Melissa Courtney-Bryant triumphed in her first race for five months.. Pic: Getty Images.

Welsh Athletes Head To Glasgow And Pembrey But With Eyes On Tokyo And Paris

Hundreds of Welsh athletes are preparing to compete in wildly contrasting conditions this weekend.

But the goal for many of the elite athletes competing at each venue will be the same – taking the next step towards representing Great Britain at the summer’s two big international events.

Some of the nation’s top track and field athletes will battle for medals at the British Indoor Athletics Championships in the relative calm of the Emirates Arena in Glasgow on Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, their endurance counterparts will be exposed to the elements on the beautiful but windswept Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli for Saturday’s Welsh Cross Country Championships.

The contrast between the two events could barely be more stark as more wet and windy weather is forecast for South Wales.

With the Tokyo Olympics and the European Athletics Championships in Paris looming large later this year, a number of athletes will be aiming to take advantage of an early chance to catch the selectors’ eye.

Jonny Hopkins and Ieuan Thomas will be lining up against each other in Glasgow this weekend. Pics: Owen Morgan

Among them will be steeplechaser Ieuan Thomas, who represented Great Britain at London’s 2017 World Athletics Championships.

In Glasgow, the Cardiff Athletics man will be lining up in a highly competitive 3,000m against the likes of Jonny Hopkins, who represented Wales alongside Thomas at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Thomas said of this weekend’s event: “The British Championships are what we’ve been working towards all indoor season.

“With no world indoors to qualify for, the Championships are now the biggest race of the year, and a chance to test yourself against the best runners in the UK.

“This is where the journey to Tokyo starts and I’m looking forward to a tough championship race.”
Hopkins, who has been in excellent form so far this year on the boards and the roads, will have his own GB ambitions:

“I’m looking forward to competing in my first British Indoor Championships.

“This winter has gone really well and all of the races I have done have served a purpose for outdoors.

“Hopefully I can end this indoor campaign with a solid performance and maybe even a personal best.”

Bethan Davies hoping to keep walks title in Welsh hands after last year’s DSQ.

Another athlete with an eye on a British vest this summer, is race walker Bethan Davies, who will be hoping to return from Glasgow with gold.

After a disappointing disqualification in last year’s championships race, won by Welsh Commonwealth Games team-mate Heather Lewis, Davies returns this year bidding to add the indoor 5,000m race walk title to her outdoor gold.

“I am looking forward to racing this Sunday,” says Davies. “Hopefully it will not only be an opportunity to reconcile with indoors after last year’s disqualification disappointment, but also allow for a speedy start to the 2020 season. Fingers crossed I can help keep the indoor walks title firmly in the Welsh court!”

At the other end of the speed and distance scale, Cardiff Athletics club-mate Sam Gordon will also be targeting a medal in Glasgow having equalled his 60m PB of 6.67 in Stockholm last week.

Gordon, who has Tokyo ambitions, said: “It’s time to show how hard we’ve been working this winter.”

Also in excellent form on the continent recently was Melissa Courtney-Bryant who clocked 8:49.78 to win a high quality 3,000m race in Dortmund.

The Olympic hopeful competes over the same distance in Glasgow and will be joined by BUCS Cross Country bronze medallist Jenny Nesbitt, of Cardiff Athletics.

There is also a strong Welsh contingent in the women’s 1500m where Julia Cooke, Beth Kidger and Kate Seary all line up.

Adele Nicholl will be hoping to follow-up her BUCS victory in Glasgow

In the field events, Adele Nicoll will be hoping to get amongst the medals in the shot put after having claimed her eighth indoor and outdoor BUCS title in Sheffield last weekend.

The Birchfield Harrier said: “I’m really looking forward to this weekend. I know I’ve put a lot of work in over past few months.

“My coach has done a great job in getting me into the shape I’m in now. I’m hoping for a good performance and if I can come away with a medal then even better.”

The Welsh indoor and outdoor champion will be joined in the competition by World Para F20 Shot Champion Sabrina Fortune, of Deeside AAC.

The men’s shot could be a real shoot-out for medals between Welsh team-mates Patrick Swan and Daniel Cork, who are both in title-winning form.

Swan won gold at the Welsh Senior Championships last month, while Cork took the Indoor BUCS title last weekend.

And a trio of Welsh women will do battle in the long jump. Sarah Abrams was fifth at last year’s event, but after setting a new personal best in winning the Welsh title at Cardiff last month, she will be hoping to be in medal contention this weekend.

Abrams is joined by Cardiff’s Commonwealth Games jumper Rebecca Chapman and Cardiff Archer Emily Thomas.
Meanwhile, out in the elements on the Llanelli coastline, Dewi Griffiths will be hoping to continue his return to fitness with one eye on Great Britain honours later in the season

The Carmarthenshire farmer will be bidding to claim the Welsh Cross Country title for a remarkable eighth time. Only legendary Welsh distance runner and nine-time winner Steve Jones has won the event on more occasions.

However, the Swansea Harrier, who is on his way back from missing most of last season, will face a stern challenge from the east over the undulating Pembrey course.

Cardiff Athletics will be fielding a strong team with Nathan Jones, 50km British record holder Dan Nash and James Hunt, who won the title two years ago, among those looking to take the title back to the capital.

Dewi Griffiths wins his seventh Welsh Cross Country Championships last February.

Melanie Wilkins, of Wycombe Phoenix Harriers, second at last year’s championships, and Lauren Cooper, of Parc Bryn Bach, who claimed a BUCS silver medal in a new PB over 3,000m last weekend, will be among the favourites for the women’s race.

Former Alabama University team mates Sarah Livett, of Menai Track and Field and Rebecca Evans, of Cardiff, will also feature in the women’s race.

As well as the men’s and women’s senior events, there will be a raft of age group races which start with the Under-13 boys race at 11am.

The senior women’s and masters race is due to start at 12.15pm and the senior men’s and masters race rounds the day off at 3.10pm.

Prior to the championships, the Run Wales Winter Relay fun event for teams of three will start at 10am.
Entry for spectators at Pembrey is free, although there is a parking charge at the country park. For more information see the Welsh Athletics website.

You can keep up with action from Glasgow on the BBC in the following ways:
Saturday
12:00-14:30 – live on BBC Red Button (12:00-19:15, Connected TV and online)
Sunday
12:00-16:40 – live on Connected TV and online.

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