Late starter Abeyie catches his rivals cold
By Tom Knight
The Loughborough weather was not the best in which to assess the progress being made by Britain’s young sprinters but the cold and rain served only to make Tim Abeyie’s performance all the more impressive.
The men’s 100 metres at yesterday’s Loughborough International, the season’s traditional curtain-raiser, was supposed to have been about Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, 17, the world youth champion, taking on Craig Pickering, 19, the European junior champion. Instead, in conditions that would normally make sprinters wary of even stepping on a track, let alone racing, it was Abeyie who beat both youngsters in 10.29sec as Aikines-Aryeetey was second and Pickering third.
There were Britons who ran quicker to no real effect at the Commonwealth Games in March but Abeyie’s time, a 0.08sec improvement on his personal best, puts the 23-year-old Londoner top of the early-season UK rankings.
Abeyie was not in Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games but spent his winter making his presence felt indoors. In winning the AAA indoor 60m and 200m titles, he became only the second Briton to achieve this double after Linford Christie, his coach and mentor.
Unlike Aikines-Aryeetey and Pickering, who are among a group of youngsters considered to be on the fast track to success, Abeyie is something of a late starter and has arrived without fanfare. He was only recently added to UK Athletics’ list of athletes receiving limited Lottery funding as part of the World Class Development programme. Once a centre-back with the Fulham youth team, he has been carefully tutored by Christie and his old coach, Ron Roddan.
Abeyie now lives in Cardiff and trains alongside Darren Campbell, the former European champion and Olympic relay gold medallist who is Christie’s other major success as a coach.
When Abeyie defeated Campbell in his first race this summer, at a British League match a fortnight ago that followed a training trip to Australia, it marked something of a breakthrough.
Abeyie saw yesterday’s victory as progress. “It backed up what I did in my first race,” he said. “It shows I’m going in the right direction. It wasn’t that difficult. I’ve been training well with Darren and learning more and more.”
Abeyie is one of around nine British sprinters who have been invited to line up alongside the joint-world record holders, Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell, in next month’s Norwich Union Grand Prix at Gateshead.
Pickering has been invited too but says he is not too enthralled with the idea of “being beaten by six metres”, and even Dwain Chambers has been pencilled in for a comeback if he can resolve his financial problems with the world governing body.
Aikines-Aryeetey, who recently spent a fortnight training with Gatlin in the United States, would love to be there too but, until yesterday at least, had not been invited. There has been much debate about the weight of expectation on the young man’s shoulders, but Aikines-Aryeetey shrugged it off. “Experience is key to me at this stage of my career,” he said. “If the opportunity to race these guys is there, you may as well grab it.”
There were no surprises in the Great Manchester Run as favourites Zersenay Tadesse and Berhane Adere won the men’s and women’s titles respectively. Tadesse set an Eritrean record of 27min 36sec for the 10km course. Adere’s mark of 31min 07sec was an Ethiopian record, and Chris Davies (sixth) and Liz Yelling (11th) were the first Britons home in each race.
Britain’s Mohamed Farah finished second as Australia’s Craig Mottram won a 10km road race in New York’s Central Park on Saturday.
Phyllis Agbo was the outstanding performer as Oxford won the men’s and women’s matches in the annual University match at Iffley Road. She set a new meeting record with six individual wins - in the 100m and 200m, long jump, triple jump, shot and javelin.