During the three days of the “Week-End Athlé” concept developed by French Federation (FFA), Liévin will host two major events this weekend, the “Meeting Gaz de France” on Friday (3) and the third edition of the European Athletics Indoor Cup on Sunday (5), providing the opportunity to promote athletics to a larger public.
The format of the European Indoor Cup is essentially the same as for the outdoor SPAR European Cup competitions: men’s and women’s teams from eight nations will compete, with one competitor per nation in each discipline.
Men’s and Women’s teams will be present from Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Ukraine. The French men and Russian women are the defending champions.
Men's and women’s six track events include the 60m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 3000m, 60m Hurdles and a progressive 200-400-600-800m relay. The men's field events will include the High Jump, Long Jump and Shot Put, while the women will contest the Pole Vault and Triple Jump.
Rare 2006 indoor appearance for Doucouré
Double World Champion (110m hurdles and 4x100m) Ladji Doucouré, has made the choice to focus on training this winter and the European Indoor Cup is the only competition on his program, along with a participation for fun to a 200m in Aubière on February 18th (21.45). The European Record holder (7.42) hasn’t really started his specific preparation so his coach Renaud Longuèvre expects a time around 7.65. This may not be enough to win from Mike Fenner (GER) and Serhiy Demydyuk (RUS) who have both run 7.66 this season.
Bartels, Ukhov, Sdiri the favourites on the infield
The men’s Shot Put promises another tough battle between German Ralf Bartels, Spaniard Manuel Martinez and Polish Tomasz Majewski. Bartels seems the clear favourite as he has thrown over 20m seven times in seven competitions thus far this season, including a European leading mark of 21.43 a week ago. The full metre advantage he has over his opponents may be reduced as the perspective of the World Indoor Championships in Moscow (10-12 March) is getting closer.
High Jumper Ivan Ukhov appears to have an even bigger margin. Turning 20-years-old this month, the Ukrainian has compiled six competitions over 2.30m - a bar that none of the other competitors in Liévin has ever cleared - and has equalled the 2006 World Leading mark of 2.37m. Salim Sdiri of France will be in a similar situation as he hopes to break his Long Jump personal best of 8.27m.
The men’s 60m is announced as the closest race, as the eight men have run in the 6.61-6.70 range this winter. Frenchman Ronald Pognon is seen as the favourite from his European Record last year (6.45), which can be approached if the Frenchman overcomes acceleration problems.
Stiff Hurdles competition, Rogowska and Arron expected highlights on women's programme
The women’s 60m Hurdles will also include a tough field, with Glorie Alozie (ESP), Kirsten Bolm (GER), and Aurelia Trywanska (POL) having all run under 8 seconds, while Nicole Ramalalanirina (FRA), coming back from injury, seems to be able to do so as well. In this context, no hurdling mistake will be allowed to the favourite Susanna Kallur of Sweden, the European Indoor Champion in 2005 and 7.86 performer this year.
Pole Vaulter Anna Rogowska from Poland, who nearly defeated Russia's World record holder and World and Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva in Birmingham, is expected to dominate her event, while Russia will be represented by Tatyana Polnova. Christine Arron is also in great shape and will find another occasion on the fast Liévin track to approach the 7.00 barrier at 60m.
The Russia squad team will count on Tatyana Veshkurova, Svetlana Cherkasova and Olga Komyagina for wins at 400m, 800m and 1500m respectively to build a third consecutive overall team success. Men’s rankings were won by Spain in 2003 and Russia in 2004.
P.J. Vazel for the IAAF