Thursday, 13 June 2013

Oslo’s Strawberry Party Welcomes Bolt, Chicherova and Co.


The traditional curtain-raiser for the ExxonMobil Bislett Games welcomed athletes and esteemed guests to the Russian Embassy in Oslo this evening, as the annual strawberry party hosted the official press conferences ahead of the prestigious athletic event on Thursday.

In the sixth leg of the 2013 IAAF Diamond League, the Norwegian capital will welcome a host of world-class athletes to the Bislett Stadium and the star attraction is undoubtedly sprint superstar Usain Bolt of Jamaica.

The 26-year-old six-time Olympic and World champion and is due to headline the meeting in contesting the 200m in the final event of the night, the same discipline he won back in 2011 with

“I’m feeling pretty good, I think I’m in shape to run under 20-seconds - It’s all about the execution,” the 100m, 200m and 4x100m world record-holder explained.

“My season started off good then I picked up a hamstring problem but now it’s all about pushing myself in races to run myself into shape.”

Having won the 100m in a 9.79 meeting record here last year, Bolt will be making his seasonal debut over the half-lap distance and will be aiming to beat the 19.82 stadium record set by Nambia’s Frankie Fredericks in 1996.

“I’m really happy with how I’m feeling, I just need more races under my belt.”

Responding to whether he feels his nearest challenger in Oslo, Norway’s Jaysuma Saidy Ndure could beat him this week, Bolt continued:

“Anything’s possible in life, I never say I’m a clear winner but I’m always positive so hopefully he won’t beat me and hopefully it won’t be cold!”

Meanwhile, European 100m bronze-medallist, Ndure will be looking to significantly improve upon his 20.51 season’s best as the 28-year-old revealed:

“This is home for me so I have to at least try to run as fast as I can – this is like the World Champs for me. I hope to get at least 19.9, I will be happy with that. He (Bolt) is fast but I’ll try to beat him.”

Another competition sure to excite the crowds will be the women’s high jump, with Olympic and World champion Anna Chicherova taking on two-time World champion Blanca Vlasic.

Russian Chicherova currently leads the world rankings by three centimetres with an impressive 2.02m clearance and comes into this competition fresh from victory in the Rome Diamond League last week.

Vlasic meanwhile, has recently returned to action after a long spell with an Achilles injury but the 29-year-old Croatian took the honours at the New York Diamond League last month so should put up a strong fight despite her modest 1.95m season’s best.

The winner here in 2006 and each year between 2008 and 2010 – Chicherova explained:

“This is a good opportunity to be with the stars and Moscow (for August’s World Championships) is a good reason to be inspired to be your best.

“I hope to get a good height but Rome took some strength and the weather may be a surprise but I will do what I am able.”

The 30-year-old brushed off suggestions that age may soon become a barrier to her career, revealing:

“If you have the motivation and strength you can jump, why not? Becoming a mother has given me more colours, more emotions – that’s why everything was perfect after the birth.”

Returning to the Bislett Stadium for the first time in six years, she continued:

“It’s a nice atmosphere here, Oslo is a place I jump with pleasure and I will use this as preparation to fight ahead of the World champs.”

Vlasic in turn offered her opinion of her current form and expectations:

“This is still my comeback period so I’m still getting very emotional before every competition but now it is coming back and I’m very excited and motivated like it’s the beginning of my career again.

“After nine months off from jumping and only being back in spikes since February, I need to get used to jumping big heights again. 

The local interest will be with Norway’s Tonje Angelsen, as the 23-year-old European outdoor silver medallist aims to improve on her seventh place from 2012:

“I’ve always looked up to them (Chicherova and Vlasic) and I want to jump two-metres as many times as they have.

“I hope to go 1.90m plus and just have fun and enjoy it of course. I had an injury and so I’m not
100% so we’ll see.”

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