WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.