As the outdoor season gathers pace swinging off the top bend and into the run-in to Daegu, the UK Trials assume the stage to set the scene for the British challenge for silverware and entertain the country’s best athletes who will be vying for those priceless places on the team bound to represent Britain at the World Championships over the next three days. The venue will be a refurbished ‘Brum’ at the heart of the Midlands in Birmingham and the background is set with no less than seven national records headed by a new European mark by Mo Farah in the men’s 10000m, a best ever haul of Diamond/Golden League wins in history and a host of top tier performances across the board.

Therefore, anticipation and tension is building up sharply as the clock is ticking away the hours to the outset of the Trials tomorrow as enthralling and gripping contests are looming on all corners of the arena. This is the moment of truth, this is the crunch and the time to reap the rewards for the endeavours and pains of a whole year leading up to this point. Of course, not all is going to be decided now, with plenty at stake still all along the following week peaking in the Diamond League meeting at Crystal Palace next weekend. But every athlete that finishes in the top two of an event and holds the respective UK Athletics A standard gains an automatic berth on the British team while a top three placing could offer a solid foothold into the reckoning.

Apart from already mentioned above Mo Farah, established top names like Phillips Idowu, Jessica Ennis, Christine Ohuruogu, Dai Greene, Lisa Dobriskey, Jenny Meadows, Dwain Chambers and Andy Turner as well as up-and-coming stars of the likes of Perri Shakes-Drayton, Holly Bleasdale, Hannah England, Lawrence Okoye, Jack Green will parade before the spectators and the viewers making for a pulsating three days of action.

Hopefully, weather will turn an ally and back the efforts of the athletes the whole three days through, with warm gentle temperatures and slight favourable breezes. So let the Trials commence!

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100m

Dwain Chambers is the overwhelming favourite to claim the UK title and hopefully sweep under 10 secs for the first time this season, which would double as the first legal sub 10 clocking by a Briton on home soil in history, following the most impressive run-up of his career that involves five races in the 10.0 secs region topped with a 10.01 secs (2.0m/sec) winning run in Brasil.

Nevertheless, his most eye-catching showing has been arguably his narrow runner-up display by a mere two hundredths to former Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, setting 10.13 to 10.11 secs respectively into a strong headwind (-1.6m/sec), in his last outing in Madrid so he looks as though he is peaking at the right time.

Behind him there appears to be shaping up be a separate tight tussle for that much coveted second spot where Harry Aikines-Ayreety is holding a slender edge on a healthy string of both windy and legal marks between 10.09 and 10.14, SB of 10.13 (1.1m/sec).

Mark Lewis-Francis has been racing against time to turn up fully fit and sharp at the starting-line tomorrow and his slightly windy 10.23 secs at the same venue last Saturday signaled encouraging signs while Craig Pickering shows solid again lying on the verge of the A standard in a recent SB of 10.19 secs (1.9m/sec). Nevertheless, none should overlook good ‘old’ Marlon Devonish who is vastly experienced and knows to raise his game when it matters, tied with Pickering in the UK lists.

James Ellington and new European U23 champion James Alaka will be the dark horses going into the contest which also features European 110m hurdles champion Andy Turner, over to the flat to test his raw speed, and Barcelona 200m silver medalist Christian Malcolm, who will be fancying his chances to upset a few names in the short dash.

The third place is likely to be decided in a run-off and open even wider at Crystal Palace the following weekend, especially if the likes of absent James Dasaolu and Simeon Williamson show up.

Hammer

Commonwealth silver medalist Alex Smith has steadily worked his way back to the top of the domestic front with a recent SB of 72.90m in Holland, just 5cm shy of his PB, but will need to make up a further 1.10m that is left up to a first B standard (74.00) – and he needs two to make the team! Can he make it? It’s been a long while since Britain was last represented at global level in the event and the 23-year-old Sale Harrier rises as the likeliest prospect.

Andy Frost has returned to his very best with a PB of 72.79m and along with Mark Dry and Mike Floyd, who have also both PB’ed with 72.49 and 71.73m respectively this term, harbour their own hopes to turn the tables to their own advantage.

400m hurdles

With European champion Dai Greene turning his hand to the flat 400m over some sound speedwork, the affair turns into a pure relentless two-past-the post trial with no margin for error and no way back for three major contenders. There will be no quarters given nor taken!

The recent 400m hurdles final in Ostrava between Green and Woodward

The championship duels between Jack Green and Nathan Woodward have been nothing less than breathtaking and nailbiting this season, having claimed one apiece at the death, and this one should hardly turn any different as there is not much to pick between them. Oddly enough, both times the defeated stumbled bad over the last hurdle to offer further evidence of how close and tense their battles have been.

New European U23 champion Green (48.98) will be on a high following his triumph in Ostrava, with also two recent excellent Diamond League outings under his belt, and likes to run a conservative first 200m building up into a powerful last hundred into the race and might offer a slender favourite.

By contrast, Woodward (48.71 PB) relishes going out hard over the first 300m and hold his form down the home straight, a wide different approach on top, and has been as impressive of late and looked flowing and strong round the track in Ostrava despite his defeat.

Those said, none should underestimate European silver medalist Rhys Williams (49.59 SB), who has been quiet so far but is a born championship performer and could knock chunks off his SB.

From there on, it is going to be a tall order for anyone else to get between those three but Niall Flannery (49.76 PB), Thomas Phillips (49.78 PB) and a rejuvenated Richard Davenport (49.91 PB) will be seeking to take further inroads inside 50 secs.

800m

I’m going to tip a surging Andie Osagie to clinch his first senior UK title on the strength of his big PB of 1:45.63 PB in his only second race this term at Trafford last weekend, he is on a sharp upturn and his searing finish has got to stand him in good stead. Further, he seemed to have got be plenty left in the tank and I would expect him to ride under 1:45 soon although that may not be necessary to book his place on the team.

European silver medalist Mike Rimmer has been mysteriously struggling for form after a searing start to the season and his last showing in Birmingham rather raised more worries and questions than answered. But he’s got the A standard with an early 1:45.12 and if he turns on a convincing display in the top three that should be enough for selection.

Muchtar Mohammed (1:46.58 PB), bronze medalist at the European U23 Champs, Gareth Warburton (1:46.95), third at the European Team Championships, and UK Indoor champion Joe Thomas (1:46.77) are all capable of dipping inside the B standard but they will have to make up their minds whether to pull their resources together and make a fast race out of it. It’s not going to be easy picking themselves up to chase two B standards within the remaining last week and thing could easily go the wrong way.

Former European bronze medalist Sam Ellis, a revamped Steve Fennell, U20 Guy Learmonth and hopefully Niall Brooks will be the dark horses going into the affair.

10000m

There will be no Mo Farah, Chris Thompson or even Andy Vernon, who has switched late to the lower distance, so this ought to fare in the region of 28 mins and the only one to have an outside shot at the B standard should be Keith Gerrard with a PB of 28:27.03 in spring at Stanford (USA).

WOMEN

100m

World and European U20 champion Jodie Williams will be missing and therefore take some of the gloss off the women’s dash showdown, consistent with her rather erratic approach towards senior competition, but there will be plenty to look forward to with three sprinters comfortably inside the A standard on show.

As things look right now, it’s going to be more a matter of the order in which season revelation Anyika Onuora (11.18 PB), back-to-form Beijing finalist Jeanette Kwakye (11.15) and Laura Turner (11.23) are going to come home in the final as they should normally fill the top three spots.

Beyond them, there will be Ashlee Nelson (11.38), UK record holder Montell Douglas (11.39), veteran Joice Maduaka and, why not, Asha Philip holding remote hopes of staging an upset and picking off one of the top three but ensuring of a place in the short relay may form a more realistic target at this stage.

400m

Perri Shakes-Drayton will be out to attempt a rare 400m flat/hurdles double at these Trials so is expected to be among the busiest athletes over the next three days, with the rounds of the two events overlapping at that. She is faced with a gruelling and demanding four races and she will still have to arrive with enough strength left to fight off the challenge of Eilidh Child in the hurdles on Sunday.

However, as concerns the flat distance I feel that she is going to have too much for everyone else despite the presence in the field of reigning Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu and former world silver medalist Nicola Sanders, having showed potential to run something in the middle 50 secs on her recent outings. Thus, she’s my favourite to clinch this.

Ohuruogu, for her part, will be buoyant after her win in Barcelona sneaking under the A standard in 51.49 secs and will be seeking to strengthen her position on the international stage with a time in the low 51 secs but should face tough opposition for the runner-up spot by Shana Cox (51.24), not yet eligible for selection but blooded in her first top tier British final.

Lee McConnell (51.56) has been churning out times in the lower end of the B standard territory but has to pull something under 51.50 secs to shrug off any worries of missing out while Sanders must have taken plenty of heart from her big SB of 51.94 secs also in Barcelona last Friday and will be eyeing to knock another chunk off on the way.

A very interesting figure will be heptathlon-turned-400m runner Kelly Sotherton seeking her first cut into the B qualifying territory with a SB of 52.51 secs where Nadine Okyere and Kelly Massey will be hoping to gain a footing in the 4x400m team.

800m

I can’t see how Jenny Meadows (1:59.27) could possibly lose this one as she is fully equipped to deal with anything thrown at and her form has been as reliable and good as ever, a superb tactician and racer in the full sense of the word. Incredibly enough, though, she is yet to win a national title!

Marilyn Okoro (2:00.60) is showing glimpses of her form of old but she has to balance out brain and brawn to pull off an upset, meaning not to get carried away into some frenzied opening lap that will knock her off in the late stages. Besides, Emma Jackson (2:00.24) and European U23 bronze medalist Lyndsay Sharp (2:00.65) are both fierce kickers and are going to be very dangerous at the end so there is no room for crazy acts – though history shows they can work at times either!

Jemma Simpson is forced to miss the Trials as she couldn’t be ready in time to do herself justice so she’s going to go for broke at the Diamond League at Crystal Palace to grab a place in the sun of the Far East in search of an A, or at least B depending on the case, qualifying time on top of that. Finally, a very notable entry is that of sensational U17 Jessica Judd with a superb 2:02.70 to her credit and she might fancy her chances of beating Jo White’s longtime age group UK best.

1500m

Hannah England finds herself in a rather unusual position of turning up as favourite to claim the spoils following her brilliant breakthrough display of 4:01.89 in Spain last Friday but looks to have come of age and she should cope with the pressure, possessing a deadly kick in her armoury.

Along similar lines, world silver medalist Lisa Dobriskey may not be firing on all cylinders yet but she is improving fast and should get that second spot the easy or the hardy way and book her place on the plane to Daegu.

With Charlene Thomas still missing the action, Stacey Smith will be favourite to round off the top three placings at the Trials but it looks as though it’s going to go all the way to the wire over who will be joining England and Dobriskey on the British team.

Barbara Parker is a very interesting entry having switched from the 3000m steeplechase over apparently some speedwork and there are U23s Stevie Stockton and Steve Cram-coached Laura Weightman lining up as well.

Triple Jump

Maybe the time has come to witness the first legal jump over 14m by a British girl since the days of great Ashia Hansen. Nadia Williams and world U20 silver medalist Laura Samuel set slightly windy jumps of 13.94m and 13.77m respectively at the England Championships in Bedford a fortnight ago and could envisage pulling off a breakthrough tomorrow, but who between them can make it? My money might be on young Samuel who has shown that she can improve by large distances when it comes to the crunch.

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