Kenenisa Bekele's firstever indoor competition in France will have to wait as the multiple World record holder was forced to withdraw from Friday's Meeting Pas de Calais in Liévin with a calf injury.
[Note: Updated 10 am Thursday, 4 March.]
The Ethiopian, current holder of the fastest times ever indoors* at 2000m and 2 Miles and the indoor World record at 5000m (and outdoors at 5000m and 10,000m) had announced his intention to break the World Indoor 3000m record held by Kenyan Daniel Komen (7:24.90) since 1998.
But Bekele told meet organisers late yesterday (3 March) that a calf problem will preclude his appearance at the Meeting Pas de Calais, the last stop of the 2010 IAAF Indoor Permit season.
"I'm very sorry that I will not be able to participate in Lievin," Bekele said, apologising to organisers and fans alike. "This indoor I was supposed to run in Birmingham and Lievin. Right before Birmingham I got some problems with my right calf during training on the track. After a few days of treatment and rest my calf seemed to be okay. Training which I do not do on the track was okay again, but as soon as I train with spikes on the track in Addis Ababa, which is a very hard Mondo track, I got the same problem again in my right calf. I tried until the last moment to find a solution with treatment, but unfortunately it's impossible for me to run in spikes on the track at this moment. "
Despite Bekele's withdrawal, plenty of action is expected with the meeting taking place exactly one week before the IAAF World Indoor Championships begin in Doha, Qatar (12 – 14 March) and so will be used by many athletes in order to sharpen their form.The men's 3000m race could feature an assault on the recently set European record (7:32.41 set by Spanish Sergio Sanchez on 13 February in Valencia), by 3000m Steeplechase World silver medallist Bouabdellah Tahri. The Frenchman seems to be capable of breaking that mark after his 7:33.73 national record on 10 February, which he followed with up a 5000m European record in 13:11.13 only four days later. Kenyan Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, whose 3000m reference, 7:37.47 in 2007 pales when compared to his 13:06.27 performance at 5000m which he produced on 3 February, is another name to watch.
Robles sharpen's up ahead of Trammell clash in Doha
Dayron Robles lost his 60m Hurdles season leading mark (7.44) to Terrence Trammell who ran 7.41sec last weekend during US Nationals. Unbeaten in all four meetings in 2010 (7.50 in Dusseldorf, 7.48 in Stuttgart, 7.49 in Stockholm and 7.44 in Birmingham), the 110m Hurdles Olympic champion has shown good consistency, but is still far from his 7.33 personal best which would designate him the favourite in Doha, and get his revenge over Trammell from the 2006 World Indoors. In Moscow 2006, Robles, who was only 19, and lost by 0.03 to Trammell (7.43). In Liévin, Russian champion and indoor specialist (7.44 last year) Yevgeniy Borisov and French champion Ladji Doucouré, whose form is rising after his 7.58 on Sunday, will attempt defy the Cuban star.
Olsson faces a Cuban onslaught
Other Cubans have made the trip to the north of France in order to take part to the Triple Jump competition. Yoandri Betanzos, David Giralt and Alexis Copello will meet former Olympic and World champion and current World Record holder (17.83) Christian Olsson from Sweden, who is coming back to top level (17.32 on 20 February) after various injuries over a number of seasons.
Last indoor outing of year for Djhone
Registered in the 300m, Leslie Djhone will try to confirm his great shape five days after his French record at 400m (45.85). His personal best (32.81) was set in 2006 edition of Liévin meeting, in the race where Swedish Johan Wissman set the European best with 32.61. His 400m performance as well as his speed work performed this winter might allow him to have an eye on that mark. This will be the last indoor appearance for Djhone as he announced Doha was not on his scheduled plan.
Sudanese Rabah Yusif (46.24 on 20 February) and Cuban William Collazo (46.34 on 27 February) will be choice opponents for the Frenchman in this rarely contested event, usually a training distance and bridge between speed and endurance for the quarter-mile specialists.
Jamaican Novlene Williams-Mills and Botwsanese Amantle Montsho will make debut over the distance in the women’s race.
Like Djhone, Christophe Lemaitre will stop his season as well in Liévin after his recent French title in 6.56sec in Bercy last weekend, and his U23 national record with 6.55sec. The 19-year-old has the ambition to improve his time and get closer to the national record owned by Ronald Pognon, who was his runner-up in Bercy (6.61) and is also lining-up in Liévin. Two other men in that race have run a 6.55 personal best this season: Harry Aikines-Aryeety, second to Dwain Chambers at UK Champs, and Lerone Clarke (JAM), winner in Karlsruhe, Stuttgart and Leipzig.
The women’s 60m Hurdles world leader (7.82) Priscilla Lopes-Schliep will try to restore confidence after a 7th place finish in Ghent on 14 February. After a break at home in Canada, the 100m Hurdles World silver and Olympic bronze medallist is said to be back in best shape to face her team-mate Perdita Felicien (8.01 this season), Ginnie Powell (just arriving in Europe after her 7.87A in the USA last weekend) and Jamaican Vonette Dixon (7.98).
P-J Vazel for the IAAF
*NB: The IAAF does not recognise the 2000m and 2-Mile distances for World indoor record purposes