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POWELL TARGETS NEW PERSONAL BEST AT AVIVA GRAND PRIX

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Bleasdale, Farah, Robles, Powell, Xiang

17 February 2012

Asafa Powell intends to smash his personal best and put in a world-leading performance in tomorrow’s 60m sprint at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham – the world’s premier annual indoor athletics event.

Having never competed indoors in the UK and nowhere globally since 2004 prior to this year, the former World Record holder has chosen the Aviva Grand Prix, and more specifically the National Indoor Arena, to hone preparations for Olympic gold.

Powell, who will be based in Birmingham with the Jamaican team in the lead-up to this summer’s Olympics Games, remains supremely confident of producing a show-stopping performance.

He intends to better his indoor personal best of 6.56 secs and Lerone Clarke’s world leading 6.50 secs in tomorrow’s 60m against a world-class field including World outdoor bronze medallist Kim Collin.s

Powell said: “I’m not going to say ‘if’ I do well tomorrow – I really think I’m going to do well tomorrow. I’m very confident. I’m looking to go below 6.50 seconds. Lerone [Clarke] is here, as is Nesta Carter and Michael Frater as well, so there is some really good competition. I’m just trying to get over the line and get the win. A good time is overdue.

“My coach and I really wanted to get the ball rolling earlier this season. It’s a very important year, so whatever I need to do to get ready and get in shape, I’ll be doing it. ”

Having enjoyed success competing outdoors in Birmingham in the past, including victory over 100m at last year’s Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix, Powell feels at home in the UK’s ‘second city’ and is looking forward to returning this summer ahead of the Olympic Games.

“Birmingham has good food and very good training facilities,” said Powell. “ I’m excited about coming back here for training camp. We always get really good support.”

For British fans in Birmingham on Saturday, there will be no greater attraction than watching 5000m World Champion Mo Farah in his debut 2 mile race. Already regarded as Britain’s greatest ever distance runner, Farah is looking to add to his impressive start to 2012.

Farah is hotly-tipped to challenge the indoor British record over 2 miles of 8:17.06 held by John Mayock.

Farah said: “The British record is definitely a target. I’ve just got to get in the right race though and not think about any times, to try to be more competitive than anything else.”

Having already won on home soil over the 1500m distance at Glasgow’s Aviva International Match last month, Farah praised the support that he receives from British fans.

He added: “The support that I get at home events is a really great addition and it gives me a big boost. It’s one of the reasons that I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. If I’m struggling in the final stretches, I know that the home crowd will give me an added boost.”

In arguably the most anticipated event of the day at the NIA, the two fastest hurdlers ever – 110m hurdles World Record holder Dayron Robles and former World Record holder Liu Xiang - will go head-to-head for the first time since they clashed in last year’s World Championships final.

On that occasion, Robles was disqualified after winning for impeding Xiang with his right hand, preventing the Chinese star from taking victory.

Robles played down the rivalry, however, and is looking forward to testing himself over 60m hurdles for the first time this year.

“I forgot about the World Championships final straight after it happened. It doesn’t make sense to keep thinking about that as I will be racing Xiang again and again. I’m just looking to the future, starting in Birmingham tomorrow,” Robles said.

“We are the fastest three hurdlers of all time [including American David Oliver], but we will have to wait until our careers are over before we see who’s the greatest ever. I’ve been training very hard and I’ve come out here to win.”

Xiang echoed his words ahead of what should be a mouth-watering battle.

He said: “Both of us are great hurdlers. We have been good friends for many years and when we race together it’s great for both of us, as well as great for the sport. I would really like to have a great competition tomorrow. I chose to come to Birmingham because it fits in perfectly with my overall plan for 2012 and I have great memories from competing here in 2003.”

Twenty-year-old Lancashire pole-vaulter Holly Bleasdale is another star attraction at the Aviva Grand Prix, having shot to prominence this year with some of the greatest pole vault performances of all-time.

The last time Bleasdale competed at the NIA she placed third in the national under 20 titles with a clearance of 3.90m. This month she will return to the venue as one of the leading pole vaulters in the world athlete and a medal hope for London 2012, having cleared 4.87m in France in January.

Bleasdale, who is third on the all-time list of vaulters, said: “I’m really excited to get out there and compete. I don’t get the opportunity to compete against such world-class athletes very often so this competition is really valuable. I’m really looking forward to making the most out of this year.”

“My main aim is to continue to be consistent. I now want to go out and jump 4.70m-4.75m at every event, and that will be my aim tomorrow. Of course there’s always the hope that I can go higher.”

The stellar line-up of athletes competing at the Aviva Grand Prix include Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Asafa Powell, Liu Xiang, Dayron Robles, Holly Bleasdale, Hannah England, Kim Collins, Mark Lewis-Francis and Helen Clitheroe. 
 
The Aviva Grand Prix will be at the NIA in Birmingham on 18 February. Tickets are now sold out; for further event information go to uka.org.uk/aviva-series. The Aviva Grand Prix will be shown live on BBC 1 from 1pm.