Peter Eriksson, the UK Athletics head coach, believes that British athletes can collectively give their season a kickstart by winning the European Team Championship after naming a strong team for next week's competition in Gateshead.
No British athlete has yet won a Diamond League event in 2013 but Eriksson says that a Great Britain and Northern Ireland squad featuring the Olympic medallists Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford, Christine Ohuruogu and Robbie Grabarz will be inspired by competing in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 12,000. "I think it is definitely going to kickstart our summer," said Eriksson. "The season starts now so you are going to see us ramp up with more athletes on the scene and better performances. Our ultimate goal is to win. We have a good chance."
The team, which features Dai Greene, the world 400m hurdles champion, and Hannah England, the world 1500m silver medallist, will be captained by the 400m hurdler Perri Shakes-Drayton. who said she was "very proud" to be chosen. "I think I'm a natural leader," she said. "I'm the eldest out of four brothers and sisters so I'll just be myself.
"I said to Peter: 'Why did you pick me?'" she added. "He said: 'You've had a big turnaround from the Olympics and had such a good winter season.' I thought: 'Fair enough.' I was happy and I felt honoured."
Shakes-Drayton will switch to the flat 400m in Gateshead, with Eilidh Child running the 400m hurdles and Ohuruogu only appearing in the 4x400m relay. "We looked at consistency, current form and fitness and Christine also has a very heavy training period so she was more inclined to just run the relay," explained Eriksson. "We have several girls who can run very good 400s. But Perri is the best one we have at this particularly time."
There are also places for the promising 18-year-old Jessica Judd in the 800m, and Ohuruogu's 20-year-old sister Victoria in the 4x400m relay. "We always talk that we have a younger generation and Jessica is proof of that," said Eriksson. "She has run two minutes flat this year and she keeps getting better. And Victoria has done major leaps this year."
There is no room, however, for the triple jumper Phillips Idowu, who fell out spectacularly with the former head coach Charles van Commenee before failing to reach the final at London 2012. But Eriksson insisted that injury, not any lingering ill-feeling from last year, was behind his absence.
"Phillips is working on getting ready for the world championships and the trials," said Eriksson. "Because of his injury he needs more time. We are all in agreement with that, Phillips as well."
Jessica Ennis-Hill is also absent, with a stiff achilles tendon. However Shakes-Drayton believes the team can emerge triumphant from the competition on 22-23 June. "Course we can win," she said. "Let's be optimistic. We have a strong team." There is just one thing Shakes-Drayton is not looking forward to: the traditional ceremony of throwing the winning captain in the water of the steeplechase. "Oh please no," she says, sounding petrified. "It'll ruin my hair. I'll scream."But if the British team do win their first European title since 2008 it will surely be a small price to pay.
GB & NI team for the European Athletics Team Championships, Gateshead, 22-23 June
MEN: 100m James Dasaolu; 200m Danny Talbot; 400m Nigel Levine; 800m Andrew Osagie; 1500m Charlie Grice; 3,000m David Bishop; 5000m Mo Farah; 110m hurdles William Sharman; 400m hurdles Dai Greene; 3,000m steeplechase Rob Mullett; High jump Robbie Grabarz; Long jump Greg Rutherford; Triple jump Nathan Douglas; Pole vault Steve Lewis; Shot put Zane Duquemin; Discus Brett Morse; Hammer Mark Dry; Javelin Lee Doran; 4x100m Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Dwain Chambers, James Dasaolu, James Ellington, Joel Fearon, Adam Gemili, Richard Kilty, Danny Talbot; 4 x 400m Michael Bingham, Richard Buck, Nigel Levine, Martyn Rooney, Richard Strachan, Conrad Williams.
WOMEN: 100m Asha Philip; 200m Anyika Onuora; 400m Perri Shakes-Drayton; 800m Jessica Judd; 1500m Hannah England; 3,000m Laura Weightman; 5,000m Emelia Gorecka; 100m hurdles Tiffany Porter; 400m hurdles Eilidh Child; 3,000m steeplechase: Eilish McColgan; High jump Isobel Pooley; Long jump Shara Proctor; Triple jump Yamile Aldama; Pole vault Holly Bleasdale; Shot put Sophie McKinna; Discus Jade Lally; Hammer Sophie Hitchon; Javelin Freya Jones; 4x100m Annabelle Lewis, Anyika Onuora, Asha Philip, Tiffany Porter, Bianca Williams; 4x400m Meghan Beesley, Eilidh Child, Shana Cox, Kirsten McAslan, Christine Ohuruogu, Victoria Ohuruogu.
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