WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE
Great North CityGames, Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside, Saturday 17th September
An outclassed Team GB suffered a 7-3 loss in the annual two-nation street match, WRITES NICOLA BAMFORD.
An American squad buoyed by two recently-crowned world champions, a silver medal-winning duo and a bronze-medallist from the World Championships in Daegu earlier this month, combined to make their CityGames debuts against a high-calibre yet mostly fatigued Great Britain and Northern Ireland outfit.
For a third consecutive year, the Newcastle-Gateshead quayside played host to a purpose-built track whilst the iconic Tyne and Millennium Bridges witnessed road and field competitions on and around them on a day which represented the last competitive appearance of the season for the majority.
After the England squads defeated the Australian’s in the last two editions, it was
Team GB’s chance to face the mighty United States in a match where World 5,000m champion Mo Farah, World 1,500m runner-up Hannah England and UK 100m silver-medallist Harry Aikines-Aryeetey gave the home team impressive victories to cheer for.
Jeter and Dix Supreme, UK Records for Onoura and Devonish
Sprint queen Carmelita Jeter shrugged off the effects from a scintillating 10.78 in the Brussels Diamond League the previous evening and the long journey to arrive at the event only four hours before to storm to a 16.50 unofficial World Record in the women’s 150m event.
The World 100m champion and second-fastest of all time in the discipline scorched away in the expected usual fashion to come home ahead of UK 200m champion Anyika Onoura, who in turn registered a 16.90 British record.
The American revealed afterwards:
“Running a 150m straightway was different but I enjoyed coming here and it was a great experience.
“I’m happy with my time yesterday and today so I hope the crowd enjoyed the performance I gave.”
Now with a six-week break to look forward to, the double 100m and 200m Diamond League series winner continued:
“I wanted to experience England before getting into training for 2012 and this was the icing on the cake of a great season for me.”
Liverpool’s 26-year-old Onoura, meanwhile, finished ahead of Commonwealth 200m runner-up Abi Oyepitan (16.96), with the USA’s Dawn Harper – in her second race of the day after taking the 100m hurdles in a 12.73 meeting record from team-mate Danielle Carruther’s (12.77) – finishing fourth with 17.19.
Following the world’s fourth-fastest ever 200m time of 19.53 in Brussels, another American – Walter Dix – dominated the men’s equivalent here with an eye-catching 14.65 display to miss triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt’s meeting record by just 0.3-seconds.
The recent World silver-medallist over both the 100m and 200m, Dix also pulled 35-year-old Marlon Devonish to beat his own British record with an impressive 14.87 run.
A potential party-pooper for the three-way Jamaican aim for next year’s Olympics,
“That was a fun race after I got the serious one out of the way last night.
“Having the crowd so close was really enjoyable and also different from running in circles.
“I’m happy with the time after the PR last night but I thought I’d get the WR record today - I’m on an adrenaline rush after only two-hours’ sleep but last night showed I can mix it with Bolt and Blake next year.”
A delighted Devonish meanwhile, said:
“It went really well but there’s room for improvement.
“It was the biggest crowd we’ve ever had here and I really enjoyed it.
“Another British record is great and I’m extremely happy - to be so close to Walter
Dix puts me in good stead for next year, which will be my last.”
Stressful Prep But Mo Keeps His Cool
Enjoying a very warm reception in the billed ‘homecoming’ race since capturing his first global title and 10,000m silver in South Korea, Farah brushed off being taken to the wrong start-line and an unavailable toilet stop to scorch to a comfortable five-second victory in the men’s two-mile race.
A day before official starting duties in the Bupa Great North Run, the 28-year-old Oregon-based runner added to his 2006 and 2008 glories here and admitted to being inspired by his training partner Galen Rupp’s 26:48 American record in Brussels the night before.
Guided by Alberto Salazar, Farah turned down the opportunity to race in Belgium himself where he would have been set to potentially win the Diamond League series and $40,000 but true to his words and indeed his roots, he decided to dazzle the north-west crowds in return for their support during a magical year.
“I really enjoyed the reception I was given here and I really enjoyed it,” Farah explained.
“I love competing here and it was awesome to have so many people cheering for me.
“My legs felt alright but my chest was burning a bit as I eased back on the training recently but I had enough in me to do well this weekend.”
The 8:37.72 winning time preceded the USA’S Brian Ollinger in second place with 8:42.15 and 21-year-old steeplechase specialist James Wilkinson clocking 8:49.12 for sixth was the next best of the Brits.
Richardson and Lagat Live Up to Expectations
With four of the top five men from Daegu, the men’s 110m hurdles was always going to be a thrilling show and world champion Jason Richardson led an American 1-2 to prove winning is now his favourite thing to do.
Crossing the line in 13.16, Richardson obliterated the CityGames record and again beat Olympic bronze-medallist David Oliver (13.36), who was only fourth in South Korea.
The winner revealed afterwards:
“My race went well after getting over the distractions with the helicopter in this city environment but I got a good start and executed well.
“It was an amazing experience for my first street race and Daegu was the perfect storm in my case – I wish it was run under cleaner circumstances but I did the best I could.”
Running through the pain barrier courtesy of an ongoing hamstring injury, William Sharman finally got the better of Andy Turner in a fierce battle of the Brits here, clocking 13.82 to the world bronze-medallist’s 14.08 - Turner, having appeared to have paid the price for several races on the continent in the past week.
An athlete who barely disappoints – American distance-running legend Bernard Lagat – avoided a mouth-watering clash with Farah by contesting the one-mile event but still managed to wow the crowds with a dominant 4:06.01 winning-display.
Britain’s Andrew Osagie stepped up in distance after reaching the 800m semi-final stage in Daegu to place a fine third in 4:09.53, ahead of team-mates Bruce Raeside and Luke Gunn (4:10.23 and 4:12.78) in fourth and fifth, respectively.
The victor explained:
“It (the event) was really fun, I really enjoyed my run and it was really unique – I’ve never done anything like this in so many years.”
Next competing in the Fifth Avenue road mile in New York this weekend, Lagat continued:
“It is so nice and the sport needs this kind of exposure. It was also good to run well and win.”
Osagie, the 23-year-old UK champion, meanwhile, revealed:
“It was a decent result for me, coming from an 800m background.
“The pace wasn’t too bad and I felt strong throughout but it was just a bit too quick for me today.
“It was great racing Lagat, he took the pace on and was another class - I joked with him to keep it slow so I’d have a chance.”
Deja-vu for England, Victory for Harry AA, Disappointment for Dwight
Surprise runner-up over the metric mile at the World’s, Hannah England enjoyed a more expected victory here, as she replicated her 2010 win here with a 4:39.49 one-mile clocking over European 3,000m indoor champion Helen Clitheroe of Preston Harriers (4:40.65).
After running 4:02.07 to just miss her lifetime best when finishing fifth in Brussels just hours earlier, England sprinted past her British team-mate, who at 37, is thirteen years her senior and also who competed in the Bupa Great North Run the following day – in the closing stages to end her season on a high.
Afterwards, the winner divulged:
“I love this event – it means a lot to me and it’s my third time here and third win
so I’m really happy.
“I was injured for the beginning of the season so I just thought I’d do the two races back to back. It was good to feel strong at the end and after last night and arriving here this morning, I was really pleased with that.”
Perhaps fatigued after capturing the Diamond League series title in recent days, World 800m indoor silver-medallist Jenny Meadows finished back in fourth with 4:44.9.
Less than 24-hours after competing in the race in which Usain Bolt set a world-leading 9.76, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey bounced back from Daegu relay disappointment to take the 100m event here.
Sprinting to a 10.27 victory after registering 10.14 the previous evening, the 23-year-old UK runner-up got the better of his British counterpart European 200m silver-
medallist Christian Malcolm (10.45).
Explaining his thoughts on the race, the winner said:
“It was a cool race and I managed to do the job for GB despite the travel and lack of sleep last night.
“It’s such a great event - we need more of these at the beginning and end of the season – I wouldn’t mind coming here for this every week.”
Four-time and recent world long-jump champion Dwight Phillips of the USA suffered from a major off-day after registering three no-jumps and landing a best of only 5.01m.
American Jeremey Hicks took advantage to win with 7.84m in the first round from Newham and Essex Beagle’s JJ Jegede (7.72m) and Ezekiel Ewulo (7.51).
UK record-holder and European under23 champion Holly Bleasdale also had a bad day at the office as she was forced to compete without her own poles in the pole-vault competition.
With her equipment still to be retrieved from Heathrow airport after landing there from Daegu a fortnight ago, the 19-year-old Blackburn Harrier was evidently disadvantaged and managed only 4.12m after three misses at 4.27m to finish runner-up behind American Becky Holliday (4.27m).