Collis Birmingham aims for third title

COLLIS Birmingham will vie for his third Australian 10,000-metre title in tonight’s Zatopek:10 at Lakeside Stadium.

The first Australian across the line will also earn automatic Commonwealth Games selection.

Running under the B-qualifying time of 28 minutes, 31.25 seconds will also bolster a bid to go to Scotland. Birmingham said it was a relatively easy process to qualify, but there was a large, strong field fighting for the opportunity.

“Whether or not I’m one of those guys to get a spot, we’ll see,” Birmingham told The Courier.

“Between Mona (four-time Zatopek winner Steve Moneghetti) and myself, Ballarat has a pretty good history in this event.

“It should be a good race.”

Fellow Ballarat runners Nathan Hartigan and Duer Yoa will also line up for the Zatopek.

Athletics Victoria yesterday confirmed Kenyan Chelanga as a starter and headline act to liven up the race for first place.

Chelanga is billed as a “prolific accumulator of United States national collegiate titles”, and has beaten Birmingham before in big races across this distance – this includes the 2009 race in Berkeley when Birmingham set an Australian record of 27:29.73.

New South Wales’ Ben St Lawrence looms as Birmingham’s toughest rival for the Australian crown tonight. St Lawrence paced the first half of Japan’s Fukuoka marathon alongside Birmingham on December 1.

Birmingham will look to continue a strong year in which he claimed an Oceanic record of 1:00:56 at the Marugame half-marathon in Japan in February, and finished eighth in the world cross country championships in Poland.

“I feel good and I’ve been training pretty well but I haven’t done any specific work for the Zatopek,” Birmingham said.

“Hopefully I can finish in front at the end.”

Birmingham is back in Ballarat as a training base for the summer.

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