Greg Rutherford, Allyson Felix and Christian Taylor at the press conference for the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright
General News Birmingham, UK

Birmingham press conference highlights – IAAF Diamond League

Three of the five reigning Olympic champions set to compete at the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix faced the media on Saturday (6) at the press conference ahead of the IAAF Diamond League meeting.

Allyson Felix has raced once over each of the standard sprint distances so far this year.

After opening her season with 11.09 over 100m in Kingston, she won over 200m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha in a world-leading 21.98 and then over one lap of the track at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, beating Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross to win in 50.05.

In Birmingham, Felix will return to her specialist event, before moving back up in distance at the US Championships.

“The World Championships is my main goal this year, everything is gearing up towards that,” said the three-time world 200m champion.

“I love the 100m and the 200m because I love the feeling of running fast. The 200m will always be my best event.

“At the national championships I will run the 400m,” added Felix, who has a wildcard entry for the 200m at the IAAF World Championships as the 2014 Diamond Race winner in that event. “I’ll try to make team in the 400m and, if I’m successful, then I’ll make decision whether to double up in Beijing.”

Felix’s last individual world title came six years ago. She took silver in the 400m in 2011 and pulled up injured in the 200m in 2013, so will be looking for redemption in Beijing in August.

“I’m definitely excited to go back to Beijing,” said Felix, who had to settle for silver when the Olympic Games were held in the Chinese capital in 2008.

“For me it’s not the most pleasant of memories, but that second Olympic silver gave me huge motivation to carry on. I’m excited to go back and have a different outcome this time.

“My performances so far this year tells me that my training is pointing in the right direction. It’s great to feel healthy and all of my performances are leading towards my goal. I’m happy with where I am, but there’s definitely still some work to be done.

“I still love the sport,” she added, when asked about what keeps her motivated. “While that’s still true and while I feel good, then I’m going to continue.”

Felix’s compatriot Taylor has been partly responsible for the triple jump renaissance this year. The 2011 world champion jumped beyond 18 metres in Doha last month to finish a close second to world leader Pedro Pablo Pichardo.

Ever since, the men’s triple jump has been one of the most eagerly anticipated events at international competitions this summer.

“Since I got into the sport at the professional level, it has been my goal to bring more attention not just to the triple jump, but to field events in general. A lot of times those events are overshadowed, and sometimes fairly so because a lot of phenomenal stuff happens on the track.

“The distances being achieved now are mind blowing. I was just a small kid when the world record was broken but I remember watching it on YouTube and I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to jump those distances. But after Doha, it became real to me.

“Sometimes the best things in life happen when you least expect them. It really shocked me to jump that far that early in the season. My body was in total shock afterwards; I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t train.

“I surprised myself getting to 18 metres in Doha. Being out of championships mode, I thought it would take perfect speed and perfect wind conditions. I like to leave it to my sixth jump; I think that will break my coach pretty soon.”

Much like the high jump in the past two years, fans of the sport are now simply waiting for the world record to be broken in the triple jump.

Taylor also believes that Jonathan Edwards’ mark of 18.29m could fall at any moment, but cannot predict the kind of distance that he and Pichardo may be capable of jumping.

“I don’t want to put a number on it,” he said. “But I think it will take something crazy to win in Beijing, hopefully something over the world record. Pichardo is always knocking on 18 metres meet after meet. I’d like to put something big out there tomorrow to show I’m also here to play.”

Like Felix, Taylor has a wildcard entry for the World Championships as the 2014 triple jump Diamond Race winner. He will contest the long jump at the US Championships later this month.

“It would be cool if I could qualify for that also,” said Taylor, who will compete in the long jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo next week. “I don’t know if I’d double up at the World Championships, but just to have the option would be cool.”

“And can I just point out,” Rutherford interjected at this point, “I’ve never actually beaten Christian in a Diamond League long jump competition, which is really annoying.”

The European champion will also compete in Oslo next week, but first he is aiming to get through the competition in Birmingham unscathed.

“It’s been a bit of an up-and-down season so far, to be honest,” he said. “I had to pull out of the competition in Beijing three weeks ago because I tore my adductors while competing in Shanghai. I was probably in the shape of my life up until that point so it was a bit of a frustrating one. But hopefully it’s all fine now and I’ve been assured the injury shouldn’t reoccur.

“Sadly, it seems to be that I usually pick up one or two small injuries each year,” he added.

“Hopefully I’ve got rid of them for this year and I won’t have anything else for the rest of the year. My body is stronger now and it has had to adapt. I’m much quicker and I’ve had to move my run-up back by a metre, which is quite a big difference.”

Rutherford will also be aiming to return to the Birds Nest Stadium this year with the aim of producing a better result than his appearance at the 2008 Olympic Games where he finished 10th.

“That was a very difficult time for me because I’d suffered the loss of someone very close to me just days before I left for Beijing,” he said. “But I hope rectify that by adding the final title to my collection.”

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF