably the twenty-five second improvement over the latter distance to go number two on the British junior all-time lists, but it was the 10,000m lap mark set last month which clearly marked her comeback to form.

Previously a runner-up in the European junior cross-country championships and with a best of fourteenth from the global edition, Purdue was forced to miss the world junior championships this year but her recent 33:06 10km lifetime best on the roads whilst placing second in the BUPA Great Yorkshire Run, was the latest in a long line of performances that have made up for the disappointment.

Purdue credits her support team and training partners for her sparkling success of late but it is evident that the unique bond she shares with her coach, who has steered a production line of prodigiously-talented athletes to international success in the past decade, as the pinnacle factor:

“Mick and I have a great relationship and he is the key to my development as an athlete,” Purdue explained. “I like to think that the coach-athlete relationship that we are creating is special and helps add the edge to my performance, we are also very good friends.”

Sponsored by Nike and mentored by double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, Purdue will use the South of England road relay championships on her back yard, in a fortnights’ time to hone her final preparations before heading out to the Team England camp in Doha ahead of her Delhi test.

When questioned on her proudest achievement to date, the outgoing runner names finishing fifteenth in her first world cross country championships in 2007:

“It was my first international competition and I was only 15 years old,” Purdue recalled. “Finishing as the first European athlete and so high up in the race was something that I am really proud of. I feel I learnt so much from that experience that it has enabled me to want to achieve at a higher level.”

Yet on her current form, one would not be surprised if Purdue’s best memory is changed post-Commonwealth time.

“I aim to improve on my personal bests each year,” Purdue concluded. “I also aim to make the team for the London 2012 Olympics and to eventually move onto the marathon and continue to impact in international races and major competitions.”