4 July 2014
Niall Flannery (coach: Nick Dakin) finds himself amongst a very select list in 2014; a list of athletes who remain unbeaten after a number of international meetings. The recently crowned Sainsbury’s British Champion takes a step up in class this weekend though, as he takes to the startline at the Meeting Areva in Paris, the first Diamond League meeting of his blossoming career.
The Loughborough student’s first major breakthrough came courtesy of victory at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Tokyo, where he took a tenth off his personal best. He improved to 48.96 with victory in Belgium three weeks later, before beating a world class field at the prestigious Ostrava Golden Spike meeting where he lowered his personal best further still, with a 48.80 clocking. Now Flannery lines up in Paris against a plethora of world and Olympic medallists, his biggest test yet.
“I’m really excited to be competing in my first Diamond League and the race is a really exciting prospect. Hopefully I can mix it with the big guys, but whether I remain unbeaten is a different matter!”
The grand finale, as is so often the case, is the men’s 100m, and Chijindu Ujah (coach: Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) lines up as the second fastest on paper in 2014. The European Junior 100m champion made the headlines when he broke the magical 10 second barrier in Hengelo last month, and if he can replicate his 9.96 performance tomorrow he will certainly be in the mix.
Ujah was also third at the Sainsbury’s British Championships in Birmingham last weekend, which means he still has to earn his spot on the GB & NI team for the European Championships in Zurich later this summer. Should the weather be good tomorrow night, this could be his golden opportunity, and the youngster acknowledged that:
“I’m really excited and I’m looking forward to it. I’m racing some of the best guys in the world, so competing with them here in Paris, at my first Diamond League, will be mean something special to me.”
As always the women’s 100m hurdles look set to be one of the picks of the programme, with all the main protagonists set to grace the track at the Stade De France. That includes GB & NI’s World Indoor bronze medallist Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider), who successfully defended her British title last weekend. With a season’s best of 12.65, Porter is in good spirits as we approach the business end of the season.
"I just really want to compete. I feel like I've been under performing in my eyes, so I just want to go out there and put in a good performance. I'm just looking forward to competing against whoever lines up tomorrow regardless of the weather."
Another Rana Reider coached athlete in action in Paris is British long jump record holder Shara Proctor. She lines-up against a who’s who of women’s long jumping, with her 6.95m personal best only ranking her sixth on paper. Both Porter and Proctor will be eyeing up medals at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships this summer.
The top two from last weekend’s Sainsbury’s British Championships 1500m renew their rivalry again in Paris this evening. Laura Weightman (Steve Cram) came out on top in a thrilling final 100m in Birmingham, with Paris giving her another chance to revise her 4.02.72 personal best set this year. Second at the Alexander Stadium, Laura Muir (Andy Young) also has a 2014 personal best to her name, the Scot running 4.02.91 in Hengelo a month ago. They'll both look to mix it in a world class field.
Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan-Nuttall) faces a stern test in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, as she lines up with the slowest personal best in the field. If she can stay in touch with the main group, she’ll almost certainly smash her season’s best, as well as getting close to her 9.35.82 PB.
London 2012 hero David Weir (Jenny Archer) lines up in the wheelchair 1500m, a race with a very European feel to it. This will provide him with the perfect preparation for the IPC European Championships in Swansea this August.
Coming in straight from Lausanne, Steve Lewis (Dan Pfaff) is slowly working his way back on to longer poles, which will set him up to get close back to heights in excess of 5.70m.
The Paris Diamond League will be shown live on the BBC red button and on the BBC Sport website between 19:00 – 21:00 on Saturday 5 July.
Full startlists can be seen here: http://www.diamondleague-paris.com/en/Live-StartlistsResults/Overview/
To hear interviews with the leading British performers after the Lausanne Diamond League, and here in Paris, head to British Athletics TV: https://www.youtube.com/BritishAthleticsTV