Though Friday's schedule at the Aspire Dome is full of qualifying rounds and preliminary heats, it's not to be missed - unless you're the sort who likes starting a book from the middle.
Friday's events at the World Indoor Championships in Doha, Qatar will set up action for the rest of the weekend, most notably in the heptathlon. Four of the hep's seven events will be contested, and the shortest races, with both men's and women's 60m, 60m hurdles, and 400m, will all run their preliminary rounds.
Ask anyone in Doha which events they're looking forward to this weekend, and the Heptathlon comes up very high on every list. Friday will be the first day of what could be one of the most competitive multi duels in years, with Beijing Olympic Decathlon champion Bryan Clay competing with 2009 World champion Trey Hardee for the first time since June of 2009 - since, in fact, Hardee's epic performance in Berlin vaulted him to the front rank of multi-event athletes. The clash of champions does not happen in a vacuum, either, as six more of the world's best multi-eventers are here hoping to build names for themselves by beating the best.
Trammell, Robles and Xiang also on track
Two more of the hottest events on the track, the men's and women's 60m Hurdles, will run preliminary rounds on Friday, both in the evening session. The women's hurdles features defending champion Lolo Jones, 2006 champion Derval O'Rourke, and Jones' leading challengers, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada, U.S. champion Ginnie Powell, and the historic fact that no woman has ever defended in this event.
The men include Olympic champion Dayron Robles, who had a memorably frustrating championship in Valencia, and two-time champion Terrence Trammell, as well as the return of Liu Xiang to international competition. Xiang has not yet shown the same speed that made him the 2008 champion in Valencia, but Trammell observed Thursday, "He's better than his entry time, and I'm expecting him to be better."
The men's 60m, which will also run its round on Friday, was wide open even before the withdrawal of U.S. champion Ivory Williams, and is now no clearer. In an event where the final is unlikely to last as long as seven seconds, the rounds are, ultimately, dress rehearsal for the finals. Tomorrow's races will let the competitors rehearse their lines and the spectators learn what to watch for. The women's 60m rounds will give us our look at expected favourites Laverne Jones-Ferrette and Carmelita Jeter, and judge the challenge from two-time 200m Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Packed infield expected
The men's and women's 400m, the other event running both preliminary rounds on Friday, has little in common with its outdoor twin. The runners being able to break from their lanes requires a different approach to race strategy and opens the field to a different range of athletes. The men's rounds will show if Bershawn Jackson's stated intention to be undefeated in 2010 includes heats, as the outdoor 400m Hurdles star pursues indoor glory. The women's heats will actually start competition at 9:00 AM.
Qualifying action is happening on the infield as well, with Yelena Isinbayeva, Christian Cantwell, and Blanka Vlasic all in action, the latter two in the morning session. The women's Triple Jump and High Jump, along with the men's Pole Vault and Shot Put, will have their qualifying rounds in the morning. The men's Triple Jump, High Jump, and Long Jump will be in the evening session, along with the women's Pole Vault qualification, meaning Isinbayeva will vault at least once on Friday to get the qualifying mark.
Other track events with qualifying rounds on Friday include the men's and women's 800m and 3000m, the latter event just a single qualifying round for the final, and finally the men's 1500m heats.
Parker Morse for the IAAF