Birmingham, UKKenenisa Bekele is aiming for his third World record at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena when he tops the bill for Saturday’s Aviva Grand Prix, the eighth of nine IAAF Indoor Permit meetings in 2010.
The Ethiopian has set World records in the 5000m and 2000m – along with a World best for Two-miles - in this stadium over the last six years, but this time he is targeting one of the toughest of the lot – Daniel Komen’s 3000m mark of 7:24.90 set back in 1998. Bekele won his only World indoor title at this distance in 2006 and his personal best from 2007 is the third quickest ever behind Komen and Haile Gebrselassie, but at 7:30.51 that is nearly six seconds short of his goal.
“It’s a tough record as it’s a very quick time to beat,” he said. “But this is definitely a track I enjoy running on and it is always a great event to be part of. There is a lot of noise in the arena which makes it great to run in.”
Bekele’s opponents include Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar, three Kenyans, Brimin Kipruto, Sammy Mutahi and Shedrack Korir, plus British record holder and European indoor champion Mo Farah.
Burka, Dibaba and Cheruiyot targeting record books as well
Bekele is only one of three Ethiopian distance greats seeking world records at the star-studded meeting, for Geleta Burka is bidding to break Doina Melinte’s indoor mile record of 4:17.14, and Tirunesh Dibaba is primed for battle with Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot as they chase the two-mile best of 9:06.26.
Burka is one of only four women to have broken four minutes for 1500m indoors and the World indoor champion needs to shave just a second from her mile PB. Yet her task may be even harder than Bekele’s for Melinte’s time has stood for 20 years.
Burka has already produced impressive wins in Karlsruhe and Stuttgart this year. “Training has been going really well and I’m feeling confident and positive about my performance,” she said. Burka, who won the 3000m at the NIA in 2008, will face her 18-year-old compatriot Kalkidan Gezahegn and Bahrain’s Maryam Jamal.
Dibaba is also no stranger to the NIA for she set a World junior 3000m record in the stadium six years ago. She returns to Birmingham to face the world 5000m champion over the rarely run two mile distance with her sights set on the World best set by her arch rival Meseret Defar a year ago.
“I know it will be a tough race but I’m feeling on good form and expect to run well,” said the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion.
Cheruiyot, who has never beaten Dibaba on the track, set a Kenyan 3000m record in Birmingham last year. “I am the World champion, she is the Olympic champion. We’ll be pushing each other all the way so I’m hoping for a quick time and hopefully a world (best),” she said.
Lagat takes on Choge and Mekonnen in 1500m
There’s a strong line-up in other distance events too with Bernard Lagat, fresh from his win at the Wannamaker mile, in the men’s 1500m, and Jenny Meadows against Elisa Cusma of Italy and Ukraine’s Yuliya Krevsun in the women’s 800m.
Lagat faces the Kenyan challenge of Augustine Choge, Gideon Gathimba and Cornelius Chirchir, plus the 2010 world leader, Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia, and New Zealand’s Nick Willis, this year’s quickest miler.
The men’s 60m features more US stars in Ivory Williams, Michael Rodgers and Mark Jelks, who’ll race Jamaica’s Nesta Carter and Daniel Bailey of Antigua with a clutch of Britons including Harry Aikines Aryeetey also in the field.
Jones returns to action for another showdown with Jeter
World leader Laverne Jones faces Carmelita Jeter in the women’s 60m while Cuba’s Dayron Robles will have Terrence Trammel’s world leading 7.43 in his sights in the men’s 60m hurdles. Robles has run 7.48 this year.
The men’s Triple Jump features more Cubans in fine form in the shape of David Giralt, Alexis Copello and Yoandri Betanzos, although world champion Phillips Idowu hopes for a home win and Christian Olsson seeks to continue his steady return to competitive action.
Britain’s other World champion, Jessica Ennis, will also be busy*. Ennis takes on Naide Gomes of Portugal and Cuban Yargelis Savigne in the long jump before facing Derval O’Rourke of Ireland and the American pair Danielle Carruthers and Tiffany Ofili in the hurdles.
The women’s Pole vault pitches World outdoor champion Anna Rogowska and her Polish teammate Monica Pyrek against Brazil’s Fabiana Murer and British champion Kate Dennison, while Russia’s world champion Yaroslav Rybakov heads the men’s High Jump line-up.
*updated 16:45 CET, 18-Feb. Jessica Ennis was forced to withdraw from the competition due to a foot injury.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF