Despite the withdrawal of two-time world indoor champion Abubaker Kaki, the men’s 800m still remains one of the most interesting events to look forward to at the Flanders Indoor meeting, an IAAF Indoor Permit meeting, in Gent on Sunday (9).
Kaki recently told the organisers that he will miss the rest of the indoor season, meaning his show-down with two-time European indoor champion Adam Kszczot will not happen.
But Kszczot, one of Poland’s top medal hopes for the IAAF World Indoor Championships next month, is still part of a fascinating race.
His recent 1:45.42 win in Dusseldorf makes Kszczot the favourite to triumph in Gent, but Bahrain’s Abraham Rotich impressed with his 1:46.30 victory in Karlsruhe last week.
Kenyan Olympian Anthony Chemut and 2010 world junior champion David Mutua, both sub-1:44 runners outdoors, are also expected to challenge.
Strong 3000m field
Four main contenders will be chasing the world-leading mark of 7:34.68 in the men’s 3000m. Isiah Koech won in Gent in 2011, while fellow Kenyan Paul Kipsiele Koech has fond memories of the stadium as it is where he set the world indoor 2000m steeplechase best in 2011.
Albert Rop is fresh from an indoor PB of 7:39.24 in Dusseldorf, and world indoor 1500m champion Abdalaati Iguider will be making his 2014 indoor debut.
In the 1500m, world junior silver medallist Hillary Ngetich from Kenya will be looking to bounce back after failing to finish the 3000m last week in Dusseldorf. He will be up against 2011 European indoor champion Manuel Olmedo and Morocco’s Zakaria Mazouzi.
World steeplechase silver medallist Lidya Chepkurui had a baptism of fire on her indoor debut in Stockholm on Thursday as she was part of the race where Genzebe Dibaba set a world indoor record of 8:16.60. The Kenyan finished sixth in 8:55.21, but in Gent she will likely be among the favourites, along with African junior champion Haftamnesh Tesfay of Ethiopia.
Maslak vs Santos over 300m
The rarely-run 300m provides an exciting clash between the Czech Republic’s European 400m champion Pavel Maslak and the Dominican Republic’s Olympic silver medallist Luguelin Santos.
Santos, 20, finished second to Maslak in Stockholm on Thursday as Maslak tied his own Czech 400m record of 45.66 and Santos broke his country’s indoor mark with 45.89.
The pair also hold national indoor records over 300m, Santos with his recent 33.27 and Maslak with his 32.58 from his victory in Gent last year ahead of local hero Kevin Borlee.
The 60m features world leader Yunier Perez, the Cuban who is undefeated this year with wins in Valencia, Dusseldorf and Moscow. Perez equalled the Cuban record in the Russian capital with his world-leading time of 6.49. National record-holders Su Bingtian of China and Jaysuma Saidy Ndure of Norway, both with PBs of 6.55, will have their work cut out to prevent the Cuban from extending his winning streak.
Billaud takes on local challenge
Traditionally the Flanders Indoor Meeting provides the best Belgian athletes with the opportunity to compete against world-class fields. In the absence of the Borlee brothers, local hopes are this year carried by Eline Berings in the women’s 60m hurdles.
Berings, the 2009 European indoor champion, celebrated her best ever season opener with 8.00 and 7.98 races in Gent and in Karlsruhe respectively. The local crowd will support Berings in her bid to beat Cindy Billaud from France who already has a 7.96 to her credit this year.
The other Belgian Sara Aerts, Yvette Lewis from Panama and Austrian Beate Schrott will also be gunning for the victory in what’s expected to be a close race.
Kenya’s 2008 Olympic 800m champion Pamela Jelimo failed to impress on her season debut in Moscow, clocking 2:11.29. Unless Jelimo suddenly rediscovers her best form, the victory in the women’s 800m in Gent will likely go to either European indoor 1500m silver medallist Isabel Macias or European under-23 cross-country champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands.
Belgian decathlon record-holder Hans Van Alphen will try to please the local crowd in a triathlon competition in which European indoor champion Eelco Sintnicolaas, world leader Oleksiy Kasyanov and European indoor silver medallist Kevin Mayer are the main contenders.
Croatian Ana Simic leads the field in the women’s high jump, where she’ll face Ukraine’s European bronze medallist Olena Holosha and European junior heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam.
In the women’s pole vault, 2009 world champion Anna Rogowska will face Switzerland’s Nicole Buchler, who recently improved her national record to 4.56m.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF