25 August 2012
British double Olympic champion Mo Farah (coach: Alberto Salazar) was joined by three further Olympic champions today – Jamaica’s 100m queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, American 110m hurdler Aries Merritt and 4x100m champion and world record holder Carmelita Jeter – to celebrate the return of almost 50 Olympic athletics medallists to British shores for the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix at the Alexander Stadium tomorrow.
Farah, whose wife gave birth to twin daughters yesterday, will tomorrow race for the first time since he won both the 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals at London 2012 as he competes over 2 miles in the UK’s final Samsung Diamond League meet of the year.
Farah’s remarkable double at London 2012 – hailed by many as the greatest achievement in British athletics history – was celebrated today in Birmingham, as an eight foot tall replica of Farah doing the ‘Mobot’ – made entirely from wicker – was unveiled in the city centre. Farah’s wicker lookalike will tomorrow take pride of place on newly-named ‘Mo Mound’ at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium, the grassy mound that overlooks the 1500m start mark on the track.
Farah, who admits to having been extremely busy but grateful for all of the support since his Olympic feats, is looking forward to returning to racing tomorrow.
“It’s going to be very exciting this weekend. I’ve competed here many times and I’ve got some good memories. It’s not going to be as big of an atmosphere as during the Olympics obviously, but I’m going to hopefully put a show on here tomorrow for people that didn’t manage to catch me at the Olympics. I’m excited to be competing in England again.”
Merritt, the 110m hurdles Olympic champion , will line up in what is effectively an Olympic final rematch, with every medallist as well as six of the top seven finalists present tomorrow. Having dominated the sprint hurdles circuit this summer with more sub-12.95secs performances than ever recorded by an athlete in a single season, he believes that if conditions are right, he will be aiming for a world record tomorrow.
“I think the world record is obtainable. I just need the right conditions and I need to stay in the blocks. I need to execute my race like I’ve been doing all season and hopefully it’ll come. I attempt it every time I step on the track. In Lausanne it didn’t happen, but now I’ll try for it here.”
Fraser-Pryce became only the third woman in history to successfully defend the Olympic 100m title at London 2012 and will be competing in Birmingham for the first time tomorrow. With the field in the UK’s final Samsung Diamond League meet of the year also containing Blessing Okagbare – a 100m finalist in London - as well as Kellie Wells, the 100m hurdles bronze medallist, the women’s 100m is set to be one of the main attractions of tomorrow’s schedule. Fraser-Pryce is excited to feature in another world-class line-up.
“I’m looking forward to the crowd, the competition and what the girls have to offer. I’m excited about where female sprinting is at the moment. You can guarantee that lanes one to eight will be competitive.
Having spent two weeks in Birmingham prior to the Olympics, the 25-year-old is hopeful of a strong Jamaican contingent in tomorrow’s sold-out crowd.
“I noticed during my stay here before the Olympics that there are a lot of Jamaicans in Birmingham, so I’m looking to see a lot of flags and a lot of people cheering us on. It gives me a great sense of pride and joy that a lot of Jamaicans will be able to see us. I hope I can give them something to cheer about tomorrow.
Despite narrowly losing to Fraser-Pryce by 0.03secs in the Olympic final, Jeter holds a record of 12 wins to Fraser-Pryce’s 9 in head-to-head competition. The 32-year-old admits to enjoying the competition between herself and the Jamaican and reflects Fraser-Pryce’s views that this is a golden era for women’s sprinting.
“I’m looking forward to being part of the meet. I know it’s going to be a great run. Shelly and I are both competitors and when we have meets like here in Birmingham where the stadium is full and everyone is excited, that’s what makes for a great race. That’s what gives us the energy and makes us run well, when the crowd is hyped.
“We run fast every time we line up. We’re out their racing, it’s not a game. We all respect each other as athletes though and we compete at a high level all the time.”
In all, the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix will see 17 gold medallists and 43 medallists overall from London 2012 take to the track and field.
The full list of Olympic medallists includes:
Ryan Bailey (silver in 4x100m)
Tyson Gay (silver in 4x100m)
Luguelin Santos (silver in 400m)
Angelo Taylor (silver in 4X400m)
Leo Manzano (silver in 1500m)
Abdalaati Iguider (bronze in 1500m)
Mo Farah (gold in 5000m & 10,000m)
Abel Mutai (bronze in 3000m s/c)
Aries Merritt (gold in 110m h)
Jason Richardson (silver in 110m h)
Hansle Parchment (bronze in 110m h)
Ivan Ukhov (gold in HJ)
Mutaz Essa Barshim (bronze in HJ)
Robbie Grabarz (bronze in HJ)
Greg Rutherford (gold in LJ)
Mitchell Watt (silver in LJ)
Will Claye (bronze in LJ & silver in TJ)
Christian Taylor (gold in TJ)
Robert Harting (gold in discus)
Gerd Kanter (bronze in discus)
Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce (gold in 100m, silver in 200m, silver in 4x100m)
Carmelita Jeter (silver in 100m, bronze in 200m, gold in 4x100m)
Kellie Wells (100m hurdles bronze)
Lauryn Williams (4x100m gold)
Sherone Simpson (4x100m silver)
Christine Ohuruogu (silver in 400m)
DeeDee Trotter (bronze in 400m & gold in 4x400m)
Francena McCorory (gold in 4x400m)
Shericka Williams (bronze in 4x400m)
Rosemarie Whyte (bronze in 4x400m)
Mariya Savinova (gold in 800m)
Vivian Cheruiyot (silver in 5000m & bronze in 10,000m)
Sally Kipyego (silver in 10,000m)
Natalia Antyukh (gold in 400m h & silver in 4x400m)
Zuzanna Hejnova (bronze in 400m h)
Olga Rypakova (gold in TJ)
Olha Saladuha (brozne in TJ)
Jenn Suhr (gold in PV)
Yarisley Silva (silver in PV)
Valerie Adams (gold in SP)
Evgeniia Kolodko (silver in SP)
Barbora Spotakova (gold in javelin)
Christina Obergfoll (silver in javelin)
A full start list is available at: http://www.diamondleague-birmingham.com/Live-StartlistsResults/Overview/
Back the team and watch the world’s best athletes in action at the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium on 26 August. Live coverage on BBC2 from 2-5pm.