event headtoheads could provide the biggest excitement in Lisbon
Sean Wallace-Jones for IAAF
7 March 2001 Lisbon - Some of the most exciting competition at the 8th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Lisbon will be in the field events. Starting with the womens long jump, where the reigning Olympic Champion Heike Drechsler (GER) will be facing the defending World Indoor Champion Tatyana Kotova (RUS), the reigning World Champion Niurka Montalvo (ESP), the silver medallist from Sydney and Seville, Italys Fiona May and the 1997 World Champion Lyudmila Galkina (RUS).
29-year-old Galkina has shown the strongest form so far during the indoor season and is the only competitor to have jumped 7 metres this year, heading the IAAF performance lists with her 7.00 metre clearance in Moscow in February. But Kotova is hard on her heels with 6.84 metres jumped in Sindelfingen last Sunday and Montalvo, too, is in reach with 6.82 metres in the Valencia meeting on 25 February. The veteran of the group at 36 years old, Drechsler has contented herself with a seasons best of 6.74, but showed in Sydney that she is capable of pulling out the stops and surpassing the competition when it really counts. Her 1988 world record indoors of 7.37 still stands.
The party-breaker in the whole equation, though, could well be Fiona May. Smarting from defeats in Sydney (by Drechsler) and in the 1999 World Championships in Seville (by Montalvo) she took silver medals in both events May will be going all out to add another world indoor gold to her 1997 title and avenge her last two major competition defeats.
The mens event appears to be somewhat less competitive, with Cubas Olympic Champion Ivan Pedroso a clear leader on his current performance. The "cat", as Pedroso is often nicknamed, leapt out to a world-leading 8.31 metres in Piraeus this season and is well clear of his closest competition. But Pedroso can be inconsistent and will be pushed to perform well by Kareem Streete-Thompson from Cayman and Australias Peter Burge, who matched the long-standing Australian indoor record of 8.11 metres in Sindlefingen last week.
In the womens high jump, just five centimetres separate the seasons leaders. Olympic bronze medallist Kajsa Bergqvist has the advantage with her 1.99 clearance in Stockholm, but the Swede is closely followed by Venelina Veneva (BUL) and her best of 1.98 in Budapest in January, the veteran of the group, 33-year-old Inga Babakova of the Ukraine also with 1.98, Monica Iagar-Dinescu (ROM) at 1.97 and Amy Acuff of the USA with 1.96 metres.
Sweden is looking good in the mens event too, with Staffan Strand and his compatriot Stefan Holm second in this years performance lists with 2.34 metres, just behind the Ukrainian Andriy Sokolovsky, who has the seasons best of 2.35. But the man they will all have to contend with is the world record holder and Olympic silver medallist from Sydney, the defending World Indoor Champion, Cubas Javier Sotomayor. And Sotomayor will be focussed on his arch-rivals Vyacheslav Voronin from Russia, the World Champion in Seville 99 and Charles Austin from the United States.
Back from vertical to horizontal in the triple jump, with particular focus on the mens event and the world outdoor record holder and 2000 Olympic Champion, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards appears to have regained confidence after his win in Sydney and to be a lot more relaxed about competition: "I have nothing left to prove now," he said recently; and his form during the indoor season has been excellent, with a best mark of 17.60 in Samara on 1 February. Indeed, Edwards has 4 out of five leading marks indoors this year, with only Vasiliy Sokov breaking into the list with the second best mark of the year of 17.16. The other strong challenger to Edwards in Lisbon is likely to be Germanys Charles Friedek and Yoelbi Quesada, both of whom can give Edwards a run for his money on their best days.