28 February 2013
The European Indoor Championships get underway in Gothenburg, Sweden, tomorrow with a 28-strong team representing GB & NI.
Holly Bleasdale (Dan Pfaff, Scott Simpson) will go into the pole vault with a European leading mark of 4.77m set at the British Athletics European Trials and UK Championships in Sheffield earlier in February. The 21 year old, who finished sixth a last summer’s Olympic Games, is in confident mood ahead of her assault on European Indoor glory.
“I’ve never had to handle the pressure of being one of the favourites before in a major championship, so I’m really excited to go out there in front of the crowd and do well for Great Britain. I’m coming into shape just at the right time, so hopefully everything will work out this weekend.”
Michael Rimmer (Norman Poole) and Mukhtar Mohammed (Mustafa Mohamed) will also have medal ambitions as they go to Gothenburg ranked as the top two 800m runners in Europe having run 1:46.55 and 1:46.58 respectively at the British Athletics Grand Prix in Birmingham on 16 February.
Olympic high jump bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz (Fayyaz Ahmed) will be another leading British hope as he attempts to add the European Indoor title to the European Outdoor gold he won in Helsinki last summer. However, Grabarz insists that he will not underestimate his opponents in what is set to be another strong line-up in Gothenburg.
“It’s nice to have that expectation after 2012, but I’ve always had that expectation of myself going into major championships. It’s always a strong field in the high jump whether you’re in Europe or around the world, so it’s going to be a tough competition but one I’m looking forward to.
“I come to a championships aiming to win it every time. I’d be happy with a medal, but you’re here to win, so I’ll just have to make sure I jump higher than everyone else,” said Grabarz.
Perri Shakes-Drayton (Chris Zah) and Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold) are ranked second and third in Europe for the individual 400m and will head to Sweden in good form off the back of the British Athletics Grand Prix where Shakes-Drayton set an indoor personal best and Child ran a new Scottish record.
“I’m going to go out there and do the best I can do, there’s a lot of girls who have ran a lot more races than me, but I’m in good form, so hopefully I’ll have a good weekend”, said Shakes-Drayton.
“I would love a medal, there could be girls that come out of the woodwork – I would love a gold, but I’ve got to do the business first,” added the World Indoor Championships 4x400m gold medallist.
The men’s 4x400m relay team won silver in 2011 and with three of the medal winning quartet returning for these championships, the squad of Michael Bingham (George Harrison), Richard Buck (Steve Fudge) Luke Lennon-Ford, Nigel Levine, Richard Strachan (all Linford Christie) and Michael Warner (Grant Barker) will have their sights set on another podium finish this weekend. The women’s 4x400m relay team similarly won silver in Paris and the squad of Margaret Adeoye (Linford Christie), Meghan Beesley (Nick Dakin), Child, Shana Cox, Christine Ohuruogu (both Lloyd Cowan) and Shakes-Drayton are well placed to contest the medal positions in Gothenburg.
Jenny Meadows (Trevor Painter) will defend her 800m title after she made a return to competitive action with a second place finish at the British Athletics Grand Prix in her first outing since September 2011. The 31 year old, who captains the GB & NI team, is looking forward to representing her country once again.
“If anyone would have told me that I would be captaining my country at the European Indoors, I would have thought they were crazy - it’s the sort of thing you can only dream of.
“No one is expecting anything of me at these championships, so I’m a little bit under the radar, but you actually put yourself under a little bit of pressure to perform well as well. Whatever the result this weekend, I can’t really lose, but I want a good result for myself and Great Britain. Two years ago I had my eyes focused on the gold medal, but it would be fantastic just to get on the podium this time around.”
Head Coach Peter Eriksson is expecting a strong team performance in Gothenburg as he looks ahead to the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August.
“My hopes are that we can do the best we can and I think with the young team we have that we will see a lot of good performances. I’m very positive about it, but we don’t set any medal predictions, so the goal is to do our best.
“We’ve had a good start to the season and hopefully we’ll see even better results. If we do well in Gothenburg, it’s a good stepping stone looking ahead to Moscow.”
The European Indoor Championships will be shown live on the BBC and BBC Online at the following times:
Friday March 1st: 9.00-12.00 on BBC2 and 15.40-19.00 on BBC2.
Saturday March 2nd: 10.30-13.00 on BBC Red Button, 14.30-16.30 on BBC1 and 16.30-18.00 on BBC2.
Sunday March 3rd: 10.00-11.40 on BBC2 and 15.15-18.00 BBC2.
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