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birmingham poised for a brilliant day of athletics

Greg Rutherford

No fewer than thirty five Commonwealth Games medallists will take the stage at the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix on 24 August, which combines both IAAF Diamond League and IPC Grand Prix Final action.

Leading the way will be Olympic, and now Commonwealth long jump champion Greg Rutherford who proved he is the ultimate big time performer, leaping to 8.20m to take gold in Glasgow. He’ll now return to Birmingham with victory and a revision of his 8.51m British record on his agenda.

“I can’t wait to compete at the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix. It’s going to be a fantastic crowd and the great thing about having any Diamond League events in the UK is the fans that flock to them and get behind the athletes.

“Hopefully we can continue some of the excitement that the Commonwealth Games has bought to the UK and mixing that with a little bit of Olympic spirit it’s going to be another great occasion. You always compete against the world’s best and that’s what’s so good about it. You know you have to be on top of your game and jump far.”

The world’s best are here in droves and Rutherford won’t be the only Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion competing in Birmingham. Sally Pearson will be looking to make it two out three as she takes on GB & NI’s Tiffany Porter once more. Pearson took in Glasgow, but Porter had the edge at the Sainsbury’s Anniversay Games in London three weeks ago – expect another great battle in Birmingham. Commonwealth Games silver medallist and Alexander Stadium based Laura Samuel will aim to turn the tables on Commonwealth Games triple jump Champion Kimberley Williams of Jamaica.

An emerging crop of young British athletes will also be hoping to make their mark on the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix; Dina Asher-Smith and Matthew Hudson-Smith take on the newly crowned Commonwealth champions Blessing Okagbare and Kirani James respectively. Asher-Smith will come in fresh off the back of a superb winning performance in Eugene at the IAAF Wold Junior Championships and will aim to start the transition to the senior ranks with a bang. Hudson-Smith’s year is going from strength to strength as the break through British athlete of the season has already ticked off a Diamond League third place and a Commonwealth Games 4x400m gold medal ahead of his return to his home track.

Back in Birmingham following his success in the men’s high jump last year, Bogdan Bondarenko will have his eyes set on taking the meeting record out right after equalling it last year. He’ll once again be pushed all the way by Erik Kynard but also competing in an all-star line-up this year will be world silver medallist Mutaz Essa Barshim and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Derek Drouin. With the top three from last year’s World Championships of Bondarenko, Barshim and Drouin having all gone over 2.40m this year we could be in for a complete rewrite of the meeting record books and another amazing competition.

The Alexander Stadium will also play host to the IPC Grand Prix final immediately after the Diamond League fixture. In total there will be 20 para-athletics events included in an action packed programme, which is set to take place in front of a 13,000 capacity crowd and shown live on the BBC.

A number of world and Paralympic champions are likely to line-up in Birmingham and many will be fresh from competing the IPC Athletics European Championships which takes place in Swansea between 18-23 August and leading the way is likely to be six time Paralympic and newly crowned Commonwealth champion David Weir.

Amongst the star-studded British athletes set to compete are 200m T42 world and Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead, Hannah Cockroft, the 100m and 200m T34 world and Paralympic champion and the three-time world discus champion Dan Greaves.

Cockroft said: “I’m really excited to compete in front of another big home crowd at the Sainsbury’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final. Fans will get to see the best athletes from around the world in Olympic and Paralympic sport. It’s going to be a great occasion and I’m sure there will be some more records broken along the way.”

Dutch blade runner Marlou van Rhijn, the world’s fastest female leg amputee and 100m and 200m world champion also added:

“I am really happy about it. It’s really cool. As the Grand Prix is evolving I think this is a good move to compete in front of a big crowd in a big stadium.”

Big name overseas athletes will include Switzerland’s Marcel Hug - a winner of five world titles last year and huge rival of David Weir (Jenny Archer) - and Tunisia’s four-time world champion wheelchair racer Walid Ktila.