17 FEB 2009 Preview Stockholm, Sweden

Another full house in Stockholm expects Hooker to fly high - PREVIEW

Steve Hooker at the pre-meeting press conference in Stockholm (Lennart Julin)Steve Hooker at the pre-meeting press conference in Stockholm (Lennart Julin) © Copyright

The "GE Galan" in the Globe Arena in Stockholm celebrates it 20th edition on Wednesday. At the premier on 24 February 1990 the arena was sold out (10,000+ spectators) and the meet has drawn a full house almost every year since then. Looking at the line-up for Wednesday’s (18) upcoming edition the likeliness of any empty seats is very low also this year.

The GE Galan is an IAAF Indoor permit meeting.

The main international attraction is Australian Pole Vaulter Steve Hooker who unquestionably has been "The man of the season" so far: Coming into Stockholm he has had four competitions, won all of them and attempted the World record height of 6.16 in all of them!

But Hooker himself didn't admit to being on any serious record chase:

"My attitude is the same as it has been before: To go out there and have fun without any specific expectations. I don't think I have been that close in any of the record attempts. But it has just been nice to feel what it is like to jump at a bar like that!"

Although Hooker has been on fire this winter the men's Pole Vault is certainly not the only – or even the strongest – World record possibility on Wednesday night.

Kaki tries again at 1000m mark

Last winter Sudan's teenager Abubaker Kaki burst onto the international indoor scene and at the GE Galan he missed the 1000m World record of Wilson Kipketer by just 0.81 seconds setting an unofficial World junior record of 2:15.77.

That time was lost in a much too slow fourth lap but with Kaki having added one year of experience and with a little bit better pacing in the middle of the race Kipketer's record appears vulnerable.

Defar focussed on Dibaba’s global time

The same could be said about Tirunesh Dibaba's 14:27.42 at the women's 5000m because her Ethiopian rival Meseret Defar steps on the Globen track on Wednesday. Last summer in Stockholm at the DN Galan Defar missed Dibaba's outdoor record of 14:11 by just a little over a second.

However, the early pacing will be even more crucial to a successful outcome than for Kaki in the men's 1000m. But if Defar can get help to keep up with Dibaba's 2:55-ish pace for the first three kilometres she should be on target judging from the finishing strength demonstrated at 3000m in Stuttgart one and a half week ago.

Home grown talent aplenty

In the last decade or so the GE Galan has been built very much around the Swedish superstars Kajsa Bergqvist, Stefan Holm, Christian Olsson, Susanna Kallur and Carolina Klüft but the first two have now retired, the second two are missing this season due to rehabilitation after injuries and Klüft is restricting herself this winter to some sprinting.

However, this doesn't mean lack of strong national interests as there are still three Swedish athletes with World Indoor Championship medals in their CV's on the start lists:

Linus Thörnblad got the World Indoor High Jump bronze in Moscow three years ago and after two years where illness/injury hampered his preparations he is back at full force. With a slightly modified run-up he last week in Banská Bystrica provided his best jumping ever having a perfectly clean sheet up to and including 2.36m!

If Thörnblad wants to win in Stockholm he probably has to jump just as well as in Banská as he will be facing Jesse Williams (4 for 4 at 2.30+ this winter with new PB 2.36) and Yaroslav Rybakov (the GE Galan meet record holder at 2.38 from 2005) as well as four more jumpers that have cleared at least 2.30 this winter.

Johan Wissman got the 400m silver last winter in Valencia losing to just Tyler Christopher. Now the Swede will be facing the Canadian once more in what will be Wissman's first 400m race of the winter. Judging from recent winning 300m marks (Wissman 32.62 in Liévin, Christopher 32.75 in Karlsruhe) a close contest is to be expected.

Alhaji Jeng had an awkward start to his indoor season getting hit in the eye by the end of crossbar in a freak accident at his opener in Gothenburg. That caused Jeng to miss a couple of meets but judging from his 5.72m for 4th place in Donetsk on Sunday he is now fully recovered. Hopefully, the competition in the Globe Arena will inspire further progress because he will be facing not only Steve Hooker but also Yevgeniy Lukyanenko and Derek Miles (i.e. 1-2-3 in Donetsk and 1-2-4 at the Beijing Olympics) plus the newly crowned Russian champion Pavel Gerasimov and three more jumpers from the World top-20 so far this winter.

The men's 3000m will also feature a Swedish world class athlete as steeplechase and cross country specialist Mustafa Mohamed will make a rare indoor appearance.  He did run the 5000m at GE Galan three years ago setting a NR of 13:39 and this time the Swedish 3000m record of 7:48 is an obvious target.

The race is very much "A steeplechase without obstacles" as Mohamed's main competition will be provided by Paul Kipsiele Koech, Brimin Kipruto and Bouabdallah Tahri. Koech must be considered the favourite on strength of the 7:38 he ran winning by almost 10 seconds in Paris last Friday (13).

Other expected highlights...

What is listed above would appear more than enough for one great evening of athletics on Wednesday but there is even more to this 20th edition of GE Galan:

- World leader Ismail Ismail vs Wilfred Bungei and Yurij Borzakovskiy at 800m!

- Fellow 800m World leader Elisa Cusma Piccione, who in her 1:59.25 Italian NR in Karlsruhe appeared capable of considerably faster times, being challenged by Marilyn Okoro.

- 400m World leader Antonina Krivoshapka making her début on the "international tour" following her very impressive show at the Russian Championships (won by 1.5 seconds!)!

- Long Jump World leader Olga Kucherenko facing Melis, Sokolova, Jimoh, Madison and Johnson!

- Three opponents with marks close to 8 metres already this winter means that Olympic bronze medallist Ibrahim Camejo probably will have to improve noticeably on his own 8.03m so far to win the men's Long Jump.

- In the only two events on the straight track – men's 60m Hurdles and women's 60m – American Dexter Faulk and Russian Anna Geflikh are the favourites on the strength of recent efforts. During the weekend Faulk set a new PB of 7.50sec winning in Karlsruhe, while a busy Geflikh won the 200m and lost the 60m just by a few thousandths at the Russian championships. On the current world season list they are merely 5 and 1 hundredth off the leading marks in their respective events.

Lennart Julin for the IAAF