Athletics: tough tests for Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson

Jessica Ennis
Jessica Ennis
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Multi-eventers Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson will face British European champions when they test their individual talents in separate hurdles races in the Great CityGames Manchester on Saturday 9 May.

Sheffield’s Olympic heptathlon champion Ennis-Hill, on the comeback trail after giving birth to son Reggie in July last year, lines up in the 100m hurdles against Tiffany Porter, the American-born Brit who won the European title in the event in Zurich last August.

Johnson-Thompson, the world number one in the heptathlon in 2014 - who broke Ennis-Hill’s British record in taking pentathlon gold at the European Indoor Championships in Prague in March - has to contend with Scotland’s European 400m hurdles champion, Eilidh Child, in the 200m hurdles on the purpose built track on Deansgate.

The 100m hurdles clash will be the first meeting between Ennis-Hill and Porter since Porter broke Ennis-Hill’s British record with a 12.51 seconds clocking at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakesh in September last year.

Ennis-Hill had held the record for two years – since clocking a stunning 12.54 seconds in the opening event of the heptathlon at the London 2012 Olympic Games. That, in turn, wrested the record from Porter, who clocked 12.56 seconds en route to World Championship bronze in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011.

Porter, who was born and raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan, boasts 34 of the 35, fastest 100m hurdles time by a British athlete. The 27-year-old and has been in excellent early-season form in the United States, recording 12.56 seconds at a meeting in Clermont, Florida.

Ennis-Hill and Porter will also have to contend with reigning world champion Brianna Rollins of the United States and the rising Briton Lucy Hatton.

Hatton was one of the British stars of the indoor season, taking a breakthrough silver medal in the 60m hurdles at the European Indoor Championships. The 20-year-old Corby athlete improved her lifetime best in the 100m hurdles to 12.84 seconds as runner-up to Porter in the Clermont meeting two weeks ago.

It promises to be an intriguing contest between Brianna and the Brits in front of the live BBC television cameras and an expected 25,000 crowd the Saturday after next.

The 200m hurdles pits Johnson-Thompson against Child, the Scottish 400m hurdler who won Commonwealth Games silver in front of a home crowd at Hampden last summer and then European gold in Zurich.

The field also includes Birchfield’s Meghan Beesley, who was Britain’s second fastest 400m hurdler in 2014 but got the better of Child at half the distance in Manchester in May.

Indeed, Beesley won in 25.05 seconds, shattering the world best time set by Perri Shakes-Drayton in the 2013 Great City Games Manchester. Child was 0.79 seconds behind in second place.

The line-up also features 19-year-old Shona Richards, the Windsor Slough and Eton athlete who took silver in the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene last year.

The Great CityGames Manchester will be held on Saturday 9 May in Manchester city centre and will be shown live on BBC One and BBC One HD from 13:00 – 15:00.

The event is part of a weekend-long celebration of sport in the city which includes Europe’s biggest 10K event, the Morrisons Great Manchester Run on Sunday 10 May.