17 September 2011On a wet Saturday (17) morning on Tyneside, the third edition of the Great North City Games kicked off a weekend of athletics in the North-East of England, culminating in the Great North Run on Sunday morning.
From sprinting to pole vaulting, specially laid tracks along the river on both banks of the Tyne brought Track and Field to a tumultuous public that come out in their thousands to applaud the ten World Championship medallists on show.
The match between the USA and Great Britain was won easily by the American squad who took seven victories to GBR’s three.
Fresh from clocking 10.14 in Brussels the night before behind Usain Bolt’s 9.76, Britain’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey took the 100m in 10.28 from fellow-Briton Christian Malcolm.
“I’d love to see this form of athletics in Cardiff,” enthused Malcolm as the five-deep crowd behind him cheered.
Walter Dix admitted to being tired after his excellent 19.53 over 200m the night before in Brussels, but he still dispatched the opposition over 150m without difficulty, breaking the beam in 14.65.
That time is 0.27 off Usain Bolt’s World best, but still the third fastest ever for this unconventional distance. In second, Marlon Devonish shaved 0.01 off his British best, clocking 14.87.
“I’m going in the right direction,” said Dix, assessing the challenges that lie ahead in Olympic year after Bolt and fellow-Jamaican Yohan Blake’s explosive performances in the final Samsung Diamond League of the season one day earlier.
Bernard Lagat had a comfortable win in the mile, breaking the tape in 4:06.1. The World 5000m silver medallist led from the start, going through 440 yards in 61 seconds and 880y in a modest 2:05.
Coming off the Tyne Bridge, Lagat finally broke away from team-mate, Kyle Miller, with British 800m specialist, Andrew Osagie, splitting the American trio in third.
“It was a comfortable win,” said Lagat. “I wanted to run well and put on a show, I wanted to have fun.
“I think this idea of street athletics is unbelievable, it’s a brilliant idea. It’s good for our sport and these kids are inspired,” he said pointing to the crowd.
World 5000m gold medallist, Mo Farah, had little to test him in the Two Miles which he won at a canter: “I wanted to come back home and perform in front of this crowd,” said Farah.
“Now I’m going to have a two-week break and then start training for next year. It’s a big year and it is important to stay positive,” he concluded.
Asked about Kenenisa Bekele’s surprise return to form in Brussels so soon after dropping out of the 10,000m in Daegu, Farah said: “I was surprised, it was unbelievable that he could turn it around in just two weeks.
“But it is great to see him back from injury.”
American Brian Ollinger led through the first mile in 4:21 and made a concerted effort to get away from Farah who simply tucked in behind the American until they reached the Tyne Bridge with the rest of the field some 10 metres adrift.
With 440 yards to go, Farah gently pressed the accelerator and immediately opened up a gap over the American steeplechaser to cross the line in 8:37.8. Third was American, Jeff See.
Jason Richardson continued his dominance in the 110m Hurdles over the fastest man in the world this year, David Oliver, with a convincing win. His time of 13.16 was 0.20 faster than Oliver’s with Britain’s William Sharman third on 13.82.
The Long Jump was won by the USA’s Jeremy Hicks in 7.84m while quadruple World champion, Dwight Phillips was well adrift of the action in fourth and last though he did admit prior to competing that the run-up was far too short for him.
After a sparkling 10.76 the night before in Belgium, Carmelita Jeter took things easily over the first 100 metres of the 150m race before she opened up and created a gap over the two chasing Britons, Anyika Onuora and Abi Oyepitan.
Her 16.50 with a following wind of 1.5mps gave her an unofficial World best for this straight 150m to add to all the other accolades she has accumulated this year.
“I’ve never run this distance before,” admitted Jeter. “It’s definitely different and a good experience.”
Britain’s Hannah England won the Mile for the third year running at these Games in a time of 4:35.5.
Steeplechaser Helen Clitheroe pushed the World silver medallist all the way until they came off the Tyne Bridge when England turned up the pace. In third was the USA’s Treniere Moser.
“All I want to do now is get to the Olympic final in the best shape possible,” said a delighted England.
Dawn Harper and Danielle Carruthers staged a demonstration of quality hurdling, Harper getting the decision by 0.04 over the World silver medallist in a tight finish. “The crowd is so close you could almost shake their hands,” said the Beijing Olympic champion who posted 12.73.
The women's Pole Vault was won by American Becky Holliday in 4.27m while Britain’s Holly Bleasdale, a 4.70m jumper this year, could manage no better than 4.12m.
Michael Butcher for the IAAF