A total of 15 titles, composed of 2 relay events and 13 individual disciplines will be fought over on the third and final day of the 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics.
The two 4x400 relay campaigns will be as short as they will be intense, and with hardly any racing opportunities on offer prior to the championships the capacity for predictions is limited. In this context it is important to be reminded that the USA have won five of the seven men’s titles, and Russia the same number of the women’s golds since the 4x400m Relay became a feature of the programme in 1991.
In this morning's preliminary round, Belarus was the quickest of the women's qualifiers in a world leading 3:31.2, ahead of a relaxed Russian squad who were resting the major names (3:31.2). The surprise was that both the USA and British squads failed to qualify.
In the men's event the favourites USA were the fastest qualifier for tonight's final with 3:07.58, and the Russians were the second quickest (in the same heat) with a 3:07.60 timing.
A different type of triple history awaits us today
Yet what of the 13 remaining individual titles to be decided? Thirteen, a lucky number to some but a numerical jinx for others, however, after yesterday's World record bonanza in Budapest’s Sportarena the portents look good for the final session of competition.
Specifically, history beckons for at least three athletes at the centre of the day’s action.
Lebedeva's second long leg to double gold
Approximately 22 hours and 55 minutes after the greatest women’s Triple Jump contest in history began, Russia’s Tatyana Lebedeva is due to set foot on the same runway to contest the women’s Long Jump title!
Perhaps her one equalled and two outright World records yesterday will be contentment enough for the 27 year-old Russian but unless celebrations last night were too taxing, one expects the prospect of a unique double will be motivation enough for the world season’s leader.
Lebedeva’s 6.95 lead (and personal best) was set at the Russian championships and though equalled by Irina Simagina in that same competition, it is fellow Russian and defending champion Tatyana Kotova (6.81) who is in the national squad in Budapest.
In yesterday’s qualification round the furtherest jumper was China's Yingnan Guan (6.80m). Lebedeva had a best of 6.78 and Kotova qualified with 6.62.
Yes, you did read that right, yesterday's qualification. Nothing emphasises Lebedeva's strength better than the fact that she had a Long Jump competition yesterday morning prior to her evening's World record spree in the Triple Jump.
A sprint double too?
An unprecedented track double will also be dangled in-front of a capacity crowd, in the shape of USA’s Gail Devers who as the reigning Hurdles champion will embark on a title defence, having already beaten the world’s best flat sprinters on Friday night.
The world season’s leader will face a stiff challenge from Sweden’s Susanna Kallur and Canada’s World outdoor champion Perdita Felicien.
In this morning’s brief session of competition, Devers was the fastest first round qualifier with 7.88 (heat 3), Jamaica's Lacena Golding Clarke the second fastest (7.90, heat 1), then came Felicien (7.91, heat 2) and Kallur (7.91, heat 4) - all four athletes winning their heats.
Million Dollar Mutola goes for sixth title
In the preliminary round of the women’s 800m on Friday, Maria Mutola (MOZ) who of course is the World and Olympic champion, blasted to a solo 1:57.72, the fourteenth fastest indoor time in history, and one which this season has been only been bettered by her own 1:57.48 best.
In yesterday’s semi-final, Mutola played more cautiously with her opponents, waiting until the last bend before an effortless change of gear took her on a smooth 2:03.19 route into today’s final.
A sixth World Indoor championships gold is now a firm prospect. Who would bet against her? Then again as Mutola who fell in the Birmingham 1000m race (20 Feb) or her training partner Kelly Holmes, who crashed to the deck in yesterday’s 1500m final will concur, anything can happen.
Of the rest of the gold medals to be decided today, the Heptathlon concludes with the final three disciplines, the 60m Hurdles, Pole Vault and the 1000m.
Roman Sebrle yesterday looked to be in the condition to recapture the title he won in 2001 but after this morning's 60m Hurdles it was Bryan Clay of the USA (7.77 second PB) who had a one point advantage on the Czech - 4713 to 4712 points - who ran 7.95 over the barriers.
Worse was to follow in the Pole Vault, as Sebrle could go no better than 4.80, while Clay jumped a PB of 4.90, and with just the 1000m to be played out the American leads with 5593 points to Sebrle's 5561.
Elsewhere in the Sportarena, Christian Olsson looks certain to continue Sweden’s international jumping success with a defence of his World Triple Jump title, and with eight women cleanly qualified on 1.97m, there is a women’s High Jump Final to savour too.
There are also gold medals to be decided in the men’s Pole Vault, Shot and 1500m, the women’s 3000m, and both the men’s and women’s 200m and 800m finals.