Double Olympic champion is among several domestic winners at the British Athletics Grand Prix at the NIA
Fresh from a six-week training camp in Kenya and enjoying his first race since last summer, Mo Farah cruised to a crowd-pleasing 3000m victory. Watched by a sell-out 6646 crowd, BBC television cameras and a “Mo-cam” inside Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena, the double Olympic champion strode around 15-lap race in majestic fashion to clock 7:42.00.
Showing few signs of rustiness, the 29-year-old helped stretch the pace in a race where a number of fellow Brits were chasing the European Indoor qualifying standard of 7:50.00. Then, with a final lap of 60 seconds, he breezed away from his nearest challenger, Florian Carvalho of France, to win by almost four seconds.
As Farah entered the final kilometre, for a moment it looked as if Carvalho might pose an awkward threat. The British runner’s speed is probably not at its best right now given the fact he’s racing the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half-marathon next weekend, while Carvalho is a European silver medallist and 3:33 man over 1500m. But Farah’s final kilometre of 2:30 was too quick for the Frenchman as the crowd rose to cheer him home.
“It was brilliant,” said Farah. “It was important that I tried to win my only indoor race, so that was good. I’ve been doing loads of miles. I’ve got a lot of miles under my legs but we’re good.”
He added: “I’m definitely looking forward to the outdoor season and the Worlds (in Moscow in August) should be great. The crowd was really good today. We got great support from them, it was amazing.”
Inspired by the occasion, Farah’s fellow Brits put in a series of sub-eight-minute performances without quite nailing the 7:50 Euro standard. Lee Emanuel clocked 7:51.46 in third, with Tom Humphries 7:54.79 in fourth and James Wilkinson 7:57.90 in sixth.
Just as impressive was Helen Clitheroe in the women’s 3000m. Aged 39 and currently training for her marathon debut in London on April 21, the former European indoor champion blasted away in the closing stages to win in 8:50.16.
Clitheroe, a former European Cup 1500m winner, showed a great turn of speed given the fact she is in marathon training at the moment. She has done a longest run so far this year of 18 miles and she will join Farah at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in New Orleans next weekend.
Despite this, though, Clitheroe may be tempted to defend her European indoor 3000m title in Gothenburg next month. She said: “I’m really chuffed, I didn’t even know until Monday that I was going to race indoors at all this season. To come here, run a good time and win the race after such a bad time with injury, I’m absolutely delighted.”
She added: “My training is planned around the marathon. I’ll see what my coach says but I’m doing a half marathon next Sunday so now my focus is on that.”
Behind Clitheroe there was a flurry of PBs from Brits. Most notably, UK indoor champion Lauren Howarth clocked 8:52.00 to finish runner-up and Eilish McColgan 8:53.17, while Jess Judd’s 9:00.06 has only been beaten by one British junior – Zola Budd.
Perhaps the performance of the day, though, came from Murielle Ahoure in the women’s 60m when she beat Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce with a rare sub-seven-second time of 6.99. The 25-year-old from the Ivory Coast, who won world indoor 60m silver last year and was a finalist in the 100m and 200m at the Olympics, had earlier clocked 7.02 in the heats to break the 7.04 UK all-comers’ record that was shared by Gail Devers and Merlene Ottey.
Most thrilling race of the day, meanwhile, was the men’s 800m where Abubaker Kaki of Sudan and Mukhtar Mohammed and Mike Rimmer of Britain tumbled across the line. After some deliberation by photo finish officials – not to mention a protest – Rimmer was declared winner in 1:46.55, from Kaki, while Mohammed was third with 1:46.58 ahead of Andrew Osagie, Guy Learmonth and Joe Thomas.
In the women’s 800m, Jenny Meadows enjoyed a solid comeback race when she finished second behind Russian Ekaterina Poistogova’s 2:02.25. “I’m not in my normal shape as I’ve had a long time out,” said Meadows, after just edging out Lynsey Sharp to finish first Brit home in 2:02.86.
There was success for British athletes in the four field events on the programme. First, Holly Bleasdale won the women’s pole vault with 4.70m. Soon after, Shara Proctor took the women’s long jump with 6.78m.
“I feel there’s a lot more in me now, especially with my longer poles,” said Bleasdale, while Proctor added: “I’m very pleased. Basically I just wanted to come out here and get my rhythm right. This is my second meet so now I can go back and get prepared for outdoors.”
There was no crowd-pleasing victory for Robbie Grabarz, however, as he finished runner-up in the men’s high jump. The Briton was one of three athletes who jumped 2.29m, while the win went to Aleksey Dmitrik of Russia who jumped 2.33m. Dmitrik may not be the best-known high jumper around but only because he faces tough standards in Russia to qualify for major events – his 2.35m indoors and 2.33m outdoors in 2012 was not good enough to make the World Indoors or the Olympics.
Britain’s world indoor champion Yamile Aldama was fourth in the women’s triple jump, though, with 13.91m as Olga Saladuha, the 2011 world champion from the Ukraine, won with 14.61m.
Genzebe Dibaba had a good shot at Elena Soboleva’s world indoor 1500m record of 3:58.28 but after going through 400m in 63.3 and 800m 2:09.2, she hit the bell in 3:28:37 but faded to clock 4:00.83 – a UK all-comers’ record. Behind, UK indoor 800m champion Claire Tarplee headed world silver medallist Hannah England for much of the race but England sprinted past the UK-based Irish athlete near the finish to maintain her domestic dominance, finishing sixth in 4:14.70.
Mike Rodgers won the men’s 60m in 6.53 – the American comfortably ahead of Nesta Carter’s 6.56, with Antoine Adams third in 6.60, Kim Collins fourth in 6.61 and Greg Cackett first Brit in fifth with 6.66 after Dwain Chambers had earlier struggled in the semi-finals with injury and clocked only 6.81 for fifth in his heat. Cackett, 23, is a former footballer but was discovered by Margot Wells, the wife of 1980 Olympic 100m champion Allan, and is now coached by Linford Christie’s ex-coach Ron Roddan.
In the men’s 1500m, Abdelaati Iguider, the world indoor champion and Olympic bronze medallist from Morocco, edged out Bethwell Birgen to win in 3:37.46. Brits Chris Warburton (3:41.20) and Charlie Grice (3:41.54) clocked European Indoor qualifiers, although Matt McLaughlin, who recently smashed the UK under-20 indoor record, was seven seconds outside his best mark with 3:49.74.
In the women’s 60m hurdles, Danielle Carruthers of the United States nicked a mass blanket finish with a time of 8.11 – on hundredth of a second ahead of Loreal Smith and Tiffany Porter. Omo Osaghae of the United States won the men’s sprint hurdles in 7.51 as Gianni Frankis was first Brit in fifth with 7.70.
Linford Christie had coaching success in the 400m races, providing three of the winners. Nigel Levine came from third to first over the final lap the international two-lap race in 46.34. With a strong finish he crushed a field that included runner-up Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago, third-placed Richard Strachan, while 19-year-old Luguelin Santos, the Olympic silver medallist from the Dominican Republic, wound up a disappointing last.
Levine, who has now won the 400m at this meeting three years on the trot, said: “I’m trying to move up in the rankings now. I’ve been doing this event for some time now so it’s time to progress.
“First of all I need to make the final at the Europeans – I’ve never done that yet. That’s my first aim, then I’ll think about the medals.”
Earlier, the meeting had started with the national 400m races and saw Christie-coached UK 200m champion Margaret Adeoye win the women’s race with 52.45 – a time that places her No.11 the UK all-time indoor rankings and makes her a likely member of the GB 4x400m squad at the European Indoors in Gothenberg next month. Completing his 400m hat-trick Christie also coaches Luke Lennon-Ford, winner of in the national men’s 400m in 47.12.
Finally, after having suffered a DQ in the 60m, Natasha Hastings won the international women’s 400m in 50.88 while Perri Shakes-Drayton edged fellow British 400m hurdler Eilidh Child for second – both athletes clocking PBs of 51.37 and 51.50, Child’s mark also being a Scottish record.
» The South of England Cross Country Championships included victories from Emelia Gorecka and Ian Bailey in the junior races, while Frank Tickner took the men’s title from Neilson Hall and Darren Deed and Lily Partridge beat Steph Twell and Emily Pidgeon to the senior women’s crown.
» See this week’s Athletics Weekly, out on Thursday Feb 21, for in-depth news and photographs from the NIA and the South of England Cross Country Championships from Parliament Hill