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UK Athletics

Two routes to the European Indoors this weekend

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Jessica Ennis
Jessica Ennis - Competing at Sheffield on Sunday

UK Athletics is staging two competitions this weekend that are of great importance to athletes still seeking to impress the selectors of the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for the SPAR European Indoor Championships to be staged at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, on 2-4 March.


The Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix being televised by BBC from the NIA on Saturday 17 February features more than 60 UK athletes in a sparkling entry that also includes European 100m and 200m champion Francis Obikwelu (Portugal) against European Junior 100m champion Craig Pickering (Milton Keynes AC), who is the fastest man in Europe this winter; the fastest woman in the world this year LaVerne Jones (Virgin Islands); the incomparable endurance ace Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia); the fastest 60m hurdler in the world this year Dayron Robles (Cuba); pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia), who loves breaking world records indoors and out in the UK; the longest jumper in the world this year Luis Tsatoumas (Greece); the Olympic, World and European triple jump champion Christian Olsson (Sweden), the No.1 shot putter in the world this year Christian Cantwell (USA) … oh, and the fastest 400m female in the world this year, the UK’s own champion Nicola Sanders (Wycombe AC). It starts at 1.30pm, doors open at 11.45am and the latest news is that a few seats are still available. See our Tickets Section for more details.


The UK Indoor City Challenge Final at the EIS Sheffield on Sunday 18 February features many athletes striving to make the giant leap from good club class to international standard – plus a few like heptathlete Jessica Ennis who have already made a global impact – in the climax to a competition that awards bonus points for personal bests, season’s bests and ICC records. It starts at 12 noon and admission is free to spectators – the athletics bargain of the winter!


For many athletes, these meetings will determine whether or not they make it to the European Indoors – especially as the prospect of chasing around Europe next week in search of a late qualifying performance must be daunting in the extreme.


Some athletes are currently in both the Grand Prix and the ICC Final, which features reigning champions Sheffield against semi-final winners Birmingham and Manchester plus Bristol, Glasgow, London North, London South and Oxford in pursuit of rewards including warm weather training packages in a prize pot of £8,500 put together by the UKA Competitions Department.


Prominent among the dual entries is 18-year-old James Brewer (Cheltenham and District AC), who followed his surprise 800m victory in the ICC semi-final at Lee Valley Athletics Centre with an even more sensational gold medal run at last weekend’s Norwich Union European Trials and UK Championships. Now he gets the chance to attack a European Indoors elite qualifying mark in company with the other Trials finalists.


There are many other examples among the Grand Prix fields of UK athletes being given the opportunity to measure-up against the best in Europe and, indeed, the World. For the latest details, go to the Norwich Union Grand Prix page of this website and click on the start list.


There are also athletes among the ICC entry having their last competitive preparation before they head off to the European Indoors. Ennis, for example, is in the 60m sprint, 60m hurdles and long jump for Sheffield before she tackles the pentathlon at the NIA.


Having added the Commonwealth heptathlon bronze medal to the European Junior title, Ennis is a shining example to all of the younger ICC competitors of where a lot of hard training can lead. What a wonderful weekend of opportunity this is for athletes and supporters!