A total of 10 Field events (5 for men and 5 for women) will be contested at the 11th IAAF World Indoor Championships which take place this weekend, Friday 10 to Sunday 12 March, in the Olimpiyskiy Sport Palace Complex, Moscow, Russia. Here are some of the field event highlights we can expect in the Russian capital.
The Russians have an embarrassment of riches in this event. In Arnstadt, double World Indoor silver Yaroslav Rybakov came within one centimetre of his national indoor record of 2.38m, but in the Russian championships he had to give best to Andrey Tereshin’s 2.36.
The Ukraine’s Andriy Sokolovskyy appears to have recovered from the shock of his 13th place in Helsinki after being co-world leader last summer, recording 2.36 in Banska Bystrica. However, he still needed two attempts at his starting height of 2.15 before he got going.
Also on the Banska Bystrica card was up-and-coming Swede Linus Thörnblad who had broken through to top class this winter with his 2.34, in the process stealing the limelight from compatriot and triple World Indoor gold, Stefan Holm. But the wily veteran edged the young pretender at the Swedish championships with 2.29 and though his timing still needs honing, by all accounts the height was there. But in Lievin, Holm needed three attempts at 2.24 and could go no higher.
Other contenders are Svatoslav Ton of the Czech Republic, 2.33 for a Czech all-comers record in Hustopece in January, the Italian Ciotti twins with personal best clearances of 2.31 and surprise World outdoor champion Yuriy Krimarenko of the Ukraine, fourth in Arnstadt with 2.31.
Third on the world all-time indoor list with 6.02m from 2002, American Jeff Hartwig heads the list of gold medal hopefuls with a 5.85 vault from mid-February. Hartwig took World Indoor silver in 1999. At the German championships, Tim Lobinger went over 5.80 to claim top spot over 5.75-performer Fabian Schultze. The 2003 World Indoor champion has a clutch
(4) of fine performances at 5.80 or over this winter, more than any of his rivals, his best coming in Vienna where he cleared 5.82.
On an excellent evening for jumpers in Ghent Israel’s Alexander Averbukh cleared 5.81 before declaring he would approach the World Indoors with no ambitions other than to compete, a sentiment that could just as easily translate as “The gold is mine”. In Donetsk, Australian Paul Burgess and rising newcomer from Sweden, Alhaji Jeng, both went over 5.80, the latter a Swedish record. Jeng first broke Patrik Kristiansson’s old mark by one centimetre when he cleared 5.76 at home in Gothenburg before adding a further four centimetres in the Ukraine.
Ghanaian Ignisious Gaisah’s avowed intention this year is to stabilise himself around the 8.30m-mark and he has already made a start by jumping a world leading 8.36 in Stockholm, the first time he has broken through the 8m-mark indoors. He says he has improved his strength and speed with a view to jumping 8.50 later in the year.
He is followed by Frenchman Salim Sdiri who improved his indoor PB and national record to 8.27 in Mondeville. He was the male star on the third day of the French championships with an 8.23 leap before fouling marginally at a jump thought to be around 8.32. The Corsican and Gaisah own four of the top five marks this winter, but Sdiri’s participation is now in doubt after tearing his right hamstring in the European Indoor Cup at the weekend.
Splitting them is the USA’s John Moffit, the man who improved his PB in the Athens Olympics by 20cm to secure silver. He failed to breach the 8m-mark outdoors in a low-key 2005 but is emphatically back in top shape this winter with 8.23 from Baton Rouge.
Dane Morten Jensen has had a fabulous indoor season so far, flying out to new national figures of 8.18 in Gothenberg to take the redoubtable scalps of Americans Savante Stringfellow and Miguel Pate.
Greece’s Louis Tsátoumas (8.15) and Russia’s Ruslan Gataullin (8.11) are the other two 8.10+ performers this year.
Romania’s Marian Oprea has greeted the new year in exuberant style with the fifth longest leap of all-time indoors of 17.74 at the national championships to cap his earlier 17.70. He currently holds the top five marks for 2006 and is one of the hot favourites for Moscow gold.
Four of the next five marks are shared by new Italian record holder, Fabrizio Donati (17.33) and Russia’s Viktor Gushchinskiy (17.33), Russian Indoor champion and former European Junior champion. In amongst them is Brazil’s World Indoor silver, Jadel Gregorio, on 17.31.
Other possible medallists are Portugal’s Nelson Évora (17.19), Slovakia’s Dmitri Valukevic (17.19) and Bulgaria’s Momchil Karailiev (17.16).
World Indoor silver Reese Hoffa, USA, has the two longest throws of the season (21.65, 21.61), and has gone over 21m a total of four times so far, but Germany’s Ralf Bartels weighed in with a 21.43 PB for the highlight of the German championships and for 21m-consistency added a 21.12 in Chemnitz last Friday. However, he was surprisingly beaten at the European Cup on Sunday by Poland’s Tomasz Majewski (20.59 to 20.60).
World Indoor and Olympic bronze, Denmark’s Joachim Olsen has a 21.35 and 21.10 to his credit this winter and should be in the medal-hunt.
Defending World Indoor champion Christian Cantwell finished second to Hoffa in Boston and at 20.10 is just six centimetres ahead of Romanian Georghe Ghuset. 2003 World outdoor Champion from Belarus, Andrey Mikhnevich, is on
20.78 from just one competition, while Britain’s Carl Myerscough and Russia’s Anton Lyuboslavskiy are equal on 20.75.
After Swede Kajsa Bergqvist’s sensational World indoor record* of 2.08m in Arnstadt in February, she seemed odds-on to claim her third World Indoor title, despite Blanka Vlašic finishing second that evening with a Croatian record of 2.01. But two weeks later the 1.92 Croat went one better with yet another great leap of 2.05 in Banská Bystrica for her fifth national record of the winter. All looked set fair for a showdown until injury to the Swede’s take-off foot intervened and she was obliged to pull out of Moscow on 3 March.
But there are contenders aplenty to push Vlašic. Second in Banská Bystrica was Czech Barbora Laláková who cleared an all-time indoor best 1.99 at the first time of asking, only to fail three times at 2.01. Third in Arnstadt was the Ukraine’s Vita Styopina, also with an indoor best 1.99 while Belgium’s Tia Hellebaut cleared 1.97 in Tallin to improve on her own national record.
Other threats are last summer’s surprise and World outdoor bronze medallist, Bergqvist’s compatriot, Emma Green, who cleared 1.96 for third in Banská Bystrica and Helsinki silver, Chaunte Howard of the US, on 1.95 together with team-mate Amy Acuff. Lurking ominously though is Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Yelena Slesarenko. The Russian had to pull out of the Helsinki final when she injured herself warming up, but she won the Russian indoor championships with 1.98, the only height she needed a second jump at.
Reigning champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia has been in a class of her own since she took the title two years ago, but in Birmingham this winter she only managed an equal-height win of 4.79 from Pole Anna Rogowska who with that clearance claimed the national record back from compatriot Monica Pyrek. Rogowska then topped that mark with 4.80 at the European Indoor Cup last weekend. The Poles have been engaged in a hammer and tongs-style battle for supremacy this winter and it is the kind of needle that can lead to upsets for firm favourites like Isinbayeva. In Lievin, Isinbayeva again saw off her closest rivals, but like the poles, she needed two attempts at 4.62 before pulling away with a 4.72 first-time clearance.
Though it would seem to be a three-way battle for the medals, in the wings is the upcoming American Jenny Stuczynsi, a former basketball University star, who ended the Ypsilanti MI meeting on 4.68, but not before having an ambitious crack at 4.82. Not to be forgotten is the once formidable Russian, Svetlana Feofanova, who tied Rogowska for first with 4.64 in Bydgosz in mid-January, though her form this winter has been variable.
The scene is set for another Tianna Madison – Tatyana Kotova clash. In Helsinki the American came off best in one of the upsets of the championships after Kotova was outright favourite. The Russian once again is world leader with 6.91 from Stuttgart, but this time no one is underestimating the once unknown USA collegiate champion who comes to Moscow with an excellent 6.75m leap in her portfolio, though she could manage no better than 6.55 in the US champs for second. But no one should rule out Russian indoor champion Oksana Udmurtova who jumped a solid 6.77 in the Moscow nationals in Kotova’s absence.
Amongst others expected to figure are Naide Gomes of Portugal (6.70), Greece’s Stilianí Pilátou who has twice gone over 6.66 this winter and, if as planned she doubles, Cuba’s Yargelis Savigne, winner in Lievin.
This will be the clash that did not transpire in Helsinki as Tatyana Lebedeva will get to grips with World champion and world leader this winter, Trecia Smith of Jamaica. Nursing an Achilles tendon injury, the Russian had to bow out of the World Championships outdoors after just one qualifying jump, but she is back now. However, the defending World Indoor Champion was not quite good enough to win the Russian championships, that accolade going to Helsinki bronze medallist, Ana Pyatykh. Into the mix must go Cuba’s exuberant young talent, Yargelis Savigne, who won in Tallinn with 14.44m. Savigne was the gum-chewing shock of Helsinki, snatching silver from Pyatykh and extending her outdoor PB to 14.82. After intermittent injury, the 2000 Olympic gold medallist and 2001 World Indoor champion, Bulgaria’s Tereza Marinova, has also been in fine form recently, winning the Balkan championships in Athens with 14.49 and backing that up with a 14.46 three days later in Piraeus.
On paper this looks like a straight Belarus heavyweight bout between the reigning World outdoor champion, Nadezhda Ostapchuk, and compatriot, Natalya Khoroneko. Ostapchuk took her first major senior gold last summer after an outstanding junior career and leads the winter standings with a huge 20.86m, the only woman so far this season to breach the 20m mark. Almost a full metre behind is Khoroneko, eighth in Helsinki.
Other contenders are America’s much improved Jill Camarena, 19.26 from the end of February and 2005 US indoor champion. Camarena switched from the glide to the spin five months ago and improved indoors on her all-time (outdoor) PB by over a metre. Completing the serious contenders are Russian World silver Olga Ryabinkina (19.23), the German duo of Petra Lammert (19.25) and Nadine Kleinert (19.07), World Indoor bronze last time round and Athens Olympic silver.
Michael Butcher for the IAAF
*World Indoor record pending ratification