12 July, 2019

Sotherton: Muller Grand Prix puts Birmingham on the map

Kelly Sotherton sung the praises of Muller Grand Prix Birmingham as a meet that brings the world’s best athletes to the second city on an annual basis.

The heptathlon star has a long history at the Alexander Stadium having represented Birchfield Harriers for 21 years and trained at the home of British Athletics for nearly two decades.

And with this year’s event falling just six weeks before the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Sotherton underlined that the world’s eyes will be fixed on Perry Barr on 18 August.

“Birmingham’s indoor arena has always been a vital part of the sport worldwide, but we now have a brilliant summer meet as well,” said the three-time Olympic medallist.

“Since the new stand was built in 2011, we've had the world's best athletes come to the stadium to compete every year, putting in some brilliant performances.

“I remember Allyson Felix running a 22 a few years ago. Having trained at the Alexander I couldn’t believe she ran that time when the wind was up!

“It’s so good to see the world’s best athletes outdoors as well as indoors.

“It puts Birmingham on the map as a city of sport that does hold the best events in the world.”

With 100m world leader Christian Coleman, Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Sifan Hassan among last year’s winners, the IAAF Diamond League meet will again attract the very best of the best.

And this year’s fields will be even more stacked given the event falls six weeks before the IAAF World Championships in Doha, a crucial marker before next year’s Olympics.

“With the Worlds being late, it takes on a massive significance,” she said./

“Also the event is right before most people's national championships and a week before ours. Everybody will want to be peaking and getting ready the week before their nationals.

“People are going to be fighting to get a spot at Birmingham because they need the Diamond League points and it's one of the last big competitions before Doha.”

The 2019 Muller Grand Prix Birmingham will be the final major meet at the Alexander Stadium before it is closed for redevelopment ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Sotherton has special memories of its old stands but can’t wait to see another generation of stars reared at the historic venue.

"The stadium means a lot to me,” she said.

“I've been training there for nearly 20 years now but the fact it's going to get redeveloped is really good.

"It needs some love - it's had a lot in the past and it's great to see the care and attention it's going to get. The redevelopment is going to see a whole new generation of athletes use it and love it like I have.

"In a way, I'm sad that the old stand's going to be put down, it's been there for 40 years but there's going to be a facility that Birmingham can be proud of and the rest of the world can utilise for years to come.”

Tickets for the Muller Grand Prix Birmingham are now on sale at www.britishathletics.org.uk.