MonteCarloReigning World Indoor 60m Hurdles champions Gail Devers and Allen Johnson from their early winter form look set to retain respectively their women’s and men’s titles when Budapest holds the 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics (5 - 7 March 2004).
There are of course no certainties in the world of sport and with the USA indoor championships not being contested until the weekend (27- 29 February) prior to the World Indoors in Budapest, who can even be certain about who will fill the American squad berths. This factor aside, current form puts Devers and Johnson as the outstanding favourites for their events in Budapest.
Devers, 37, has run three times over the barriers this winter with a best of 7.76 and all her results are better than the next best performance on the world season’s list, that of 7.89 by Jamaica’s Lacena Golding-Clarke.
Johnson, has had six Hurdles races at four venues so far in 2004. While not as dominant as Devers, the 32 year-old’s 7.43 world season’s best is still substantially quicker than the 7.51 second runs of either China’s Liu Xiang’s Area Record and Jamaica’s Maurice Wignall, which were both set last weekend and are the next joint quickest. France’s Ladji Doucoure is also a medal candidate after his 7.55 second place finish behind Johnson’s leading mark in New York.
Another American who flew in those Millrose Games, well at least his implement did, was 23 year-old Christian Cantwell. His Shot Put personal best of 21.23m with which he won in New York, leads the current world indoor standing. Among those hovering the closest are, respectively, the reigning World outdoor and indoor champions Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus (20.85) and Spain’s Manuel Martinez (20.78). There might even be a home medal surprise, as Hungary’s Zsolt Bíber put a national of 20.81 last weekend in Budapest.
The women’s Shot seems to be heading Russia’s way again, as their reigning World Indoor champion Irina Korzhanenko has thrown 20.13 (1 Feb) and is the only athlete over 20 metres so far this winter. Trinidad’s Cleopatra Borel’s national record of 19.48 was a real surprise last weekend, while Russia’s World outdoor champion Svetlana Krivelyova lurks ready with a best of 19.19 in 2004.
As to the two Combined Events competitions in Budapest, the finalists - eight invited athletes in both the men’s Heptathlon and women’s Pentathlon - are not yet confirmed, as many national championships are still to be held during the tight indoor season schedule.
However, we can hazard a guess at defending men’s champion Tom Pappas and fellow American Bryan Clay, and of course the Czech World Decathlon record holder Roman Sebrle who leads the 2004 list (6350). The women’s Pentathlon could perhaps be graced by France’s World outdoor Heptathlon silver medallist Eunice Barber, while the current world list for the five indoor events is held by Ukraine’s Nataliya Dobrynska (4602).