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mccain uk challenge final

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Robbie Grabarz
Robbie Grabarz

28 August 2010

After a consistent season of 2.20m-plus clearances and periodic moments of great promise, Robbie Grabarz (coach: Fuzz Ahmed) at last achieved a lifetime best with 2.28m on his third attempt to take the McCain UK Challenge title in Cardiff today (Saturday 28 August).

Grabarz, who cleared 2.26m in last weekend’s BAL match at Lee Valley – a mark matched by his training partner Matt Roberts (coach: Fuzz Ahmed) – was clearly confident after coming within one centimetre of his two-year-old PB.

“It was my last competition of the year so I had nothing to lose,” he said. “I’ve been jumping so high all season but not always clearing the high bars. I was so inconsistent last year and the year before, but this year I think my top 15 jumps have all been over 2.20m, so in terms of consistency, I can’t really complain.”

“The competition in this event is great,” he continued, referencing his high quality training group. “We’re all chasing one another because in the high jump nobody is on top for long. The guys going to the Commonwealth Games are being chased hard and no one is out of reach. We go into each competition knowing any one of us could win.”

Commonwealth Games-bound Tom Parsons (coach: Fuzz Ahmed), a European Championships finalist, was second with 2.18m after passing at 2.21m and failing at 2.24m, while Roberts finished third with 2.14m.

Of those targeting podium finishes in October’s Commonwealth Games, there was greater satisfaction for hammer pair Alex Smith (coach: Shane Peacock) and Zoe Derham (coach: Lorraine Shaw).

The duo, with marks of 70.01m and 65.93m respectively, are now winners of a proportion of the McCain UK £5000 Golden Challenge and will take confidence ahead of their departures to Delhi.

“I’m pleased with that going in to the Commonwealth Games,” said Smith, who achieved the distance in the fourth round. “I’ve not performed too well since the Trials in June and it’s good to come here in my last domestic competition of the season before the Commonwealths, and to be back over 70m and consistently over 69m.”

Looking ahead to Delhi he added: “I’d be pleased with a medal and I don’t think gold is out of my grasp. I’m in PB territory so that would be ace.”

English national champion Mike Floyd (coach: Kevin Madden) finished second with 68.83m on his final throw with James Bedford (coach: Dave Smith) in third (68.20m).

Aviva UK champion Derham has also got reason to be confident as she counts down to her third successive Commonwealth Games. She took the women’s win on her final throw, the penultimate throw of the competition, to demote Wales’s Carys Parry (coach: Lorraine Shaw) into second with 64.17m ahead of Parry’s fellow countrywoman Laura Douglas (coach: Kevin Madden) who finished third with 62.63m.

“I’m pleased with that because I made hard work of it all the way through,” she admitted. “I was having a nightmare.”

“It’s one of my better throws of the year and because we’re in hard training now ahead of the Commonwealth Games it’s a bit of a confidence boost. I know now that if I’m in a similar situation in Delhi that I can perform on my final throw, although I obviously want to throw further. I’m actually more excited about this one than the other Games I’ve been to; not that I wasn’t excited about them, but I think I’ve got more of a chance this year and I can possibly come away with something.”

Also winning a share of the £5000 jackpot, UK number one Brett Morse (coach: Nigel Bevan) continued his consistently impressive run of form with his 18th throw in excess of 60m to take the men’s discus title with 60.62m ahead of Chris Scott (coach: Andrew Neal) in second (53.92m) and Leslie Richards (coach: Paul Wilson) in third (52.82m).

“The wind pulled it down a bit, but it was another 60+ throw so it’s been consistent,” he said. “I’ve thrown 64m in training mid-season a few times so I’m definitely more confident. Going into the Commonwealth Games I know that even if I throw quite a bad throw I can still qualify which has been my main issue in recent years, so I can be quite confident going into it.”

The £5000 jackpot was eventually split seven ways, with Phillipa Roles (coach: Maggie Lynes) in the women’s discus, Laura Whittingham (coach: Esa Utriainen) in the women's javelin, Stephanie Pywell (coach: Fuzz Ahmed) in the women's high jump and James Campbell (coach: Mick Hill) in the men's javelin joining Smith, Derham and Morse, all athletes winning on on the day in Cardiff in addition to achieving the highest or equal highest points score in their events and finishing top of their individual event rankings.

Concluding the day’s action, a further eight McCain UK Challenge titles were won in the endurance events which were incorporated into the evening BMC meeting.

Joe Thomas (coach: Arwyn Davies) continued a good day for the Welsh athletes clocking 1:48.74 for victory in the men’s A 800m ahead of his Commonwealth Games team mate Gareth Warburton (coach: Darrell Maynard) in second 1:48.80. Ed Aston (coach: Michael Smith) – also credited with a time of 1:48.80 – finished third.

“I realised after 200m that nobody wanted to take it on so I thought I’d get to the front to see if I could jostle it around a bit,” said Thomas. “It was a promising finish. I held back at first because I didn’t want to blow up. I’d been in really, really good shape, the shape of my life, coming into the season then I had some problems and I’ve only recently started to get some races together consistently, it’s been a bit up and down.”

“To be honest, I think being selected for the Commonwealths has played into my hands,” he continued. “I actually feel really fresh whereas if everything had gone to plan I’d probably be struggling by now.”

Although not competing in the McCain UK Challenge, the performance of the night came from Charlie Purdue (coach: Mick Woods) who clocked 15:23.4 for a brilliant victory in the women’s 5000m, the final event of the evening, to go second on the UK All-Time list (under-20).  

Purdue, who recently clocked a new UK junior record over 10,000m (32:36.75), continued her impressive run of form taking the win ahead of McCain UK Challenge winner Freya Murray (coach: Steve Jones), who also recorded a PB in second (15:26.5).

“I’m really pleased with that, I watched Steph (Twell) run a PB last night and I knew I wasn’t that far behind her in training, so it really inspired me,” said Purdue. “I knew she was going to run a quick time but it was really amazing. I knew I was in the shape to run close to the time I did tonight and it’s my last track race before the Commonwealth Games so it’s given me a lot of confidence before I run the 10k out there.”

Sonia Samuels (coach: George Gandy) finished third in 15:53.1 – also a lifetime best.

Full results are now available.