A star-studded line-up of Britain’s best athletes will descend on the Birmingham Alexander Stadium this weekend, for what UKA Head Coach Charles van Commenee has described as the most competitive Olympic trials in 20 years.
With over 800 athletes and a close to capacity crowd for Saturday and Sunday, the Aviva 2012 Trials are the largest trials in British athletics history, and the largest British trials of any Olympic sport this year.
Leading the way is Jessica Ennis (Toni Minichiello) as she hopes to capitalise on her current form which saw her break Denise Lewis’ British heptathlon record in Götzis, Austria, last month, scoring 6,906 points. Ennis will be taking on four events in a demanding weekend of action.
The Sheffield star, who is aiming for heptathlon gold at London 2012 and will compete in the 100m hurdles and high jump on Saturday 23 June, followed by the long jump and 200m on Sunday 24June. Ennis is focused on pushing herself in Birmingham with the Olympics less than six weeks away.
Ennis said: “I want to use the meet to give myself a real physical test over two days. Everything is focused on London 2012 for me and a packed Birmingham Alexander Stadium will be the closest I’ll come to replicating that tough schedule and environment ahead of the Games.”
Mo Farah (Alberto Salazar), Britain’s greatest ever male distance runner and World 5,000m Champion, will compete over 1500m on Friday and Saturday as he puts his speed and finishing ability to the test against metric mile specialists.
But Farah - Britain’s fastest man over 1500m this year with a time of 3:34.66 - is not expecting a straightforward road to victory.
He said: “The great thing about these Trials is that there are Olympic places at stake with every athlete competing for London 2012 qualification. Everyone will be fighting to finish in the top two. I’m expecting a really strong battle with the 1500m specialists.”
The most exciting newcomer to the British sprint scene since Mark Lewis-Francis over a decade ago, Adam Gemili (Michael Afilaka) also confirmed this week that he will compete over 100m. Gemili is already Britain’s fastest man this year, having clocked 10.08 in Germany this month, and will join a large field that includes several Olympic, World and European medal winners including Dwain Chambers (Daniel Plummer), Mark Lewis-Francis (Linford Christie), Harry Aikines Aryeetey (Michael Khmel) and Christian Malcolm (Dan Pfaff).
The 18-year-old Gemili was undaunted – and even excited – at the prospect of going head-to-head with some of the athletes that he looked up to in his youth, however.
“Growing up watching these sprinters on television was very inspiring and the fact that I now have the chance to line up and race against them will feel amazing. I am looking forward to it greatly and just hope that I can do well and perform how I know I can when I’m up against them.”
Friday's Birmingham Alexander crowd will also be treated to a unique meeting of some of the world's top distance runners when Kenenisa Bekele, the defending 5,000m and 10,00m Olympic Champion and World Record holder in both disciplines, headlines the international guest stars competing in the 10,000m final.
World Champion Dai Greene (Malcolm Arnold) is looking forward to taking on the best crop of British 400m hurdlers in a generation when he lines up in an ultra-competitive field on Friday and Saturday. With four further Brits already having posted the Olympic A standard time this season, the 26-year-old will be seeking a top-2 finish to guarantee his spot at London 2012.
Standing in Greene’s way will be his talented 20-year-old training partner Jack Green (Malcolm Arnold), Nathan Woodward (Nick Dakin), Richard Yates (Stephen Ball) and Rhys Williams (Dan Pfaff), all of whom have run the sub-49.50 A standard this summer.
Christine Ohuruogu, Britain’s only reigning athletics Olympic champion, will seek to continue her good start to 2012 which included a gold medal in the 4x400m at the World Indoor Championships in March. After two fairly indifferent years, the Londoner will be looking to lay down a marker on Friday and Saturday as she focuses on an Olympic Games in her hometown.
The Aviva 2012 Trials will climax on Sunday evening, with one of the most competitive battles of all on the track as Andy Turner (Lloyd Cowan), 110m hurdles World bronze medallist in Daegu last year, takes on two young stars in the final event of the weekend. Turner will be seeking to guarantee his spot at London 2012 against Lawrence Clarke (Malcolm Arnold) and Andy Pozzi (Malcolm Arnold), both of whom lead him in the current British rankings. Commonwealth silver medallist William Sharman (Malcolm Arnold) will also be putting up a strong fight after a mediocre start to the season by his own high standards.
Amongst those in the crowd will of course be Charles van Commenee, who is impressed at the level of competition that has developed for Olympic places this year. Going into his first Games as Head Coach, he is looking forward to the difficult decsions that he will face after a must-see at the Aviva 2012 Trials.
The Dutchman commented: “There is a depth in the sport that we have not seen for 20 years and we have a number of events where five or six athletes are competing for three places. I expect athletes to rise to the occasion and give the selectors selection headaches. Of course there will be athletes who don’t perform and others who will surprise us which will make for a fantastic weekend of top level British sport.”
ALDAMA TO MISS TRIALS DUE TO INJURY
World indoor triple jump champion, Yamile Aldama, will miss this weekend’s Aviva 2012 Trials as she continues to recover from a shoulder injury. She is expected to make a quick return and is selectable for London 2012.
Back the team and watch over 800 of Britain’s best athletes in action at the Aviva 2012 Trials at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium from 22nd-24th June. For tickets visit www.uka.org.uk/aviva-series or call 08000 55 60 56.
The Aviva 2012 Trials will be live on BBC2 from 16:45–18:30 on Saturday, 17:00–19:00 on Sunday.
For news and results from the Aviva 2012 Trials, visit www.uka.org.uk or follow @UKA_athletics on twitter.