17 August, 2019

Stars salivate over fields for Muller Grand Prix Birmingham

Track and field’s top stars are salivating over the similarity of fields for the Muller Grand Prix Birmingham and the upcoming IAAF World Championships.

European outdoor rostrum-toppers Nafi Thiam (BEL) and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR) will face off in the pit in a rare IAAF Diamond League clash to savour.

It will be the first time they have locked horns since Berlin last summer and stands as Thiam’s Diamond League debut on British soil.

Long jump is a strong event for both athletes. Thiam is a national champion and record holder, while Liverpudlian Johnson-Thompson is British indoor champion.

Thiam said: “It’s great that Katarina is there because we know each other and are used to competing against each other.

“But it’s a long jump competition so we’ll just see where I am, and we’ve still got Doha to look forward to.

“The heptathlon is really friendly. It is sport, so it is competitive, but we get on, so we appreciate each other and have fun together.”

A bumper crowd at the Alexander Stadium will be treated to quite a finale, with the women’s 200m one of the most-talked about races this Diamond League season.

In the blocks will be two Olympic champions in Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, back-to-back world champion over the distance Dafne Schippers and triple European champion Dina Asher-Smith. 

Miller-Uibo is expected to hold nothing back, still needing points to secure a spot at the upcoming Diamond League final.

“It’s definitely like a World Championships final field,” said Fraser-Pryce.

“When you have a field that has female athletes running so fast anything can happen, that can translate to a good time.

“I relish those opportunities to run with people who will bring the heat. This is practice for Doha, so mimicking everything you do in your race.”

Elsewhere, 100m hurdler Kendra Harrison returns to the nation where she set her world record and the city where she became world indoor champion.

Harrison, 26, will again be challenged by a world-class field with world leader Danielle Williams, who sprinted into top ten all-time in London last month, and Olympic champion Brianna McNeal.

“It’s a really important meet as this is a world final field,” said the American.

“Coming out here and competing against these girls and doing the best I can is really going to help me for Doha. The better the competition, the more I know I have to rise to the occasion.”

Andre De Grasse was another to use the Grand Prix as a platform for high honours, winning and setting a season’s best weeks before his triple medal haul at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

De Grasse’s return from injury continued in London with a sub-ten clocking and will be joined tomorrow by the likes of Yohan Blake and Akani Simbine. 

“I’m happy to be back. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been here but I’m looking forward to competing at the Alexander Stadium,” said the Canadian.

“I competed last time here in 2016. It was a good competition to prepare myself for the Rio Olympics and it’s a good stepping stone again ahead of the World Championships.

“The Müller Grand Prix Birmingham always brings a good competition. This is probably going to be the field that will make up the semi-finals and finals in Doha. 

“It’s good to get two rounds in the 100m so that’ll help me prepare for the situation of having semi-finals and finals in Doha.”