Sprint kings head for Birmingham

Former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell and the world’s fastest man of 2010, Tyson Gay, will go head-to-head at both the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix on 10 July and the Aviva London Grand Prix on 5-6 August.

Athletics fans will hope for a repeat of last July at the Aviva British Grand Prix in Gateshead, where the American saw off Powell by just 0.02secs to win in a superb 9.94secs. Although a planned rematch at Crystal Palace saw Powell forced to withdraw through injury, Gay recorded the fastest time in the world of 2010 in front of the London crowd.

The announcement of the double UK showdown marks 100 days to go until the pair race at the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix, the first ever Samsung Diamond League meet to be held in the city and the opening Aviva Series outdoor event of 2011.

Former triple World Champion Gay has the edge over Powell with eight wins to six in their overall head-to-heads, but the Jamaican Olympic and World Championship gold medallist will look to reverse the tide which has seen him come second-best to the American in the last four encounters.

Powell is keen to make up for lost time by recording the first sub-10 second time at Birmingham’s refurbished Alexander Stadium, before finalising his preparations for the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea with another record time at the Aviva London Grand Prix.

The 28-year-old Jamaican, who has won three times at Crystal Palace, said: “As always I’m looking forward to racing in the UK this summer. I had to pull out of the Aviva London Grand Prix last year because of injury so this time I hope to be fit and healthy for the fans, especially as there will only be a year to go until the Olympics.

“Tyson and I enjoyed a great race against each other in Gateshead and I’m sure it will be the same at the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix. I have only run in Birmingham once before, but if it is like London I know there will be a lot of Jamaican fans coming to support us. It’s because of this support that running in the UK always feels like being at home.”

It was in Gateshead, five years ago, that Powell set the then world record of 9.77secs and his time still stands as the fastest to be witnessed on UK soil. But with Gay having clocked 9.78secs in London last summer the Jamaican knows his competition is hot on his heels.

He continued: “This year is most definitely about preparing for the World Championships and these two meets will be an important part in that process. Going head-to-head with Tyson last year in Gateshead reminded us of the great rivalry we have had over the years and I’m not scared to put myself up against him; we drive each other on.

“I still hold the fastest time to be run in the UK and while you never try to be too concerned about the times, as it is all about winning races, I’d like to be the first man to run sub-10 seconds at the Alexander Stadium. It would be good to have another record in the UK.”

In addition to the Samsung Diamond League and vital preparations for Daegu, both athletes will be aware that each meet holds great significance as Birmingham is the city hosting both the Jamaican and USA track and field teams’ pre-Olympic holding camps. Likewise, the 100m final at Crystal Palace will take place exactly one year before the same event at London 2012.

To celebrate Powell and Gay running at the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix, Goldfingers, a graffiti performance group created in Birmingham, created a wall mural of the pair in action. The mural will be on display in Victoria Square on Friday 1 April.

The Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix will be at the Alexander Stadium on Sunday 10 July. The Aviva London Grand Prix is at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre 5-6 August. For tickets or more information go to uka.org.uk/aviva-series or phone 08000 556 056

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