Christine Ohuruogu and her fiercest 400m rival Sanya Richard- Ross will meet twice in the before the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Ohuruogu beat Richard Ross sensationally at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, but the American took her pound of flesh at the World Championships 2009 in Berlin.
The pair are set to face each other later this month in Ostrava, before moving on to Birmingham on July 10 and Crystal Palace on August 5-6.
On head-to-heads, Richards-Ross has the advantage by far at 12-1, but Ohuruogu’s sole victory against Richard-Ross in Beijing mattered most. Both athletes were injured last year and cut short their seasons. But after a solid winter, they are back in action and raring to go.
“The 400m was a bit of a weird event last year, with both myself and Sanya Richards-Ross out for a majority of the season, and only four girls breaking 50 seconds,” said Ohuruogu, who is set to open her outdoor campaign this weekend in Jamaica.
“However the most exciting thing was that ten girls were within a second of each other and every race was very close. I expect it to be similar this year but everyone will be pushing that bit harder to get ready for the World Championships. At the moment I’m just making sure I’m in the best possible shape as we get towards Daegu.
“Winter training has been hard work and at times painful, but the hours I’ve put in, in both Jamaica and LA, will hopefully bear fruit later in the season,” she added. “I ran in three Diamond League meets last year, but unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to compete in either of the UK ones, so hopefully I can change that this year.”
What makes the clash all the more exciting is that Ohuruogu and Richards-Ross could not be more different in their approach to the sport. While Richards-Ross is used to lighting up the track week in, week out on the international circuit, Ohuruogu takes a more laid-back approach to her racing. Richards-Ross has produced most of her best times at Grand Prix meetings, while Ohuruogu consistently pulls out her fastest times of the year at major championships.
Richards-Ross is often touted as the favourite for major championships, while Ohuruogu is seen more as an underdog. But their races this year could be closer than before.
Richards-Ross has already competed three times this year, but hasn’t shown any signs of the form that took her to the American record of 48.70. She opened with a 23.06 for 200m – her slowest time for the event since 2003 – and followed it with 52.00 for 400m, her slowest for seven years. Just last weekend she ran on the winning US team in the 4x400m at Penn Relays, but produced the slowest split of the quartet with just 51.18.
But the 26-year-old is taking her comeback one step at a time and insists she is fully recovered. “I am happy to be back on the track. My first couple of races have gone pretty well. I feel it will take me a few more races to get back to where I want to be but I am looking forward to it,” she said.
“2010 was a frustrating season! Suffering from several injuries and mishaps was very disappointing but I am 100% healthy now and I hope to stay that way for the 2011 season. It will be an exciting one in the 400m. With Allyson Felix attempting the 200/400m double, Shericka Williams and Christine Ohuruogu, hopefully all healthy, I believe the fans are in for some fast times and fierce battles. There are also some fast newcomers that will be added to the mix. This will be a great season!”