Olympic Decathlon champion Ashton Eaton has been confirmed among an impressive field for the inaugural Athlone International Grand Prix to be held later this month.
Eaton has elected to use the new event as a build-up to his heptathlon title-defence at next month’s World Indoors in Sopot, Poland – and will be among a growing list of star names who will be competing at the new midlands arena.
The champion’s wife, Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, will also line up in Athlone along with members of Eaton’s training group, plus top British stars Shara Proctor, Harry Aikines-Aryeety and William Sharman.
Also confirmed to participate in the February 26 Grand Prix are three-time world 400m finalist Tabarie Henry, twice British 200m champion James Ellington, 2012 European 400m fourth-placer Donald Sanford and 2013 NCAA long jump champion Damar Forbes.
Designed as a send-off for the Irish team for the World Indoors, domestic middle-distance athletes David McCarthy, John Coghlan, John Travers and Joe Warne will be among those competing in the inaugural Senator Eamonn Coghlan Mile.
Speaking during a media conference call, Eaton told IAAF Media: “My team and I have decided that Ireland is where we are going to do our training and preparation for Sopot.
“Generally, these types of decisions are made by my coach and my manager, who checks out where there is going to be good competition beforehand where we can do some of the events that we want to work on.
“My coach decides whether the travel and location was going to be satisfactory for getting ready to go to Poland.
“What they told us about Ireland sounded good to us. We had been to Germany many times before. It’s not like any place is good or bad - it’s a change.
“Let’s see what Ireland has to offer.”
President of AIT, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, said: “The grand prix is attracting a growing list of national and international talent.
“People are really excited about the opportunity to see athletes who have succeeded at the highest level, whether that be in the Olympics, the World Championships or the European Championships. We’re really confident that this will be a sell-out event.
“In the year since we opened the International Arena, new records are continuously being set, including most recently a new world record for over-60 in the 800m set by Joe Gough, as well as Mark English’s new national senior and u-23 indoor record in the 800m.
“Just last Friday, 12 indoor athletics intervarsity records were broken. That bodes well for some really keen times at the Grand Prix.”
Highlights of the meeting will be broadcast on Setanta Ireland.