World champion sprinter Richard Kilty believes Manchester will provide the perfect homecoming for him when he competes in the Great City Games this weekend.
Known as the ‘Teesside Tornado’, due his lightning speed and Middlesbrough birthplace, Kilty is in triumphant mood having claimed the world 60m title in Poland in March.
The 24-year-old will be aiming for glory in the event on the Deansgate track when he competes in the 100m – and can hardly contain his excitement.
“I couldn’t think of anything better than to come home and run in Manchester as a new world champion,” said Kilty.
“I’m proud to be a northerner and to run in front of a northern crowd in my first race in Britain after the World Indoor Championships is going to be really special.
“I love Manchester and it’s one of my favourite cities. I’ve run in the City Games before and I’m really looking forward to coming back.”
One of the stars of London 2012, long-jumper Greg Rutherford who famously struck gold on the same day as Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah on ‘Super Saturday’, is also competing this weekend.
The Olympic champion will make his second appearance at the Manchester event after he won last year, jumping 7.99 metres, and is looking forward to receiving support from the fans once again.
“The atmosphere in Albert Square was amazing last year,” said Rutherford.
“As an athlete, it’s a great experience to be able to jump so close to the fans that come out and give their support.
“It’s a fantastic event and an opportunity for everyone to come along and enjoy athletics in a unique environment.”
World champion 400m runner Christine Ohuruogu is equally enthusiastic about competing in front of the unique Manchester crowd.
“I love competing in the City Games,” said Ohuruogu.
“The crowd are so close to the action, it is always an exciting event for the athletes and the spectators alike.”
The 2008 Olympic gold medallist will compete in the shorter 200m discipline this weekend and is looking forward to the challenge.
“The distance is shorter than what I am used to by a very long way” she added.
“Still, it’s a great training exercise and doing a bit of speed work is always handy for the 400m.
“I always look forward to doing it and the overall challenge of running against the other athletes at the City Games.”
The excitement looking ahead to this weekend’s games is not merely confined to British athletes though.
Kenenisa Bekele, the fastest man in history at 5,000m and 10,000m, paid tribute to the city ahead of his debut at the event, although he did have a confession to make.
“I know Manchester is a great sporting city,” said Bekele.
“I have huge respect for Manchester United and Manchester City but, sorry, my favourite football team is Chelsea.”
The biggest foreign star taking part is undoubtedly former 100m World Champion and London 2012 silver medallist Yohan ‘the Beast’ Blake, who will run in the 150m event.
Blake’s main competition is likely to be Bahamas athlete Chris Brown, a 4x400m Olympic gold medallist, who is known in his homeland as ‘the fireman’ due to the way he ‘burns up’ the track.
For a full list and schedule of the events taking place at this weekend’s games visit http://greatcitygames.org/.
Image courtesy of Erik van Leeuwen, with thanks