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Kaki, Farah chasing records in Birmingham - PREVIEW

Fourteen World records have been broken at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena over the years, including Wilson Kipketer’s 1000m mark, which has stood since 2000. The great Dane’s figures of 2:14.96 are the target for Abubaker Kaki at the Aviva Grand Prix on Saturday as distance races will again be to the fore at the penultimate IAAF indoor permit meeting of 2011.

Kaki eyeing Kipketer's World mark

Kaki has made no secret of his desire to claim the record, having broken the World junior mark when he ran 2:15.77 at the GE-Galan in Stockholm three years ago. At his best, there’s little doubt he’s capable – he lowered his own Sudanese record to 2:13.62 outdoors last summer.

But the World indoor 800m champion has had a slightly mixed start to the 2011 season – not surprising, perhaps, given his recent Egyptian ordeal when he was trapped for days in a Cairo sports centre during January’s political unrest. He opened well enough, winning the 800m in Stuttgart in a world leading 1:45.02, but then dropped out of the race in Liévin ten days ago after being spiked on the first lap.

On Saturday he’ll have able company from two other sub-2:20 men – the Kenyans Richard Kiplagat and Boaz Lalang.

An even older record is in Mo Farah’s sights. The British distance star is gunning for Nick Rose’s national 5000m record of 13:21.27 set in New York some 29 years ago.

Farah set to go for UK record

Certainly it is a realistic target. Farah broke Dave Moorcroft’s 28-year-old outdoor record in Zurich last summer when he became the first Briton to go under 13 minutes, and the European 5000m and 10,000m champion has good form on this track having taken more than six and a half seconds off the British 3000m record here with a storming victory in 2009.

“I have really fond memories of Birmingham as I broke the British record there in the 3km in 2009, so I look forward to competing in the city this time around,” he said.

“I’m doing the 5km and would really love to get close to the British record, that’s my goal. I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully we’ll see if I can make it work out there.”

There’s a good history of 5000m records here as Kenenisa Bekele set the current World mark of 12:49.40 in 2004 slicing a minute off Haile Gebrselassie’s 12:50.38 from the NIA five years earlier.

Farah, who’s been training in the USA, was narrowly beaten over 3000m by Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel at the Boston Games two weeks ago. In Birmingham he faces Galen Rupp, the USA star he beat at the Edinburgh cross country meeting last month, plus the Kenyan duo of Gideon Gathimba and Shadrack Korir.

Kenyans form the main opposition to Deresse Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s two-times World indoor 1500m champion. Mekonnen produced the performance of the year when he ran 3:33.10 at this meeting 12 months ago, just ahead of Augustine Choge. Choge leads the chase again along with Brimin Kipruto and Bethwell Birgen.

Mekonnen will hope to get back to winning ways after losing to Nixon Chepseba in Liévin. Britain’s Andrew Baddeley aims to get swept along to a fast time, as will the American Russell Brown.

Baddeley was a dominant force in winning the British 3000m title last weekend, a performance echoed by Helen Clitheroe in the women’s event. Clitheroe will face a stiff test here against the in-form Kenyan Mercy Njoroge, winner in Karlsruhe last Sunday, and Ethiopia’s Sentayehu Ejigu, the world bronze medallist who’s making her season’s debut.

The 19-year-old World champion Kalkedan Gezahegn heads the women’s 1500m field, with fellow Ethiopian Abeba Aregawi, Kenya’s Irene Jelagat and USA’s Treniere Moser also in the line-up.

Jenny Meadows moves back to her favourite distance in the 800m after her attack on the national 400m title came unstuck in Sheffield last weekend. The World indoor silver medallist will be keen to regain confidence on the track where she broke Kelly Holmes’ British record last year.

She ran 2:00.29 in Liévin a few weeks ago, her fastest ever this early in the season. In Birmingham, she faces fellow-Briton Marilyn Okoro and Morgan Uceny from USA.

First ever indoor 400m Hurdles on UK soil

Both sprint hurdles have been hit by injuries. Jessica Ennis pulled out of her clash with world one and two, Kellie Wells and Danielle Carruthers, to nurse the ankle injury she picked up in Sheffield, while David Oliver and Dayron Robles are out of the men’s event, Oliver with calf cramp from Stuttgart and Karlsruhe and Robles with a back problem.

That leaves Britain’s European and Commonwealth champion Andy Turner to take on the American trio of David Payne, Aries Merritt and Jeff Porter.

Felix Sanchez stars in the first ever indoor 400m Hurdles to be run in the UK against Briton Rick Yates, American Reuben McCoy and Frenchman Heni Kechi. The rarely-staged event sees athletes tackle eight hurdles set 30m apart. They run the first lap in lanes then break at the bell.

“It’s a unique event to run indoors and you don’t see it that often anywhere in the world,” said Sanchez, the 2004 Olympic champion. “I ran it in France last year and the clip had a lot of hits on YouTube. It’s really exciting to be part of and watch as it’s totally different to how the race is run outdoors. I’m looking forward to being part of history making.”

Back on more common ground, Kim Collins and Lerone Clarke resume hostilities in the men’s 60m. The amazing Collins leads the world with his 6.50 St Kitts and Nevis record from the Karlsruhe heats. But Clarke beat the 34-year-old in the final there and the Commonwealth 100m champion is only a fraction slower with 6.52 this season.

British hopes rest on Harry Aikines Areetey, Craig Pickering and Mark Lewis Francis, the British two, three, four at last week’s trials. Lewis Francis was beaten by Collins in the 2002 Commonwealth 100m final, and pipped to the 2010 Commonwealth title by Clarke last October.

The ever up-for-it Collins also goes in the 200m against USA’s Mike Rodgers, the World indoor 60m silver medallist, and Germany’s Sebastian Ernst.

Gloria Asumnu and Me’Lisa Barber are the leading names in the women’s 60m, although Ruddy Zang Milama, who took bronze at the world indoors in Doha last year, is also in form. The Gabonese athlete has already raced 12 times this year, and clocked 7.15 on three occasions.

She also broke her national 200m record in Gent last weekend and will be looking to improve that again in the one-lap race here. She faces Bianca Knight, the American making her 2011 debut, plus Shareese Woods and Alexandria Anderson.

The women’s 400m gives converted heptathlete Kelly Sotherton a chance to test her new-found prowess as a quarter-miler against some of the world’s best, not least Novlene Williams Mills, the 2007 world bronze medallist outdoors. Sotherton seeks to take a few more tenths from her PB of 53.46 which brought victory in Sheffield. Another Jamaican Clora Williams and USA’s Shana Cox are also in the line-up.

The men’s 400m features USA’s Calvin Smith and Jamaal Torrance against British champion Nigel Levine and fellow-Brit Richard Buck.

In the field...

The men’s triple jump should be the pick of the field events, featuring World and European champion Phillips Idowu against the man who used to hold those titles, Christian Olsson. It’s Idowu’s first competition of the year, while Olsson jumped 16.99 on home soil in Gothenburg. Olsson won here last year, and took the World title in this arena in 2003.

In the high jump, Tom Parsons takes on the modern-day ‘flying Finn’, Osku Torro. Parsons leapt 2.31 at the British championships last week, but Torro went even better when he broke the Finnish record with 2.33 in Tampere two weeks ago. Dusty Jonas, USA’s world indoor bronze medallist, is also in the field.

With a personal best of 8.10, Swede Michel Torneus is the only long jumper here to have gone over eight metres this year. He’ll face Ghana’s Ignisious Gaisah who’s been close at 7.97, plus German Nils Winter.

Fabian Schulze heads the Pole Vault line-up. The German’s cleared 5.70 this year, although Brazilian Fabio Gomes da Silva has improved his PB with 5.65.

It’ll be a good test for Max Eaves, the Briton who improved his best by 24cm last weekend. Britain’s Commonwealth Games silver medallist Steve Lewis will also be looking to up his game, while Italy’s former world champion Giuseppe Gibilisco opens his 2011 account.

Matthew Brown  for the IAAF