With time ticking down to the 3rd annual AIT International Grand Prix excitement levels are rising at the prospect of another night of world class athletics at Ireland’s premier indoor athletics arena. As always, there is a strong group of headline athletes competing. Top of the bill is current Pole Vault World Champion Shawn Barber of Canada and there has never been a better time to see him in action. He recently set a new personal best of 6 metres in the USA. He’ll be pushed on the night of the grand prix by a field of amazingly talented vaulters.
Ten separate events will be held on the night of the Grand Prix. The women competing will display their talents in the 60m, 60m hurdles, 800m and 1500m. The men’s events include the 60m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, Long Jump and Pole Vault. There will be major championship medallists in each event on the night.
Pole Vault – Men
We expect a very competitive Pole Vault event in this year’s grand prix. Shawn Barber will be pushed all the way by British champion (and record holder) Luke Cutts who has PB of 5.83m. The field will be supplemented with a host of plus 5.60m vaulters. Barber is the man on form though having cleared 6m three weeks ago in Reno, Nevada.
60m Hurdles – Women
Returning athlete Shakira Nelvis (USA) with a PB of 7.83 seconds will be hoping for a second consecutive win at the grand prix. She’ll face stiff opposition from Kristi Castlin (USA) 7.84 PB, Beatte Shrott (AUT) 7.84 and Hanna Platitsyna (UKR) 7.99. Irishwoman Sarah Lavin who is making a steady return to competition will have a great opportunity to lay down a good early season marker too.
60m – Women
Barbara Pierre (USA) is the standout sprinter in the 60m sprint as her PB is 7.06. Cleo Van Buren has also clocked 7.20 so a good contest is guaranteed. Daryll Neita (GBR) 7.32 and Adeline Gouenon (CIV) with PBs of 7.32 and 7.36 respectively offer major competition here while Niamh Whelan of Ireland is a 7.48 60m woman so she will be looking to impress also.
Triple Jump – Men
This field boasts four jumpers who have comfortably cleared the 17m mark. The favourite will be Nathan Doughlas (GBR) with a PB of 17.47m. His competition will come from Victor Lastrebov (UKR) 17.32m, Tosin Oke ((NGR) 17.23m and finally Karol Hoffman (POL) 17.09m. The jumps events always prove to be a crowd pleaser at the grand prix and this years will be no different.
60m – Men
Seven men will line up who have run 6.60 seconds or better in the 60m. D’Angelo Cherry (USA) is the fastest in the field with a blistering PB of 6.49. His compatriot Joe Morris who is yet to confirm has a close 6.52 to his name. Diondre Batson (USA) 6.54, Churandy Martina 6.58 and Brian Mariano, both from the Netherlands, will make this a keen and fast race. Britons Sean Safo-Antwi and Rion Pierre can run close to sub 6.60 second also on the night.
1500m – Women
Going up in distance there will certainly not be a shortage of quality in the races. It could really be billed as Germany v Ireland in many respects in this race. Victor from the 2015 event Gese Krause is back, this time with a world championship bronze from the world championship 3000m steeplechase. She will find tough competition from her compatriots Denise Krebs, PB 4 minutes 06 seconds, Diana Sujew 4.05 and Elina Sujew 4.07. The fastest Irish in the field will be Laura Crowe 4.11, Claire Tarplee 4.11, Rose Ann Galligan 4.12 and Kerry O’Flaherty 4.12.
800m – Women
Recent World Outdoor 800m silver medallist Melissa Bishop (CAN) has a PB of 1 minute 57 seconds in the 800m and she will be guaranteed a tough race from British woman Marilyn Okoro who has run a 1.58.45 PB. Anastasiya Tkachuk (UKR) has a PB of 2.00 with Adelle Tracey (GBR) close to that time with a 2.01 800m to her name.
800m – Men
The 800m race offers a great opportunity for the Irish contingent of Niall Touhy 1 minute 48 seconds Karl Griffin 1.47 to get paced along to a very fast time as Timoty Kitum of Kenya has a world class PB in this event of 1.42. Dmitrijs Jurkevics (LAT) has run 1.46 so he’ll be hoping to be in the prize money on the night.
400m – Men
The talent is very deep in the men’s 400m this year. Former World Indoor champion Chris Brown from the Bahamas has the fastest PB (44.40 seconds outdoor) in the race but Kenyan Alphas Leken Kishoyian has posted a 45.75 time more recently and Pavel Maslak (CZE) has run 44.79 outdoors. Irish trio of Brian Gregan, Dara Kervick and Timmy Crowe will be strong contenders for the prizes in this event.
Mile – Men
The once mythical sub four minute mile threshold was breached for the first time indoor in Ireland last year by Ben Blankenship (USA) having been pushed hard by his training partner Irishman Ciaran O’Lionaird to a 3.56.75. Indeed, Blankenship and O’Lionaird will be back again to attack the mile. They will face a higher quality field this year with Dawit Wolde (ETH) and Hillary Ngetich all carrying very fast times into the grand prix. Wolde will be the favourite as he holds a PB in the 1500m of 3.33.82 outdoors. Former AIT student Eoin Everard, DCU’s Joe Warne and O’Lionard will vie to be the first Irishman under the four minute mark on Irish soil.
The event also caters for the upcoming talent in underage athletics as U-13 boys and girls relay events will be held again. Two of our own AIT AC juvenile teams will get the opportunity to sample the big venue atmosphere of the grand prix.
In 2015 Mutaz Essa Barshim produced one of the great performances in the world when he jumped 2m 41cm to break the Asian high jump record. He was agonisingly close to breaking the world indoor record when he made three brilliant attempts at 2m 43cm. What a story that would have been for the event and the town of Athlone. Barshim is tied up with the Asian championships this year but has said that he would like to return to AIT in the future and maybe next time he will break that record.
Of course Barshim’s jump was a stadium record but no fewer than six other stadium record’s fell in 2015 at the grand prix. Winston Barnes (Jamaica) virtually melted the 60m straight with a time of 6.60 seconds and made up for the disappointment of Asafa Powell failing to take to the start line due to a slight strain in the warm-up. The female athletes were not to be outdone in 2015 either as they conquered four stadium records. Tianna Bartoletta (USA) & Jessica Young (USA) lowered the 60m standard for the arena to 7.28 seconds. The fastest woman alive Carmelita Jeter (USA) also lined up in this event.
Gesa Krause (Germany), who is returning again this year, smashed the 1500m arena record with a time of 4 minutes 12.46 seconds. She’ll be anxious to take that time lower again in a very competitive field. The 60m hurdles mark was lowered by Sharika Nevis (USA) to 7.93 seconds. Nevis is coached by the legendary British Sprinter John Regis. Abigail Irozuru (GB) wrote her name on the stadium best list by jumping 6.63m in the long jump.
The final event of the night ended with Ben Blankenship (USA) running the first ever sub four minute mile indoor in Ireland. He clocked 3 minutes 56.75 seconds as his Irish training partner Ciaran O’Lionaird trailed off in the final 300m. O’Lionaird will hope to be in better form this year when he again faces Blankenship and the might of Dawit Wolde (Ethiopia) & Hillary Ngetich (Kenya). Former AIT student Eoin Everard will add his presence to the mile and he may be in the form to battle O’Lionaird to be the first Irishman to run sub four minutes indoor in Ireland.
In 2014 Ashton Eaton competed in three events at the inaugural AIT International Grand Prix. He didn’t disappoint, as would be expected from the Olympic & World champion and records holder. His wife Brianne Thiesesn Eaton also made a big impact in three events and she came as a world silver medallist in her own right.