20 June 2014
British Athletics Performance Director Neil Black has described the team selected for the European Team Championships in Braunschweig this weekend as 'a developmental squad, brimming with excitement at the challenge ahead'.
The team, which features 11 GB & NI debutants, is still blessed with many seasoned campaigners, as Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford (Jonas Taiwah-Dodoo) will be one of many aiming for a full quota of points.
Rutherford, who leads the world rankings with a recently ratified UK record of 8.51m, comes up against one of the strongest fields of the weekend. The line-up includes Christian Reif of hosts Germany, who has improved to 8.49m this year, and French veteran Salim Sdiri, who is ranked fourth in the world with 8.35m.
Phillips Idowu (Gary Bourne) will be donning a GB & NI vest for the first time in two years and will be looking to continue his comeback year with a high-profile victory. The runner-up in 2009 and 2010 hasn’t yet broken the 17 metre mark this year, but still has the best mark in the field with 16.99m. He faces last year’s winner Aleksey Fyodorov from Russia and Italian Fabrizio Donato, who is a 17.73m performer at his best.
The men’s sprints have historically been an exciting area of the programme for the British team and with Christophe Lemaitre from France a late withdrawal through injury, James Ellington (Rana Reider) is hoping to score highly in the 200m, while in-form Danny Talbot (Dan Cossins) is the second fastest on paper in the 100m this year behind sub-10 performer Jimmy Vicaut from France.
A sprint quartet of Richard Kilty (Reider), Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (Reider), Ellington and Talbot came within two-tenths of the long-standing UK 4x100m record of 37.73 in the heats of the World Relays in Nassau last month. If the conditions cooperate, another sub-38 performance could be on the cards as world 200m finalist Adam Gemili (Steve Fudge) joins the team.
400m hurdler Richard Yates (Stephen Ball) is second in the field on paper behind Denis Kudryavtsev from Russia while William Sharman (Jerzy Maciukiewicz) will aim to finish at least third in a high-calibre 110m hurdles field which also includes world bronze medallist Sergey Shubenkov from Russia, and world-leader Pascal Martinot-Lagarde from France.
In the women’s 400m hurdles Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold) has been a consistent top-three finisher on the Diamond League circuit in 2014, with the Scot looking replicate her 2013 European Team Championships victory in Gateshead this weekend.
An inexperienced Hannah England (Bud Baldaro) first made her mark on the senior stage at this competition in 2009 when she was a strong fourth in both the 800m and 1500m, and the now team captain will be looking to lead by example this weekend. She faces the formidable Abeba Aregawi from Sweden, but high points are up for grabs if she runs well.
Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter) has battled back to fitness after missing the 2013 season with a stress fracture in the femur, and her good early-season form has been rewarded with her first GB & NI vest outdoors for two years. The 33-year-old will be looking to apply her vast experience in a race which could prove to be a tactical affair.
Neil Black has also suggested that the form book could be disregarded in some instances, hinting 'there may be one or two surprises'.
One such example could be Charlie Grice (Jon Bigg), who excelled on his senior debut last year with a runner-up finish in the 1500m, showing he is more than capable in a tactical race. Similarly Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon) could finish highly in a wide-open 3000m.
NCAA runner-up Nick Miller (John Baumann) is clearly in good form in the hammer while Sophie Hitchon (Tore Gustafsson) performed a long way above expectations last year when she was third in the women’s hammer with a 72.97m UK record in far from perfect conditions.
Third last year on home soil, it will be interesting to see how the GB & NI team fair 12 months on.
The European Team Championships will be shown live on BBC this weekend at the following times:
Saturday: 12.15 - 16:00 (BBC1)
Sunday: 12:00 - 16:05 (BBC2)
There will also be live updates on Twitter at @BritAthletics.