Britain’s best step up Olympic preparations this weekend

Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Phillips Idowu and Christine Ohuruogu are all in action this weekend at various meetings around Europe

Jessica Ennis (Mark Shearman)

With temperatures finally picking up and two meetings down already in the Diamond League series, the summer track and field season is well under way. Most elite athletes have already opened their season, and several of Britain’s best will be ramping up their London 2012 preparations this weekend.

Jessica Ennis was last weekend inadvertently fooled into thinking she had set a PB over 100m hurdles at the Powerade Great CityGames, before it was revealed that only nine hurdles had been put out.

Although her time of 12.75 can’t count as an official PB, the European heptathlon champion is clearly in good form as she defeated Olympic champion Dawn Harper and world silver medallist Danielle Carruthers in that race.

This weekend Ennis will compete at the Hypo Meeting in Götzis, Austria, in her first heptathlon since her defeat in Daegu last year. She faces a huge task as nine of the top 10 from the World Championships will be there, including world champion Tatyana Chernova and Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska.

Since setting a world indoor pentathlon record at the World Indoors in Istanbul, Dobrynska was hit by the sudden death of her husband and coach. The Ukrainian athlete has not yet competed this year, so it’s not known what kind of form she is in.

Chernova has also not yet competed outdoors since her disappointing fourth-place finish at the World Indoors, but Ennis has got her season off to a very promising start. In the weeks leading up to last weekend’s race, Ennis – who over the winter has been working on her throws with former world bronze medallist Mick Hill – achieved her best ever opening marks in both the shot and javelin with throws of 14.33m and 45.66m.

This will be the last time the big three heptathletes clash in a combined events competition before the London Olympics, so whoever comes out on top will head to the Games with a significant psychological advantage.

This weekend’s Bupa London 10,000 on May 27 will be a different kind of dress rehearsal for London 2012, as the 10km course will take in much of the route that will be used for the Olympic marathon.

Mo Farah is the headline athlete and he will be going for a fourth consecutive victory. The world 5000m champion set a UK record of 27:44 at this race two years ago, but last year he coasted around in 29:15, doing just enough to win.

The presence of Olympic marathon representative Scott Overall means that Farah won’t be able to take it quite as easy this year. Olympic sixth-placer Mara Yamauchi leads the women’s entries.

Phillips Idowu opened his season last weekend at the Shanghai Diamond League with a victory over world champion Christian Taylor and world indoor champion Will Claye. The European champion heads to Hengelo this weekend for the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games on May 27 where he is the top name in the triple jump.

But the headliner of the meeting will be Haile Gebrselassie, who will be contesting his first track 10,000m since the 2008 Olympics. The Ethiopian legend was devastated to miss out on Olympic selection in the marathon, but a good run this weekend in the Dutch city could see him selected for an event in which he won his first global senior title 19 years ago.

The 400m clash between Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu and former world champion Sanya Richards-Ross is one of several mouth-watering head-to-heads at Friday’s Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava.

The pair raced against each other in Kingston earlier this month, and although the American finished ahead of Ohuruogu, Richards-Ross finished an uncustomary second while the Briton posted her fastest ever season opener. A consistent performer on the circuit, Richards-Ross will be expected to win here, but it will be interesting to see how close Ohuruogu can get to the US record-holder and if she’ll go even faster than her last race.

In Ostrava all eyes will be on Usain Bolt, who returns to the Czech city to compete in the 100m. If conditions are good, the Jamaican superstar has said that he is targeting a time of 9.7. Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis are both also entered.

Elsewhere in Ostrava, Pamela Jelimo and Caster Semenya star in a highly-anticipated 800m, US duo Wallace Spearmon and Walter Dix clash over 200m, while Andy Pozzi and Andy Turner take on a handful of top Americans in the 110m hurdles.

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