Pickering seeks flying start to his Olympic campaign

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The Independent Online

This time last year the 60m track at the centre of the Kelvin Hall arena was where Craig Pickering announced his arrival as an athletics force to be reckoned with as he earned a convincing victory over an international field that included his friend and training partner Jason Gardener, the Olympic sprint relay gold medallist.

Twelve months on, Gardener – who recovered his form to beat his young rival to the European Indoor title in Birmingham – has retired, and Pickering faces another bracing challenge in the form of Simeon Williamson, the Londoner who won the European Under-23 100m title ahead of him last July.

Despite the relative disappointments of those defeats, Pickering’s season finished on a high as he helped Britain earn bronze in the World Championship 4x100m relay, and he is determined to get Olympic year off to a flying start as he returns to Glasgow today for the first big meeting of the season, the Norwich Union International.

“I’ve been around for a couple of sessions with him in Bath this year,” Gardener said. “Craig’s looking good and convinced he can do the business.”

The two British sprinters will be tested by Darvis Patton, who won a sprint relay gold with the US team in Osaka, while Ryan Scott, Pickering’s junior training partner at Bath University under the guidance of coach Malcolm Arnold, will also be out to impress.

Heptathlon Jessica Ennis, whose hurdling improved consistently last season, will be encouraged to reach an even higher level in competition with Susanna Kallur, Sweden’s European 60m hurdles champion.

The five-way match will also see the return from injury of Sam Ellis and Michael East in the British team taking on Germany, Sweden, the USA and a Commonwealth Select side.

Ellis has not competed since surprisingly winning the European 800m bronze medal 16 months, but is now back from a serious knee injury following surgery.

East, troubled by a similar injury over a three-year period, is now fully fit and will face a severe test of his form against Bernard Lagat, the world 1500m and 5000m champion.