North East track heroes Brendan Foster and Richard Kilty (GBR, coach: Benke Blomkvist, club: Gateshead Harriers) believe the return of big-time athletics to the North East could spark a new wave of young athletes in the region.
Foster, the 1976 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist, and 2014 world indoor 60m champion Kilty were back on the track at Gateshead International Stadium today, to look ahead to next summer’s Müller Grand Prix, which takes place on 16 August and will be the first international grand prix meeting at the stadium since 2010. The event will also be held there in 2021 and 2024.
There have been many historic performances at the Gateshead International Stadium. In 2006, Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell equalled the 100m world record of 9.77 seconds, while Foster broke the 3000m world record there in 1974.
To mark the North East distance star’s achievement, a group of 10 and 11-year-olds from Gateshead Harriers and Morpeth Harriers will come together at the Müller Grand Prix next summer, to attempt a unique relay to match his record time of 7:35:1. Today some of these youngsters joined Foster and Kilty at the stadium for a training session and to get some tips ahead of the big meet.
The world’s best athletes will gather in Gateshead for next summer’s Müller Grand Prix – including the already confirmed world heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thomspon (Bertrand Valcin, Liverpool Harriers) – which will form part of a Festival of Athletics to celebrate the sport from elite level to grassroots. The IAAF Diamond League meeting will also be the welcome home event for the British athletes returning from Tokyo, and many newly crowned Olympic champions and medallists from overseas will compete.
More than £1.1m has been invested in Gateshead International Stadium over the last 12 months including refurbishment of the Sports Hall, 3G artificial turf pitches and the gym. A further £1.3m will be invested in the stadium facilities in 2020 including resurfacing of the athletics track and new floodlighting.
Gateshead Council Leader, Councillor Martin Gannon said:
“Gateshead has a proud history of staging major sporting events with athletics at its heart, so we welcome the opportunity to once again work with British Athletics and The Great Run Company.
“Hosting world-class athletics events will showcase Gateshead to an international audience and our 10-year athletics strategy which will includes an ambition to work with partners such as Newcastle City Council and Great Run Company to attract future major events such as the European Championships in 2026. This will help realise our plans for growth and regeneration over the next decade.
“We feel that the benefits stretch beyond allowing people in the North East the opportunity to see the best athletes in the world up close. They will also provide volunteering opportunities to local people to get involved and help inspire people, young and old, to become healthier and more active.”
Brendan Foster CBE said:
“The return of the Müller Grand Prix to the North East is a huge moment for athletics in this region. Having the best athletes in the world competing once again at the Gateshead International Stadium on 16 August, will inspire young athletes and sports fans here, especially with the increased excitement for athletics that an Olympic year brings.
“I’ve competed many times at this historic stadium, and have experienced first-hand the support, enthusiasm and warmth of North East sports fans, so the current athletics stars are in for a treat. The young athletes from local clubs that will also get the chance to race Müller Grand Prix are set to have an unforgettable experience which I hope will keep them engaged with the sport for many years to come.”
Richard Kilty said:
“I’m so excited that the Müller Grand Prix is returning to Gateshead and can’t wait until 16 August. It will mean so much to the athletes from this area to see and, in some cases, get the opportunity to compete on the same stage as the biggest stars in the world.
“Being part of the crowd at an international meet of this calibre, at the Gateshead International Stadium, is an amazing experience, that I believe could inspire lots of North East children to take part in athletics. It will also incentivise young athletes in the region to work even harder to achieve their dream of competing at the highest level.”
Major Events Director for British Athletics, Cherry Alexander OBE said:
“The Festival of Athletics around the Müller Grand Prix in Gateshead in August will be a really exciting celebration of the sport and one of the best inspirational events for a family day out in the North East next summer.
“The Muller Grand Prix will be a great welcome home party for the British athletes and a showcase for the biggest overseas stars, following the Olympic Games in Tokyo and it will be a very exciting and action-packed afternoon of competition.
“We’ll also be bringing community athletics in the region together with the elite end of the sport, by featuring events like a Women’s Couch to 5k run, and Club Connect relays for young athletes from the North East. It will be a memorable and not-to-be-missed event.”
Tickets for the Müller Grand Prix heading to Gateshead are on general sale from 10am on Thursday 19 December via https://www.theticketfactory.com/british-athletics/online/