The 20th GE Galan in the Stockholm Globe Arena – IAAF Indoor permit meeting – on Wednesday night proved to be a worthy anniversary edition with a new World Indoor record* courtesy of Meseret Defar in the women's 5000 metres the perfect crowning to the night. Defar's 14:24.37 meant an improvement by three seconds of compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba's previous record for the 25-lap event.
The record attack was very successfully executed. With Judith Varga, Zakia Mrisho and Meskerem Assefa providing the the pacing for the first three kilometres Defar was consistently slightly (1-3 seconds) ahead of Dibaba's splits had in her 14:27.42-race.
And spurred on by the increasingly vociferous 10,000 strong crowd in the Globe Arena Defar also matched Dibaba's impressive 62.7/29.8 finish by her own 62.6/30.2 which meant that the advantage was kept all the way to the finish line. Defar's km-splits were 2:52.1 – 2:55.7 – 2:54.7 – 2:55.3 – 2:46.6 and she had halves of 7:14.3/7:10.1.
Just after reaching the finish line after having lapped even the second placed runner – Russia's Maria Konovalova who was 5th in the Olympic 10,000m last hear – twice Defar was met by warm hugs from her pacemakers.
And the Stockholm audience where extra happy for Defar after having seen her last summer at DN Galan coming tantalizingly close – less than two seconds – to the 5000m outdoor record of Dibaba. So when Defar met the media afterwards she was very understandably just all smiles.
"It was an incredible audience and a very good track. I would love to return next year - if I am invited." The invitation is probably already in the mail....
Hooker’s mental strength overcomes tiredness
Although he appeared somewhat tired from four previous competitions and some long travel in the last weeks Steve Hooker still provided some monster vaults that clearly confirmed his position as the outstanding pole vaulter in the world. However, one miss at 5.71m and two at 5.86 kept him away from the leading position for most of the competition. But when it really mattered – last chance at 5.86 – Hooker proved that he also has the mental strength of a World No 1.
When Olympic silver medallist Yevgeniy Lukyanenko was eliminated already at his opening height of 5.51 the toughest challenges to Hooker's supremacy came from the freshly crowned Russian champions Pavel Gerasimov and Sweden's Alhaji Jeng. Gerasimov made 5.81 in his first attempt and Jeng cleared the same height in his third – which meant that Jeng improved his own Swedish indoor record of 5.80 from 2006 by one centimetre!
Tactical affairs – Borzakovskiy takes fifth Globe victory
Quite a lot was in advance expected from the men's 1000m and 800m races as far top times were concerned but the races turned out more of tactical affairs where the top contenders were more occupied with checking each other than following the pacemakers.
In the 1000m the lap times for the favourite Abubaker Kaki tells the story quite well: 25.9 – 27.0 – 28.0 – 29.2 – 27.6. Mehdi Baala – fresh from the impressive 1500m-race in Düsseldorf – tried to challenge with 200m to go but he never managed to get it as Kaki had the necessary speed to keep the Frenchman about a step behind at the finish line: 2:17.56 vs 2:18.20.
The fact that Yuriy Borzakovskiy was found in third place after the first 200m-lap of the 800m is the best way to illustrate the slow start. None of the main contenders – Borzakovskiy, Wilfred Bungei and Ismail Ismail – bothered to try to follow the pacemakers and the first three laps were run at 27.2 – 28.7 – 27.5 with Ismail leading the group.
But this was not a wise tactic with Borzakovskiy in the race and the 24.7 closing lap was sufficient to secure his 5th victory in his seven appearances in this meet since 2002. Ismail took second while Bungei never really figured in the race. The Beijing Olympic champion tried to start a challenge at the bell but he was too far back then to be able to reach the front and he ended up 5th almost two seconds behind the winner.
Paul Kipsiele Koech – 7:32.80!
If these two races ended up slightly disappointing time-wise the men's 3000m was the opposite. Paul Kipsiele Koech was really a man on a mission (his mission: A new World leading time) yesterday evening. Paced by first Daniel Norberg and then James Kosgei he reached halfway in 3:48.2 – and then speeded up! With a second half in 3:44.6 he won in 7:32.80, a time that not only made him the No 1 of 2009 but also the No 7 of all-time!
Koech's steeplechase colleague Bob Tahri ended up doing a solo run for most of the race finishing seven seconds behind Koech and twelve seconds ahead of James Kwalia. Tahri's 7:40.00 moves him to the position as the No 1 European this winter with a little over two weeks left before the European Indoor Championships.
Kucherenko continues to improve – 6.84m
Defar and Kipsiele Koech were not the only athletes recording new world season leading marks this evening. Russian long jumper Olga Kucherenko already in the first round improved her own 6.81m from earlier this month by three centimetres to 6.84 and confirmed that with three more legal jumps at 6.71-6.78.
The men's Long Jump was off to a very slow start: After two rounds a mere 7.70m was sufficient for the lead. But then the competition started to grow led by Olympic bronze medallist Ibrahim Camejo who reached 7.92 in the third round and closed with the new PB 8.05 in the 6th attempt. It should be noted that Camejo had some 15 cm left on the board in that effort, so don't be surprised if the Cuban hits a 8.20+ any day now.
Williams on top
Two recently retired Swedish high jumpers – Stefan Holm and Staffan Strand – this evening received special awards for their many and prominent appearances at GE Galan: Holm competed 11 times (4 wins and 3 second places) and Strand 9 times (2 wins and never worse than 4th!). With "arena-PB's" of 2.37m (Holm in 2004) and 2.35 (Strand in 2002) both in their best form would have been highly competitive also this year.
American Jesse Williams now won on the strength of a clean sheet up to and including 2.30. Russians Aleksandr Shustov and Yaroslav Rybakov also cleared that height but their records did include misses. At 2.33 Williams had the best attempt but also Shustov was very close at a height that would have improved his PB by two centimetres.
Much had been expected from the current Swedish world class high jumper Linus Thörnblad after his 2.36 recently in Banská Bystrica, but this evening he had to be content with 4th place at 2.26 without being really close in any of his three attempts at 2.30.
Christopher over Wissman
World leading 400m runner Antonina Krivoshapka confirmed her recent sensational breakthrough at the Russian Championships by a gun-to-tape win in 51.15 leaving second placer Amy Mbacké Thiam some ten metres in arrears.
The men's 400m on the other was competitive all the way to the finish with the rematch of the top-2 from last winter's World Indoors in Valencia – Tyler Christopher and Johan Wissman. As expected Wissman took the lead after the first lap but Christopher had the strength to come back in the second lap to not only challenge but actually - with some twenty metres to go – pass Wissman. However, after a fairly slow first lap the times were mediocre: 47.01 and 47.34.
The women's middle distances had two impressive winners. In the 800m Italy's Elisa Cusma Piccione was content to follow until the final backstretch when she attacked and quickly passed Britain's Marilyn Okoro and went on to win by over a second in 2:00.63. Romania's super junior Mirela Lavric placed third another second back (in 2:02.83). In the 1500m Slovenia's Sonja Roman was the only runner capable of following the pace set. After passing 800m in 2:13.8 she continued on her own at the front to finally win by almost five seconds in 4:10.92.
There were only two races on the 60m straight, the men’s and women’s dashes.
US hurdler Dexter Faulk has been extremely busy on the European circuit but although this was his 12th race in his 7th meet this month (i.e. in just 18 days!) he showed no fatigue. Despite hitting the second to last barrier quite hard Faulk won by almost two metres in 7.56 sec.
The times in the women's 60m were strangely unimpressive with reigning World Indoor champion Angela Williams leading all the way to win by half a metre in 7.32 sec. Behind her Stephanie Durst eaked out a 0.01-win over Russia's 7.18-runner Anna Geflikh in the fight for second place (7.39 vs 7.40).
But in the end this evening it would have taken something really extraordinarily fast in the 60m to draw any kind of serious attention away from the memorable record running on the oval track by Meseret Defar!
Lennart Julin for the IAAF
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*World record subject to usual ratification