15 September 2012
The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team may have been beaten in the annual GB v USA Great North CityGames match in a 6-3 scoreline, but there was a string of impressive performances on the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside.
A total of nine match events and one guest competition entertained packed crowds around the River Tyne and a purpose-built track to welcome and celebrate with some of Britain’s Olympic heroes.
Ending his season with yet another victory, double Olympic champion Mo Farah (coach: Alberto Salazar) took the two-mile invitational race, which kick-started the afternoon’s action.
The 5,000m and 10,000m winner in London was originally scheduled to run tomorrow’s Great North Run but decided to swap the half-marathon distance due to fatigue.
The 29-year-old conserved his energy for the first half of the race, passing the one-mile mark in 4:17, before taking the lead at around the seven-minute mark and stretching clear to win by almost three seconds in a time of 8:40.
“My lungs were on fire, the pace was quick then eased off and I had to work for it,” Farah revealed.
“I’ve obviously had a lot of stuff to do since becoming double champion and becoming a father to two girls. I’ve been working hard but I’ve been doing a lot less, not 120-miles a week and that’s why I found it tough.”
The world 5,000m champion, who will act as an official starter for the Great North Run, continued:
“I want to win every race I go into and I have great confidence and it was important to motivate myself by not disappointing all these people who are here to support me - I love running around the quayside here and I love this crowd.
“I’m not going to think about running for two weeks now, it’s important I enjoy the break before going back to America.”
Bouncing back from exiting the first-round heats of the Olympic 100m and 200m in London, Anyika Onuora (Christine Bowmaker) sped to a superb 16.70 British record in winning the 150m, smashing her previous best by two-tenths of a second in the process.
After finishing third in the 100m earlier on in the afternoon, Onoura stormed to victory, with her Olympic teammate and 200m semi-finalist Margaret Adeoye (Linford Christie) finished fourth in a personal best time of 17.11.
Onoura said: “I can’t believe how many people are here, it’s a great ways to end the season.”
2007 European junior 200m champion Hayley Jones (Donald Moss), meanwhile, placed fourth in the 100m with an 11.78 clocking.
Newly-crowned Olympic long-jump champion and team captain Greg Rutherford (Dan Pfaff) suffered defeat at the hands of team-mate Chris Tomlinson (Frank Attoh), who leapt an impressive 8.18m to break Rutherford’s record of 8.17m set three years ago.
Tomlinson, the joint British record holder with Rutherford with 8.35m, ended the season in strong fashion following a seventh place finish in London.
“It was a very good jump, the field was very loaded – everyone had an Olympic medal but me,” said Tomlinson.
“It’s great to come away with 8.18m and a victory. There were 40 athletes competed in the Olympic Games and only one performed well so it’s been a very poor year for the event and I’ve only managed to pull together eighty percent of my year without injury - my body’s hanging by a thread at the moment.”
“Because I haven’t trained in the winter for two years, I’m actually looking forward to it this winter and I’m only going to take two or three weeks off as I’ve missed it.”
Also taking the scalps of American duo Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor (7.74m) and Olympic long jump bronze-medallist Will Claye (7.60m), Rutherford revealed he was struggling with injury leading into the afternoon.
“I sadly came here with an injury but it was great to beat the Americans. I had a chat with Chris beforehand and said I needed him to win as I knew I couldn’t today.
“It’s not worrying – I’ll have it assessed properly next week then see what needs to be done.
“You’ve got to keep the ball rolling so I’ve been enjoying all of the opportunities and the attention. I’ve had to learn what 5am looks like and it’s very hard after only four hours’ sleep from all of the events.”
Rutherford also explained about his possible forthcoming move as he looks to follow his coach Dan Pfaff to Austin, Texas.
“I’m looking forward to it, I like to be in a place that’s hot and it will be great for my development – I always get my best block of training in whilst I’m in the States,”
“Why would you break a winning team? I’m finishing the year as world number one and Olympic champion and we’re only just scratching the surface.
“I know I have to do it for my career, it would only be for a few short years and only for between October and May every year and then I’d come back to the UK.”
Back on the track, Olympic semi-finalist Dwain Chambers (Stuart MacMillan) stormed to an impressive 10.04 victory in the 100m over fellow Olympic semi-finalist, James Dasaolu (Steve Fudge), who finished runner-up in 10.15 from Olympic 4x100m silver-medallist Darvis Patton (USA) with 10.16.
“That was cool, man – I didn’t expect to win, I saw us trailing 4-0 and I thought ‘nah!’.”
“It (the season)’s been very, very hard – the situation leading up to the (Olympic) Games, my ability to run was going poorly but I made the team – I was so nervous but so excited, I was really scared of performing badly but I had the support of the nation and my team-mates.”
“To still be able to get invites to meetings like this and see these crowds again, I really missed it – I threw it away and I’m really grateful to have it back.”
In the one-mile road race, 2009 European U23 1500m silver-medallist James Brewer (Craig Winrow) enjoyed a close fought battle with former World 1500m champion and defending title-holder Bernard Lagat. However, it was the American who came out on top, winning in a time of 4:01.62, to Brewer's 4:01.81.
Brewer said: “It felt great – I’ve been in alright shape all year but I’ve had lots of niggles which haven’t allowed me to show my best.
This meet is so much fun with no pressure – all of us shook hands before the race – you don’t normally get that. I was behind Bernard the whole way and knew I had to stay with him and make sure I had enough for the track in the last 150m.
“The crowd was amazing and really lifted me - it was a great way to finish the season.”
European junior 5,000m bronze-medallist Jonny Hay (Mick Woods) finished fourth in 4:05.03 with European under23 800m bronze-medallist Mukhtar Mohammed (Mustafa Mohammed) just behind in fifth with 4:06.92.
British 3,000m steeplechase champion Luke Gunn (Bud Baldaro) made a competitive comeback from the injury which ruined his Olympic ambitions to place sixth in 4:10.00.
Marlon Devonish (Stuart MacMillan) finished a close second in the 150m behind Olympic 200m fourth-placer Wallace Spearmon. After a strong start, Devonish was edged out by the American, who won in a time of 15.13, 0.07 in front of the British veteran.
Olympic 200m semi-finalist Christian Malcolm (Stuart MacMillan) finished third in 15.50.
World silver-medallist Hannah England (Bud Baldaro) could not defend the one-mile road title she has won on the past three occasions, but performed well to finish in second, despite still suffering from the Achilles injury that derailed her Olympic preparation.
The Olympic semi-finalist clocked 4:35.56 behind American Brenda Martinez (4:34.99), with 1500m World Champion Jenny Simpson back in fourth.
“It was fun, in previous years it’s been a bit predictable but it was good to have a mix of good Brits and Americans – it was fun to have some good competition,” England explained.
“I’m happy but it’s been incredibly hard to have to totally reassess my goals but I’m sure it’ll make me stronger and no season will be as tough ever again. I’m determined to finish the season and I should be alright after an extended break.”
Distance specialist Julia Bleasdale (Nic Bideau) finished back in fifth in a time of 4:38.89 after her Olympic exploits, which saw her finish in eighth in both the 5,000m and 10,000m in London.
17-year-old world junior 800m silver-medallist Jessica Judd (Jeremy Freeman) placed seventh with 4:42.30 just ahead of 3,000m steeplechaser Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan) in 4:42.84.
Lawrence Clarke (Malcolm Arnold) finished third in the 110m hurdles, registering 13.57 behind Olympic silver medallist and reigning World champion Jason Richardson of the USA (13.41).
Clarke said: “The Great CityGames is always a great atmosphere - I'm going back to Oxfordshire tonight to celebrate my birthday.”
Alex Al Ameen (Lloyd Cowan), meanwhile, finished fourth in 14.01.
Olympic finalist Holly Bleasdale (Julien Raffalli-Ebezant) was unable to take top spot on the River Tyne, finishing in second, 15cm behind USA's Mary Saxer, who cleared 4.25m to win the pole vault.
Katie Byres (Julien Raffalli-Ebezant) finished back in fourth with 3.80m.
Full results are available now on the Great North CityGames website: www.greatcitygames.org