26 July 2008
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Greg Rutherford, Marilyn Okoro and Kelly Sotherton were amongst British Highlights on day two of the Aviva London Grand Prix, but it was the sub 45 clocking over 400m by Martyn Rooney and the British All Comers record by Usain Bolt that set the crowd buzzing on the warm Saturday afternoon.
Local boy Martyn Rooney (Croydon) lifted the crowd to dizzy heights with his dominance against a world class 400m field. A positive first 200m, backed with an aggressive third quarter of the race, meant he came off the bend in first position and powered to a significant PB of 44.83. Amongst those behind him was Canada’s Tyler Christopher in 45.29 in second.
Rooney said: “I’m a Croydon boy so it’s great to do well in front of the local crowd. Breaking 45 seconds is another important step towards that level I’m after.”
Men’s 200m and women’s 100m
Jamaican Usain Bolt’s promise of something very special was more than fulfilled with a superb UK All Comers record of 19.76 to beat Wallace Spearmon’s second placed 20.27 by a country mile. Bolt was so relaxed, he had time to glance across at the stands whilst racing and eased across the line.
Bolt said of the will-he-won’t he debate about his Beijing 100m involvement: “I’d like to double – I think I could do well in both. My coach hasn’t made a bad decision in five years so if he says I can only do one, I’ll do one.”
Christian Malcolm (Cardiff) ran solidly in lane two despite the obvious distraction with 20.54, whilst Alex Nelson (Sale) was seventh with 20.93.
In the women’s 100m there was no British interest in the final but Veronica Campbell (Jamaica) made sure that there was more sprint thrills for the crowd to get excited about with a swift 10.87.
Despite the disappointment of seeing Chris Tomlinson (Newham & Essex) leave the competition as a precaution with a cramp in his calf, there was much to be excited about with further evidence that Greg Rutherford (Marshall Milton Keynes) was continuing his consistent comeback with a victory leap of 8.16m. Next best Brit was Chris Kirk with 7.84m in fourth position.
In one of the most eagerly awaited races of the weekend, Marilyn Okoro (Shaftesbury Barnet) gave spectators a treat by smashing her PB by 0.31 of a second with 1.58.46, front running her way to a dominant victory. Passing the bell in 56 seconds gave the Palace crowd an idea that something special could happen if Okoro did not fade over the final lap, and in true style she maintained her form to take the win. Jenny Meadows (Wigan) who broke her PB in Paris last week and Jemma Simpson (Newquay and Par) were fifth and eighth with 2.00.65 and 2.01.86 respectively.
Mo Farah (Newham & Essex) worked hard to keep pace with the African onslaught in a fast 3000m. Becoming slightly detached from the lead group at the bell he was forced to dig in to finish strongly with sixth place and 7.43.26. First place went to Boniface Kiprop in 7.36.95. The remaining Brits Scott Overall, Chris Thompson and Andy Vernon all performed strongly, with finishing times inside the eight minute barrier.
Women’s Four Event Challenge
Kelly Sotherton (Birchfield) extended her overnight lead with a solid shot put performance in the third of the four event challenge series. Her 14.36m putt took second behind Laurien Hoos of Holland, but put her in pole position to take victory in the overall competition.
After a relaxed bend, Sotherton ran a strong straight to finish second with 23.63 and secure victory across the four event challenge with 3964 points ahead of USA’s Gi Gi Johnson’s 3813.
Goldie Sayers (Belgrave Harriers) put together a solid set of throws to finish second to Germany’s Christina Obergfoll. Sayers’ best of 63.82m was backed with her first round 62.35m – whilst Obergfoll’s winning fling of 65.93m underlines her class in this event in the approach to Beijing.
Men’s Pole Vault
In a historic competition where the top two both cleared 5.97m – the first time on British soil that two vaulters in the same competition had reached such heights – the eventual winner was Yevgeniy Lukyanenko of Russia ahead of Australia’s Steve Hooker.
For the second time in two weeks, Steve Lewis (Newham & Essex) made another attempt on the British record. Following first time clearances at 5.42m and 5.62m, he made three strong efforts at 5.82m, and it can only be a matter of weeks before the youngster takes pole vaulting to new heights.
Another competition with a world class field and performances to match was the women’s 100m hurdles, won in style by USA’s Lolo Jones in 12.58. Sarah Claxton (Woodford Green Essex Ladies) had a strong race, but in a high class field her 13.01 could only take seventh position, but into a -0.5 headwind bodes well for her Beijing expectations.
Top British finisher was Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton Coldfield) in third position with an impressive 8.57.39 to dip under the nine minute barrier for the first time in her career. First place went to USA’s Jennifer Rhines with 8.53.26. World Junior 1500m champion Steph Twell (AFD) was a strong fifth with 8.58.45.
Reigning world 800m silver medallist Gary Reed from Canada took a tumble 200m into the race, but luckily Michael Rimmer (Liverpool Pembroke & Sefton) stayed out of trouble and almost sprung a surprise on eventual winner Abraham Chepkirwok. Rimmer’s 1.45.76 clocking in taking second demonstrates he is in key form approaching the final few weeks of Olympic build up. Chepkirwok took first with 1.45.64.
In the men’s event, it looked to be a tough race in prospect for Trafford’s Richard Yates against a world class field, yet he performed excellently with a huge PB of 49.06 to take a well deserved second position and stir up the Palace crowd eager to see British success.
Yates said: “It’s great to run a PB. I was disappointed not to get selected for Beijing, but on a day like today with a big crowd at Crystal Palace it’s not like I needed any more motivation to run well… I’ve got to make sure I have the A standard next time.”
The winner was USA’s Kerron Clement with 48.36.
In the women’s race Jamaica’s Melaine Walker took the 400mH title, but British eyes were on Perri Shakes Drayton in lane 2 to see if the talented youngster could make further inroads into her person best mark set at the Aviva Trials just two weeks ago. As it was her 56.25 was a solid time in a race won in 54.22.
Women’s High Jump
Steph Pywell (Sale) cleared 1.89m on her way to fifth place against quality competition. Anna Chicherova of Russia won with 2.01m
UK U20 races
Simon Horsfield (East Cheshire) was the winner in a thrilling sprint finish against Gateshead’s Ross Murray in a men’s race that started at snails pace and slowly but surely wound up impressively for the final 1200m. Horsfields 8.21.44 took him to third on the Power of 10 rankings for 2008. In the women’s race it turned into a final lap battle between World Junior representatives Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester) and Lauren Howarth (Leigh Harriers). Pidgeon looked to have it sewn up 100m from the line with a gap of about five metres, but Howarth finished strongly in the final strides to dip for victory on the line in 9.27.44.
On Camp With Kelly 800m
Hannah England (Oxford) won the 800m in a thrilling sprint against Alison Leonard (Blackburn Harriers). England, who had competed in Friday evening’s 1500m, stepped down to the two laps and showed her classy pedigree by timing her run to perfection, dipping for a 2.04.74 victory time.
Emma Carpenter (Exeter Harriers) left it to the last round to produce her best in the women’s discus – the first event of the afternoon’s programme. Carpenter, who took a surprise 1st place in the Aviva Trials, once again led the way with 55.16m to take first at the London Grand Prix.