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STARS COME OUT IN FORCE FOR IAAF ANNIVERSARY AHEAD OF AVIVA LONDON GRAND PRIX

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IAAF Anniversary

12 July

British and global stars of athletics descended on Crystal Palace today to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the IAAF on the eve of the Aviva London Grand Prix on the 13-14 July, cheering on 100 local school children running a relay of 2012m.

Ahead of London’s two-day Samsung Diamond League meet tomorrow, British gold medal hopes Mo Farah (Alberto Salazar) and Dai Greene (Malcolm Arnold) as well as former 110m hurdles Olympic Champion Liu Xiang and 100m hurdles World Champion Sally Pearson spoke of their ambitions for the weekend and the ideal preparation that the Aviva London Grand Prix will provide ahead of the Olympic Games.

Also joining Xiang, Pearson, Greene and Farah were current 5,000m and 10,000m World Champion Vivian Cheruiyot and the second fastest ever man over 100m, Tyson Gay who will both be racing at the Aviva London Grand Prix on Friday.

Following an incredible duel that ended in a personal best for Dai Greene and a new world lead for Puerto Rican Javier Culson last Friday in Paris, Britain’s Olympic athletics captain will again face off against the World silver medallist at Crystal Palace. Joining the duo in a must-see battle will be former Olympic and double World Champion Felix Sanchez, as well as Olympic bronze medallist Bershawn Jackson and Britain’s other Olympic representative Jack Green (Malcolm Arnold).

Greene surprised even himself with the speed of his 47.84secs run in Paris, but has his eyes on the ultimate prize in August.

“I knew I was in good shape (in Paris), but didn’t realise I was quite that fast because I was so absorbed with training all the time. I also knew I’d be scrutinised a lot more in an Olympic season, because if they saw a World Champion not winning races, they’d be asking questions. But I’ve got a good coach and people around me that help me keep focused on the bigger picture.

With Culson establishing himself as a leading contender for Olympic gold, Greene sees the Aviva London Grand Prix as an exciting rematch after the scintillating battle that the two shared a week earlier.

“He’s (Culson) probably the best in the world over the first five hurdles, and I’m probably the best over the last five. You have to play to your strengths and it makes for an exciting race when we’re two very different runners. I don’t think I’ll ever have the speed he has, but at the same time, he might not ever get the strength that I have. It’s just one of those things, you just have to run as best you can. Hopefully we’ll have an even better race at Crystal Palace.”

China’s highest-profile athlete, Liu Xiang, will be looking to continue his impressive start to the outdoor season on Friday ahead of his attempt to regain the Olympic crown that he won in 2004 but relinquished through injury four years later. In what will be the finest 110m hurdle line-up of the year, Xiang will have his work cut out with World Indoor Champion Aries Merritt, World Champion Jason Richardson and Britain’s Olympic contingent of Andy Turner (Lloyd Cowan), Andy Pozzi (Malcolm Arnold) and Lawrence Clarke (Malcolm Arnold) all keen to test themselves.

Despite running sub-13 seconds already this season, Xiang feels that he has room for improvement and is keen to use the Aviva London Grand Prix for that purpose.

“I’ve had very good preparation and of course there is still quite a bit of time before the Olympic Games. I want to get in better shape for when I compete at London 2012. The Olympic Games is a very important competition, so I will try and do my best in the last two weeks to improve my preparation.”

Xiang recognises the threat from the world-class field in Crystal Palace. Whilst pointing out Merritt – who ran a world lead 12.93secs at the US Olympic Trials last month – as particularly dangerous, he is focused solely on tomorrow’s race at hand.

“Merritt has been using seven strides very successfully. He started off seven strides before Daegu last year and has run very well this year, posting the fastest time in the world. He’s a very good hurdler, but I want to focus on myself and do my best.”

The women’s 100m hurdles on Saturday looks set to be equally impressive with World Champion and IAAF Female Athlete of the Year Sally Pearson looking to add to her impressive victory in Paris last week with a win at the Aviva London Grand Prix. World silver medallist Danielle Carruthers and British number one Tiffany Porter (James Henry) will line up alongside the Australian.

Despite coming into the meet as a gold medal favourite for London 2012, Pearson suggested that she is enjoying her athletics and looking forward to running a fast time for the full house in south London.

“I don’t feel the pressure because I’m enjoying it; I’m having fun with it. Of course I want to get a fast time out of this weekend. I think Priscilla [Lopes-Schliep] holds the meet record with 12.52secs so I’d like to break that.”

Despite showers potentially playing a part in proceedings, Pearson – who has been living with family in Kent for the past month – insists that she can succeed in any conditions on the day.

Pearson said: “I ran 12.49secs in Australia at trials in wet conditions; I ran 12.40secs in Paris on a wet track so I think the rain likes me and I like it.”

World 5,000m Champion Mo Farah (Alberto Salazar) will lead British interest on Friday night as he runs in the 5,000m against a tough field in the final event of the evening. The Olympic gold medal contender had a simple message ahead of his final race before the Games.

“I always enjoy running at Crystal Palace. The atmosphere is amazing. Tomorrow is going to be great fun and a good challenge at the right time for me. Last year the crowd really got behind me and I’m hoping for the same again in such a big year.”

Greg Rutherford and Michael Rimmer have both withdrawn from the Aviva London Grand Prix as a precaution ahead of the Olympic Games this summer.

Rutherford has a nerve problem, whilst Rimmer has a tight adductor muscle. Both have withdrawn as neither want to risk further injury so close to the Games.

For a full start list as it stands, please visit http://www.diamondleague-london.com/en/Live-StartlistsResults/Overview/

Back the team and watch the world’s best athletes in action at the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace on 13-14 July. For tickets, visit www.uka.org.uk/aviva-series or call 08000 55 60 56.