The annual festival of athletics returns to the streets of Manchester this weekend, as the BT Great City Games and the Bupa Great Manchester Run overtake the city for two days of exhilarating athletics action.
Kick-starting the weekend-long programme will be Saturday’s BT Great City Games, which will celebrate its sixth year in the north-west.
Taking place on a purpose built track on Deansgate and around Albert Square, many of the world’s finest track and field athletes will gather to compete in the unique urban environment, as spectators enjoy the action at close proximity.
BT City Games –
Top billing in the 2014 edition goes to Jamaica’s Yohan Blake. The Olympic 100m and 200m silver medallist will chase the 14.35 150m meeting record, set by his countryman and triple Olympic and world sprint champion, Usain Bolt in 2009.
The Olympic relay champion and 2011 world 100m victor will face team-mate, Kemar Bailey-Cole who placed fourth over 100m in last year’s World Championships in Moscow.
2004 Olympic 4x100m champion, Mark Lewis-Francis (Andy Paul) heads the British interest, whilst world indoor 400m runner-up, Chris Brown of the Bahamas is an intriguing entrant.
Men’s long jump
Fresh from his British record-breaking display in the USA last month, Greg Rutherford (Jonas Tawiah Dodoo) looks set to comfortably repeat his 2013 win.
The closest challenger to the Olympic champion is Ignisious Gaisah of the Netherlands. The world silver medallist and 2006 world indoor champion is joined by Britain’s Olympic finalist and 2008 world indoor runner-up, Chris Tomlinson (unknown?).
Richard Kilty (Rana Reider), arguably one of the biggest surprises of the winter courtesy of his world indoor 60m victory, opened his outdoor campaign with a promising 10.12 in Florida last weekend and he will face Qatar’s Femi Ogunode – the bronze medallist behind Kilty in Sopot, Poland in March.
The USA’s Trell Kimmons, the 2012 Olympic 4x100m relay silver medallist, also contests.
World 400m champion, Christine Ohuruogu (Lloyd Cowan) has not competed since anchoring the British squad to the 4x400m relay bronze medal in Sopot, but the 2008 Olympic champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist should make light work of her toughest competitor, Shana Cox (George Williams) – her team-mate from Poland.
Men’s 200m hurdles
The Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez also steps down in distance, as the Olympic 400m hurdles champion goes up against Jamaica’s Ledford Green and British duo, Andy Turner (Lloyd Cowan) – a three-time winner in this event and the meeting record-holder with 22.10 – and Sebastian Rodger (James Hillier).
Women’s 100m hurdles
USA pair, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells – the Olympic silver and bronze medallists, respectively – will line up in a tight battle with Britain’s Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider), the world bronze medallist indoors and out for company.
Men’s 110m hurdles
Turner, the 2011 world bronze medallist will, as usual, compete both the hurdles disciplines and he is in fine form following long-term injury.
In a solely domestic field, Turner’s nearest rival should be Lawrence Clarke (Malcolm Arnold), who is in his best shape since the 2012 season when he finished fourth in the Olympic final.
Women’s 200m hurdles
The USA’s world runner-up, Dalilah Muhammed competes against Britain’s European indoor 400m silver medallist, Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold).
The Czech Republic’s Denisa Rosolova, the European outdoor runner-up also contests, as will Britain’s global semi-finalist, Meghan Beesley (Nick Dakin).
Women’s pole vault
Olympic fourth placer, Silke Speigelburg of Germany takes on Greece’s Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou, the European bronze medallist, whilst Sally Peake (Scott Simpson) leads the British challenge.
In the International Paralympic Committee races, world 100m and 200m champion Marlou Van Rhijn of the Netherlands starts as favourite in the women’s T44 100m.
In the men’s T44 200m, Australia’s world champion, Jarryd Wallace faces world 400m victor, David Prince of the USA.
Full coverage of the event will be broadcast on BBC One from 1:15pm on Saturday.
Bupa Great Manchester Run –
Meanwhile on Sunday, Europe’s biggest 10km road race will arrive in the city.
The men’s race features a thrilling head-to-head battle between Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele and Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang, whilst the women’s event sees Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba compete against many of Europe’s finest.
Bekele, the winner of the Paris marathon last month and the 10,000m world record holder and four-time world champion on the track, makes his debut in Manchester, and the three-time Olympic champion will have his work cut out against Kipsang.
The marathon world record holder and winner of the Virgin Money London Marathon last month, Kipsang too has never raced in Manchester before and the Olympic marathon bronze medallist appears evenly-matched in this mouth-watering duel.
Other names to watch out for include Stephen Mokoka, the 2012 Great South Run winner from South Africa and Spain’s Ayad Lambassem, the 2011 European cross country runner-up.
Morpeth Harriers’ Nick McCormick is expected to lead the British entrants alongside Fife AC’s Andrew Lemoncello.
Meanwhile in the women’s race, three-time Olympic champion, Dibaba should enjoy a comfortable run-out.
The five-time world champion took victory in 2013 and arrives following a third-place finish in her 26.2-mile debut in the Virgin Money London Marathon.
In a fiercely-competitive field, Charnwood AC’s Gemma Steel looks set to offer the closest challenge, with the 2012 world half marathon seventh-placer joined by French duo, Christelle Daunay and Sophie Duarte.
World 10,000m finalist, Daunay finished third in the 2013 event, whilst Duarte will be aiming to replicate the form which saw her claim the European cross country title over Steele back in December.
Additional names likely to impress are topped by world marathon silver medallist, Valeria Straneo of Italy, world fifth-placer, Alessandra Aguilar of Spain, Kenya’s 2013 Great South Run winner, Polline Wanjiku of Kenya and Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix, the 2012 European 10,000m champion.
Preston’s Helen Clitheroe – the 2011 winner and European indoor 3,000m champion in the same year – clocked a 15:31.76 British V40 best in California a fortnight ago and she is joined by fellow Brits – and marathon runners – Alyson Dixon and Susan Partridge.
Full coverage of the event will be broadcast on BBC Two from 10am on Sunday.