MonteCarloThe 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics take place this weekend in Birmingham, UK at the National Indoor Arena (14-16 March).
We commence our competition Previews with the Multi-events – the Field, and then the Track events will be published later today. Preview writers – Ed Gordon (Track), Garry Hill (Field) and Steven Downes (Multi)
The multi-events at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, while perhaps overlooked by the wider, television-watching public, will be what cements together the three-day festival of athletics for the sell-out crowds at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena this weekend.
Like a common theme throughout the championships, the multi-eventers will return to the arena for their prolonged battles, where their toughest competition is as often against themselves as their rivals.
And with the 16 competitors all invited, the men’s Heptathlon and women’s Pentathlon promise to showcase the talents of some of the finest all-round athletes in the history of athletics, as well as revealing a stunning new talent who may yet dominate her event for years to come.
The two Czech mates, Roman Sebrle and Tomáš Dvorák have between them a collection of medals and records which attest to their power, strength and great determination.
Sebrle, the Decathlon World record-holder, comes to Birmingham to defend the World Indoor title he won in Lisbon two years ago, where his 6420-point lifetime best put him third on the all-time World lists.
This year, Sebrle has scored 6228 to beat two of his Birmingham rivals, Jón Arnar Magnússon, from Iceland, and Erki Nool, when they competed in the Estonian’s backyard in Tallinn last month.
Sebrle will have to overcome a recent bout of flu, though, and be on his best to see off the challengers, especially Lev Lobodin, the Russian, whose 6412 score win in Moscow recently put him sixth on the all-time list.
Sebrle gave himself a fitness test in Linz recently, clocking 8.03sec for the 60m Hurdles and 7.47 for the Long Jump. "I know Tom Pappas, Lobodin and also my teammate Dvorák are in good shape. But I like competitions, so I will go and try to do my best," he said.
Dvorák, three times the Decathlon World champion, struggled a little in Tallinn, where he placed only fifth and scored less than the benchmark 6000 points, finishing a long way short of his own best of 6424, the second-best score of all-time, set in Ghent in 2000. Reports from Prague suggest that Dvorák has been distracted from his training by his wife having complications in the later stages of pregnancy.
The women’s Pentathlon will provide the British public with the first sighting of Carolina Klüft, who last summer won her second IAAF World Junior Heptathlon title, before breaking her own junior World record in winning the European senior title in Munich.
Just turned 20, Klüft prepared for Birmingham by competing in four events at the Swedish championships at the start of the month, winning one (Long Jump, with 6.47m on her last jump) and taking silver in three others, including a 24.12sec personal best for 200m.
Natalya Sazanovich, from Belarus, the defending champion, will provide a formidable test for the youngster. Sazanovich tops the 2003 world indoor lists with her 4746 score in Minsk in January, and as she showed in lifting the IAAF World Indoor title in Lisbon in 2001, the tall 29-year-old is capable of notching up a total of at least 100 points more.
Naide Gomes, Portugal’s European silver medallist in Vienna last year, where she beat Klüft, is, at 22, another young multi-eventer who could establish herself on the world stage in Birmingham, as is Sonja Kesselschläger.
The 25-year-old German is nothing if not a busy athlete. In an event where competitors are sparing with their efforts, Kesselschläger competed in two Pentathlons in as many weeks in February, winning in Halle and then Tallinn and registering the second (4531) and third (4471) best totals of 2003.
With the ability to run a 2:18.53 800m at the end of the event, as she did in Tallinn, if Kesselschläger is within striking range of medals going into the final discipline, she could be the one the others have to fear.
Steven Downes for the IAAF