THE BEST of British will take on the greatest in the world in the 500m and 1-mile events at the Great North CityGames this weekend.
The hugely-popular street-level athletics meeting, which features a pop-up track on the banks of the River Tyne, returns for 2016 as part of the Great North Run weekend, with the middle-distance events boasting a stellar line-up of some of the best athletes from home and abroad.
David Rudisha, the Kenyan double Olympic champion, is the star name over the rarely-raced 500m on road and track, which is once again proving to be a popular attraction for athletes. Rudisha, the world record holder over 800m, will test himself against the finest one-lap runners from Team GB, including Martyn Rooney, Seb Rodger, Jacob Paul and Jack Green.
In the women's race, British Olympic 4x400m relay bronze medallist Anyika Onoura faces off against 800m finalist Lynsey Sharp and 400m semi-finalist Seren Bundy-Davies.
In the mile, former world 1500m and 5000m champion Bernard Lagat will line up alongside 2011 world 1500m silver medallist Silas Kiplagat and Scotland's Andy Butchart, where the 41-year-old American joined Butchart in the Olympic 5,000m final last month.
The women's mile features a mouthwatering home-grown line-up, led by two-time British record holder Laura Muir, who faces a stiff challenge from Steph Twell, Eilish McColgan and the North-East's own Laura Weightman.
With an afternoon of top-class athletics in store for the thousands of spectators in Newcastle and Gateshead, Rudisha will be the star attraction in the men's 500m event, in his first event since retaining his Olympic title in Rio.
“I'm looking forward to coming to England to compete,” said Rudisha. “The 500m distance offers a different challenge to the 800m and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.”
Rooney helped the Team GB men's 4x400m relay team to victory in the semi-finals, only for the team to be disqualified shortly after. The 2014 and 2016 European 400m champion is relishing the 500m test on the banks of the Tyne.
Rooney said: “It's fair to say the Olympics was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions for all the 4x400m boys involved, but I'm just looking forward to a good race up in Newcastle and Gateshead.
“Racing against David Rudisha will be an honour and I can't wait to have a crack at the 500m.”
The women's 500m features an all-British line-up with a combination of the best 400m and 800m athletes around and Sharp, who finished sixth in the 800m final in Rio, is looking forward to the challenge.
She said: “I always enjoy competing at these meetings and with the competition so strong this year, it's going to bring the best out of everybody.
“Team GB did so well in Rio but now we're competing for ourselves and we'll all be determined to put in a strong performance.”
Muir, meanwhile, has been in excellent form this summer, beating Kelly Holmes' 1500m British record, which stood for 12 years, three times in the space of six weeks. The fastest woman over 1500m this year is expected to continue her fine form with a good performance over the mile on Tyneside.
However, life will be made difficult for the Scot as Britons Twell, McColgan, Weightman and 2011 1500m silver medallist Hannah England will all be vying for honours over the longer distance.
Muir said: “Taking the British record twice in five weeks was something I'd never thought I'd do this year. Winning over the mile in Gateshead and Newcastle would be another achievement to bring 2016 to a close.”
The men's mile sees Butchart pitted against some top worldwide talent. The Scotsman will battle it out with Lagat once more after the two crossed swords in the final of the 5,000m in Rio.
American Lagat, 41, finished fifth ahead of Butchart's sixth, but with Kenya's Silas Kiplagat and Australia's Ryan Gregson joining Polish European 800m silver medallist Marcin Lewandowski and British 1500m champion Charlie Grice, this will be far from a two-horse race.
Lagat said: “I'm feeling in good shape and looking forward to competing in England. The crowd will be right on top of us and the atmosphere should be electric. It should be a great day.”
The Great North CityGames, which will be shown live on BBC One from 2.15pm, is part of a weekend celebration of sport in Newcastle, taking place on the same day as the Great North 5k and the Junior and Mini Great North Run on Saturday ahead of Britain's biggest running event, the Great North Run on Sunday 11 September.
For more information and up to date athlete announcements please visit: greatcitygames.org/Newcastle or search #citygames2016