Mo Farah in Birmingham (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright
Preview Birmingham, UK

Farah is top of the bill in Birmingham

Mo Farah leads the parade of homecoming Olympic champions at the Birmingham Alexander stadium on Sunday (26), for the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix, the 12th leg of the 2012 Samsung Diamond League.

All told the sell-out stadium will play host to no fewer than 16 gold medallists from the London Olympics as well as another 42 medallists in a prolific display of worldwide talent.

Two golds, twins, and now targetting an ancient national record

For the home supporters, Farah is the star attraction and will close the afternoon of high quality action in the 2 Miles with an attack on the British record held by Steve Ovett at 8:13.51, a time that goes back to 1978 and could be said to be well past its sell-by date.

The fact that Farah’s outdoor best stands at 8:20.47 is neither here nor there since this winter he ran the distance indoors in 8:08.07 so there is no doubting the record is well within his grasp.

Last night Farah’s wife gave birth to twins, but the joy of such a happy delivery should hopefully help overcome any loss of sleep experienced by the father; he’s already promised to engrave the twins names on his two Olympic gold medals.

Rutherford to cement gold medal status

The other British highlight on Sunday is the presence of Greg Rutherford who was the home country’s third gold medallist on super Saturday when three titles were pocketed by Farah, Jessica Ennis and Rutherford in the space of 45 minutes in a magical evening for the 80,000 crowd in the Olympic stadium.

Rutherford had gone into the Games as the world leader with a personal best of 8.35 from May which equalled the national record, but he was not seriously thought to be a gold medal contender. But he stunned the opposition as well as the public with a display no one else could match and he became only Britain’s second long jump Olympic gold medallist after Lynn Davies in 1964.

Rutherford clashes with the Triple Jump gold medallist from the USA, Christian Taylor (8.19PB), but there is possibly more danger from fellow American Will Claye who is a double medallist from the Games where he collected bronze in the long jump and silver in the triple. Claye has a respectable long jump of 8.29 to his credit from last year.

But no one should discount Britain’s Chris Tomlinson who beat Rutherford to the latest British record when he jumped 8.35 last year in Paris. Though inconsistent, if Tomlinson gets it right he can trouble the best in the world. London silver medallist, Australian Mitchell Watt, has had an uneven season but still has a season’s best 8.28 and a personal best of 8.54 from last year.

Ohuruogu to keep the home crowd happy too

Christine Ohuruogu came close to successfully defending her 400m title in London and will once again come up against the bronze medallist in that event, the American Dee Dee Trotter. Two other Olympic finalists will be present, Francena McCorory of the US and Jamaica’s Rosemarie Whyte while Britons Nicola Sanders and Shana Cox are also present.

Can Lausanne’s High Jump magic be matched?

It may be hard to recognise the Ivan Ukhov who turns up on the apron in the high jump. The Russian has a new schoolboy hairdo that may be as disconcerting to his rivals as it was to him in Eberstadt where he could finish no higher than fifth recently with the modest height of 2.24. He blamed that performance on the two to three kilo weight loss during the Olympics.

Moutaz Essa Barshim Ahmed, the Qatari Olympic bronze medallist who beat him in Eberstadt with a national record 2.35, then went one better in Lausanne by sailing over yet another record of 2.39 with the Russian obliged to play the 2.41 do or die card which failed. So an early rematch in Birmingham is the ideal scenario for Barshim Ahmed and Ukhov to renew hostilities. And no one can discount Britain’s Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz who also had a dream evening in Lausanne, equalling the British record with a personal best 2.37.

Merritt will try for World record again

The 110m Hurdles is a straight rerun of the Olympic final headed by gold medallist Aries Merritt of the USA who had only failed to finish first in four out of 18 starts this year. Favourites often fail at the Olympics, but not Merritt who not only won but reduced his lifetime best to 12.92.

Lausanne was a slightly different story with the American targeting the World record (12.87 Dayron Robles CUB), but getting out too early he suffered the humiliation of an early shower after trying to beat the gun. So, as for Ukhov, Birmingham will be an early chance for Merritt to re-establish the status quo, though he again confirmed that the record would be his target.

The opposition includes six out of the eight Olympic finalists, including World champion, Jason Richardson who took silver in London and revelation, Hansle Parchment of Jamaica, who snatched a surprise bronze.

Another close battle expected in the women’s 100

The women’s 100m sees another clash between London gold and silver as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and America’s Carmelita Jeter vie for supremacy. Fraser-Pryce became the third woman in the history of the Games to claim back to back titles, but Jeter is the World champion and will be keen to even up the scores. She trails 2 – 3 this season in their personal rivalry after narrowly edging the Jamaican in Lausanne.

Harting to continue supremacy

Robert Harting who has not lost since 19 August 2010 has decided one Olympic gold is not enough and is already looking forward to Rio. In the short term, though, silver and bronze medallists in London, Ehsan Hadadi of Iran and former Olympic champion, Gerd Kanter of Estonia will keep him on his toes.

Also in the field is the man Harting may well have in mind as an athlete to emulate: Virgilius Alekna of Lithuania. With two Olympic golds and two world championship golds Alekna, now at the age of 40, is still sharp enough to give the younger generation a run for their money.

Savinova – Jelimo head to head

In the women’s 800m Mariya Savinova of Russia has stood head and shoulders above all comers in the past two years. World champion from last year Daegu, in London she raced away from a quality field to claim the Olympic title with so much to spare that she claims she could have zigzagged down the straight and still won.

There is no denying that, but Beijing Olympic champion, Pamela Jelimo of Kenya, may not give her such an easy ride this time while surprise bronze medallist, Ekaterina Poistogova of Russia who came through with an impressive burst of speed in the final straight to deny Jelimo a medal in London will want to hold on to her new found status. Jelimo’s win over Savinova in Lausanne adds extra spice to the clash to see what tactics the Russian will employ this time.

Spotakova and Rypakova take on London silver medallists

There is another Olympic rerun in the women’s Javelin Throw where three of the top four finalists meet again headed by Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic who cast off her early season injuries to throw an uninhibited 69.55 in the Olympic final to win by over four metres from Germany’s Christina Obergföll. The woman who had led the season going into the Games, Sunette Viljoen of South Africa, and was to finish just out of the medals in London, is also in the line-up.

The women’s Triple Jump is another face-off between athletes who have shared the spoils for the last two years, Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan and Olha Saladuha of Ukraine.

In the Daegu World championships, it was the Ukrainian who took the honours with Rypakova relegated to silver, while in London it was the turn of the Kazakh to hit top spot while Saladuha had to be content with bronze. Three other Olympic finalists will be competing, Jamaicans Trecia Smith and Kimberley Williams as well as Slovakia’s Dana Veldakova.

Antyukh looking to recapture Olympic form

Since collecting Olympic gold in the 400m Hurdles, Natalya Antyukh has been agitating for athletics to play a much bigger role in the St Petersburg scene. In recent times athletics has taken a back seat in preference to football.

Back on the track she will have to fend off another three Olympic finalists in the person of bronze medallist, Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic and her countrywoman, the multi-talented Denisa Rosolova, alongside Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer and Britain’s Perri Shakes-Drayton.

After a disappointing Olympics, Russia’s European champion, Irina Davydova will want to regain her faltering form as will Antyukh who did not give a good account of herself in Lausanne. Maybe victory celebrations have taken their toll.

Suhr takes on much of season’s top list

Six of the top seven in the world this year meet in the Pole Vault, including the gold and silver medallists from the Olympics, Jenn Suhr of the USA up against Cuba’s Yarisley Silva. World champion Fabiana Murer of Brazil was criticised back home for blaming the wind for failing to go through to the Olympic final, but many of the contestants were struggling with the conditions in London and she will be keen to erase that performance in front of the Birmingham back-straight public. World leader, Silke Spiegelburg of Germany is competing as well as her feisty compatriot Martina Strutz, tattoos and all.

Adams in a class of her own

A top class clash is on the cards in the women’s Shot Put between gold and silver medallists, Valerie Adams of New Zealand and Russia’s Evgenia Kolodko. Adams is only the second woman after Tamara Press to retain the title but there was only 22cm between her and Kolodko who established a career best of 20.48 with her final dramatic throw of the competition that elevated her to silver.

Olympic finalists, Wallace Spearmon of the USA and Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, will test the youthful exhuberance of Britain’s Adam Gemili in the 200m. With only a personal best of 20.61 the young Briton has a daunting task ahead, but his positive attitude has won him fans this season and he will be hoping for a serious revision of his career best. There is a strong Jamaican presence with 19.91 performer Nickel Ashmeade and America’s 100m finalist Ryan Bailey who debuts over the distance for this season.

The men’s 1500m brings together numbers two three and four from the Olympic final with Lionel Manzano of the USA, Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco and Matt Centrowitz of the USA going up against world two and three this year, Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba of Kenya who both underperformed in London.

Hannah England, whose season has been interrupted by injury, will attempt a late season surge back to form in the 1500m where she faces the 2008 Olympic champion, Nancy Langat of Kenya and fellow London finalist, Helen Obiri, also Kenya.

The 400m showcases the exciting talent of Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic who won the World junior title and then went on to show no fear whatsoever in chasing Kirani James of Grenada all the way to the line in the Olympics. Recovered from his injury after setting a Belgian record 44.43 in the qualifiers in London, Jonathan Borlée will be hoping for better things.

Olympic bronze Abel Kiprop Mutai figures in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase with fellow Kenyan Jairech Kipchoge Birech closest on times.

Expect the inevitable Kenyan-Ethiopian burn up in the women’s flat 3000m as Olympic 5000m silver, Vivian Cheruiyot and fourth placer, Sally Kipyego, take on Gelete Burka and another Kenyan, Viola Kibiwott, who also figured in the London final.

Britain’s Julia Bleasdale will want to exploit her fine form and attempt to get in amongst the leaders to improve on her lifetime best of 9:14.93.

Michael Butcher for the IAAF