Saturday, 01 July 2017 09:17

Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake aims to help fans forget British trial no-shows

• Sprinter wants to fill void caused by Farah, Rutherford, Pavey absence
• Mitchell-Blake excited to be back home in Birmingham this weekend

Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake has vowed to light up the British Athletics trials this weekend in his first race in the UK since his family left for Jamaica when he was 13.

The field in Birmingham has been decimated by the withdrawal of almost every major British athlete – including Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford, Laura Muir, Jo Pavey and Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

However, the 23-year-old Mitchell-Blake can help fill the void by showing the quality that has taken him under 10 seconds for 100m and under 20 seconds for 200m in the US collegiate system – and then win a medal at the world championships in London in August.

“Becoming world champion is the ultimate goal but I have to get through the trials first,” he said.

“I never go into a race defeated because if you do, you have lost already. So ultimately I want to win every race I step into.”

Mitchell-Blake will run in only the 200m in Birmingham and knows he faces tough competition for the two automatic places, particularly from Zharnel Hughes, Adam Gemili and Danny Talbot, but expects his return home will inspire him.

“I am excited to run in front of the home crowd,” he said. “It’s something I have never really experienced but I’ve only heard great things about it.

“The last time I raced in Britain I was 13. I used to run for Ilford AC, a little club, but that’s all I remember. A lot has happened since then.”

Hughes, who says he has recovered from a serious cruciate ligament injury that forced him to miss last year’s Olympics, believes he is returning to the form that led him to finish fifth in the 200m at the world championships in Beijing in 2015.

“All of us are very capable of doing something spectacular,” he said. “I really don’t know who is the favourite, it is down to who executes the race best, but I am feeling much stronger now.”

It promises to be the race of the meeting, even with the absence of the sub-20 seconds athlete Miguel Francis – who recently switched nationalities from Antigua – because of an ankle injury.

Plenty of world championship places are up for grabs over two days in Birmingham and many eyes will be on the European 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, who makes a welcome return after breaking her foot but has yet to decide whether to run the 100m or 200m.

The crowd will be denied the chance to see Farah and Johnson-Thompson, who have already performed well enough to earn selection and have been given permission to concentrate on training.

The world long jump champion Rutherford and Muir, who won the 1,500m and 3,000m European Indoors in March, are also out because they are recovering from injuries.

The European Indoor champion, Andy Pozzi, another world championship medal contender in the 110m hurdles, has skipped the trials to compete in the Paris Diamond League meeting against a world-class field on Saturday.

Pavey’s chances of making the world championships at 43 have also taken a knock after she pulled out of the 5,000m with an achilles problem. Pavey is still eligible for the 10,000m but is running out of time to show her form and fitness.

The former 100m hurdles world championship medallist, Tiffany Porter, pulled out after tweaking a hamstring while her sister Cindy Ofili is out for the season with a hamstring problem.

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