AIT International Grand Prix
World Class Athletics at Athlone IT
2023 Event Date: TBC
The AIT International Grand Prix was incepted in 2014 and it has given athletics fans from across the country the opportunity to witness some of the world’s best talent on show in our midlands arena. In the past this event has been blessed to have European, World & Olympic Champions, some of whom have broken meet, all-comers and continental records.
The first big headliner for the inaugural event in 2014 was the now retired Ashton Eaton, the World & Olympic Champion at the time. Six stadium records were broken as big time athletics came to Athlone IT for the first time since the opening of the AIT International Arena. This event put the AIT GP on the map internationally as word spread inside the international athletics community that AIT had a ‘fast track’.
Three international stars, namely, Mutaz Essa Barshim, Carmelita Jeter and Asafa Powell made their presence felt in 2015. Powell unfortunately picked up an injury in warm-up and was forced out of the competition. Barshim ultimately stole the limelight as he broke the Asian indoor record with a jump of 2.41m. He then had three valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempts at 2.44m which would have broken the world record of 2.43m set by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor in 1989. If the AIT International GP was not already a world renowned event before 2015 then Barshim ensured that it was globally recognised.
Big headliners were recruited again in 2016 and the novel addition of the Pole Vault event attracted world class competitors. Canadian world champion Shawn Barber battled it out with American Sam Kendricks before achieving ultimate success with a best jump of 5.77m to smash the stadium record. Barbers compatriot, and world silver medallist, Melissa Bishop didn’t disappoint the fans as she won the 800m race in a time of 2.00.60. The best however was kept for last as Ethiopian Dawit Wolde dominated the men’s mile as he also broke the Ethiopian indoor 1500m record when posting 3.37.86. This time was also a world lead.
The women’s 60m hurdles has been a staple annual discipline on the AIT GP programme and this was no different in 2017 as former Olympic Champion Sally Pearson opted to come to Ireland to relaunch her career after injury. Pearson showed all her class & technique but only came third as Christina Manning ran a stadium and all comer’s record of 7.82. Pearson, however, progressed to the World Outdoor Championships in London where she claimed Gold. Pearson in fact named the AIT GP as her launch pad for her successful season.
The 5th edition of the AIT International Grand Prix international and national stars took the headlines. Irish headliner Thomas Barr thrilled the home crowd with a come from behind victory in the final 40m of a brilliant Ericsson 400m men’s race. Barr was the only athlete to dip under the 47-second barrier which was an amazing time for a 400m hurdles specialist. Current world champion Sam Kendricks and former world champion Shawn Barber had a big battle which was ultimately won by the current world champion Kendricks. The winning vault was a massive 5.70m. The blue riband AIT Mile event always lifts the crowd as the ultimate event of the AIT International Grand Prix. Quite possibly there has never been a more popular third place finisher at an indoor meet in Ireland. While Ryan Gregson comfortably won the race in 3.57.86 it was former AIT scholarship student John Travers made Irish athletics history by becoming the first Irish man to run a sub 4-minute mile on home soil (3.59.40).
No fewer that five stadium records fell in 2019. Su Bingtian (CHN) lowered the 60m record to 6.54 in the first heat and then lowered it again in the final by hitting the 6.52 mark. The 60m Hurdle stadium record was broken by David King (GBR) when he won the final in 7.66. The women were to outdo the men and three women’s stadium records fell as Ciara Mageean was the star of the show breaking the Irish 1500m and stadium standard to make the new time 4.06.76. Britain’s Megan Beesley ran 53.00 flat to break the long standing 400m stadium best while Greek Athlete Tatiana Gusin raised the stadium best to 1.87m in the High Jump. It was not a good night for Olympic champion Thiago Braz in the Pole Vault as he failed to clear a height. Finland’s Tommi Holttinnen jumped 5.45m to take the PV win.
The Irish women stepped up to the mark in the 2020 edition of the AIT Grand Prix. Phil Healy broke the Stadium and Irish record in the 200m’s by lowering Ciara Sheehy’s 17-year old record to 23.10. It was also the fastest time at that stage in Europe in 2020. Ciara Mageean was to take some of the limelight also by breaking her own PB and the Stadium record in the 3000m in a time of 8:48:27. Tommy Barr ran an impressive PB of 46.44 over the flat for 400m’s as he came third behind Tony Van Diepen (NED) and second placed for three-time world champion Pavel Maslak (CZE). Ethiopian Sammy Teferas’ much anticipated attempt at the world mile indoor record fell short but he did manage a respectable 3:55:86 with young Irishman Brian Fay coming second with a PB of 4:00:77. Adelle Tracey (GBR), who achieved a time of 2:01:71 was a comfortable winner of the 800m event. Former European Indoor champion Asha Philip (GBR) had a rapid win in the Westmeath County Council Women’s 60m, clocking up a time of 7:23. Andy Robertson (GBR) took home first place in the Wild Atlantic Apartments Men’s 60m with a time of 6:62. Poland’s Mateusz Borkowski who won the Men’s 600m – setting a personal best of 1:17:40 in the process. Norway’s Pal Haugen Lillefosse vaulted a height of 5:60m, earning him first place in the Pole Vault. David Smith (GBR) won a competitive Midlands Print Men’s High Jump with height of 2.23m while Elizabeth Morland with a distance of 5.70m won the Development Women’s Long Jump.
AIT president, Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin, has said: “We have always amassed really top fields of athletes for the grand prix each February. Each year we strive to have even deeper levels of talent than the previous year. We are always very excited about the event as are many Athletics fans in Ireland. The performances of our competing Athletes never cease to amaze us at every event. Happily we always manage to include the future of Irish athletics with our kids relays on the schedule and in the past two years we have included some development level events also for aspiring talent. There are not many events where you will witness such top class sportspeople competing with the cream of Irish talent as we provide at the AIT GP”.