13 FEB 2010 General News

Gezahegn and Keitany lead strong 1500m fields in Gent

Kalkidan Gezahegn en route to her upset victory in the Boston 3000m (Victah Sailer)Kalkidan Gezahegn en route to her upset victory in the Boston 3000m (Victah Sailer) © Copyright

Strong 1500m races and a rarely run indoor steeplechase will be among the highlights at Toyota Indoor Flanders meeting in Gent, Belgium, on Sunday.

The Toyota Indoor Flanders meeting is the seventh of nine IAAF Indoor Permit meetings in 2010, and with less than four weeks to go before the World Indoor Championships, the afternoon is set to provide several glimpses into what we can expect when the focus turns fully to Doha’s Aspire Dome when action kicks off in 26 days time.

Gezahegn’s immediate impact in the senior ranks

It hasn't taken Kalkedan Gezahegn, the 2008 World junior 1500m silver medallist, long to adjust to life on the senior circuit. A 1500m finalist at last year’s World Championships in Berlin, Gezahegn, who won’t turn 19 until May, has been eager to impress this season.

After kicking off her 2010 campaign with a strong third place showing at the Edinburgh Cross Country over 5.8 kilometres, Gezahegn defeated a solid field in the Boston 3000m a week ago where she clocked 8:46.19, which was but a warm-up for her world leading 4:03.28 victory in Stockholm on Wednesday, the fastest time ever by a junior indoors.

She’ll face another fast teenager, twice World junior Cross Country champion Genzebe Dibaba. Dibaba, who celebrated her 19th birthday last week, was out-kicked in the Boston 3000m by Gezahegn and will be making her first indoor appearance over the distance.

The main challenger to the Ethiopian twosome will be Kenyan Irene Jelagat, a former World junior champion over the distance, who improved to 4:07.45 in Stuttgart a week ago.

The men’s 1500m could be a barn-burner as well, with Kenyan aces Haron Keitany and Daniel Kipchirchir Komen squaring off. Keitany is the defending Gent winner after a swift 3:33.96 run a year ago, the fastest time in the world indoors last year. Outdoors, he was the second fastest last season with his 3:30.20 clocking at Berlin’s ISTAF fixture. Komen meanwhile is a two-time defending World indoor 1500m silver medallist. Both will be making their first 1500m starts in 2010.

An event which will likely be a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ treat for the fans at Topsporthal Vlaanderen will be a rarely run men’s 2000m steeplechase. Paul Kipsiele Koech, who has exhibited sensational form this winter already including the fifth fastest indoor 5000m run in history, will top the field in the event.

In the longest event on the track, the men’s 3000m, two men stand out: Olympic 3000m Steeplechase silver medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France, and Markos Geneti of Ethiopia, the World indoor bronze medallist over the distance in 2004.

Lopes-Schliep tops the hurdles field

Leading the women’s 60m Hurdles field will be Olympic and World medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada, hot on the heels of her world-leading 7.82 victory in Stuttgart last weekend.

The men’s contest will be led by Bahamian Shamar Sands, a 7.62 performer this winter, and Jamaican Dwight Thomas, who has clocked 7.64. Sands won here last year in 7.58, the second of three national indoor records he set in 2009.

Reigning US indoor champion Mark Jelks leads the men’s 60m field, which also includes Jaysuma Saidy Ndure of Norway and two-time European indoor medallist Ronald Pognon of France.

In the women’s contest, Frenchwoman Myriam Soumare (7.19), who was a distant third behind Laverne Jones-Ferrette and Carmelita Jeter in the lightning fast Stuttgart race last Saturday, will be given her chance in the spotlight. Local attention will focus on Olivia Borlee, a member of Belgium’s 2008 4x100m Relay Olympic silver medal-winning squad. With Doha on the horizon, reigning World indoor champion Angela Williams will be gunning for her first solid performance of the winter, with just two weeks remaining before the notoriously difficult US championships.

On the infield, the men’s Pole Vault competition is wide open, with several jumpers fully capable of taking the win – former World and European indoor champion Igor Pavlov of Russia and Raphael Holzdeppe (5.70m this season) of Germany stand out. But bringing the best momentum will be Belgian Kevin Rans, who is undefeated in three outings this season.

In the High Jump, Russian Aleksey Dmitrik, who won in Brno on Tuesday with a 2.31m leap, is, at least on paper, the favourite. Dana Veldakova of Slovakia, the European indoor bronze medallist last year, leads the field in the women’s Triple Jump.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF