06 FEB 2009 Preview Stuttgart, Germany

Defar and Kaki on World record missions in Stuttgart - PREVIEW

Meseret Defar en router to her 8:23.72 World record in Stuttgart in 2007 (Bongarts)Meseret Defar en router to her 8:23.72 World record in Stuttgart in 2007 (Bongarts) © Copyright

A pair of World record attempts will highlight the programme of the 23rd Sparkassen Cup meeting in Stuttgart on Saturday evening (7).  It is not an unusual position for this storied fixture, which enjoys the longest continued single sponsorship of any indoor athletics event in the world. 

The Sparkassen Cup is an IAAF Indoor Permit meeting

Over the past twenty-two winters, the meeting’s speedy oval at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle has yielded seven world records in middle and long distance events, the last one occurring two years ago when Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar sliced more than five seconds off the existing standard in the women’s 3000 Metres to register a still-standing 8:23.72.  Defar will be back this week to attempt a further improvement on her own mark.

Among those giving chase will be two-time Olympian Krisztina Papp of Hungary, German indoor 3000 champion Antje Möldner, and a bevy of 1500 metre specialists, including Slovenia’s Sonja Roman, Sylwia Ejdys of Poland and Anna Alminova of Russia. 

Also on Saturday’s packed programme will be a record attempt in the men’s 1000 metres.

Abubaker Kaki of Sudan, the Sudanese wunderkind who electrified crowds during all of 2008, will attempt to crack the 2:14.96 mark of Wilson Kipketer from the 2000 Birmingham competition.  Last year, Kaki made an auspicious indoor debut with a superb pair of kilometre runs leading to his World Indoor title in the 800.  With a best of 2:15.77, plus a season of international experience in the meanwhile, the 19-year-old should mount a strong attack on the mark Saturday. 

European 1500 champion Mehdi Baala of France will also be in the field, along with Beijing 800 semifinalist Abraham Chepkirwok of Uganda, Kenyans Richard Kiplagat and Geoffrey Romo, and former European junior 1500 champion Bartosz Nowicki of Poland. 

Injured Robles but hurdles fields remain stacked with talent

A third potential record attack may have fallen by the wayside with the late cancellation of Cuban hurdler Dayron Robles.  The Olympic champion and outdoor World record holder is suffering from an ankle injury and has pushed back his season debut three times.  After last year’s near-miss at Colin Jackson’s indoor World record, now almost 15 years old, the 21-year-old Robles was expected to make this a number-one priority during the current season. 

Still, the Sparkassen hurdle field is a formidable one and includes Beijing bronze medallist David Oliver of the US, Valencia bronze medallist Yevgeniy Borisov of Russia, reigning Commonwealth bronze winner Andrew Turner of Great Britain, current European indoor champion Gregory Sedoc of the Netherlands (NR 7.56 last Sunday), plus two additional Valencia finalists, Thomas Blaschek of Germany and Britain’s Allan Scott. 

The women’s hurdle event features World Indoor Champion Lolo Jones of the US and the world champion she displaced, Ireland’s Derval O’Rourke.  Also at hand will be Valencia silver winner Candice Davis of the US.  Olena Krasovska of Ukraine, the Athens silver medallist, adds further lustre to the field, as do American Kellie Wells, two-time Olympian Anay Tejeda of Cuba, German champion Carolin Nytra, and former world junior champion Yekaterina Shtepa of Russia.   

Bungei vs Borza

The men’s 800 metres is shaping up as a stellar event, as the top two medallists from Beijing, Wilfred Bungei and Ahmad Ismail, will go to the line against Athens gold medallist Yuriy Borzakovskiy.  Also in the field are Beijing Olympians Pawel Czapiewski of Poland and Slovakia’s Jozef Repcik.  Of additional local interest will be 20-year-old Robin Schembera of Germany, the current European junior 800 champion. 

“No one is unbeatable”

The infield in the Schleyer-Halle will be outfitted with two pole vaulting facilities for simultaneous men’s and women’s competitions. 

Russia’s Yevgeniy Lukyanenko, the Beijing silver medalist, leads the men’s list, with Germany’s 2008 male Athlete of the Year, 19-year-old Raphael Holzdeppe, ready to make his mark against more experienced jumpers.  Holzdeppe, who finished eighth in Beijing, recently declared that “no one is unbeatable” in an interview.  Joining that pair will be an extensive list of German internationalists, including Osaka bronze winner and Beijing finalist Danny Ecker, Björn Otto, former world indoor champion Tim Lobinger, Lars Börgeling, Fabian Schulze, and Alexander Straub, all of whom have posted career marks of 5.80 or better, as well as Osaka silver medallist Romain Mesnil of France.  

The women’s vault event includes current European indoor silver medallist, Yuliya Golubchikova of Russia, who opened her season with a 4.70 last month.  Joining her will be Valencia bronze winner Fabiana Murer of Brazil who equaled her own South American record 4.70 Tuesday evening in Malmö, plus three other Olympic finalists, Poland’s Monika Pyrek, plus Germans Caroline Hingst and World Athletics Final champion Silke Spiegelburg.  Current European outdoor bronze winner Tatyana Polnova of Russia will also be in action. 

‘Queen’ Vlasic

The women’s High Jump field features the “queen” of that event, Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic.  Among her top challengers will be Irina Gordeyeva of Russia, who started the season as a 1.87 jumper but leaped 2.01 last week in Cottbus on her sixth personal-best jump of the winter season.  Beijing fifth-placer and Valencia bronze winner Vita Palamar of Ukraine is also in the field.

The women’s 1500 metres is a high-level competition involving the reigning World Indoor bronze medallist Geleta Burka of Ethiopia jousting with current European indoor double champion (1500 and 3000) Lidia Chojecka of Poland.  Also in the mix will be Beijing Steeplechase champion and former World Indoor medallist at 1500, Gulnara Samitova-Galkina of Russia, current European indoor silver winner Natalya Pantelyeva of Russia, plus a most curious participant in the person of Britain’s Marilyn Okoro.  A mainstay for the last three years of British 4x400 relays and a Commonwealth 800 finalist in 2006, Okoro is seemingly making a  serious move to longer distance in Stuttgart after posting a revealing end-of-season 4:11.85 in Shanghai last September.

Nery Brenes of Costa Rica, fourth in the men’s 400 metres at last season’s World Indoors in Valencia, leads the list in that event.  Ireland’s Paul McKee, who took bronze at the World Indoors six years ago, plus Beijing semifinalist Claudio Licciardello of Italy and reigning European indoor silver winner Bastian Swillims of Germany, are also on the start list.

The men’s 60 metres features the British pair of Craig Pickering, the current European indoor silver medallist, and Valencia finalist Simeon Williamson, plus European indoor record holder Ronald Pognon of France.  Germany’s indoor season leader at 6.61, Christian Blum, plus former World and Olympic 200 finalist Tobias Unger, are also included in the field.     

Lagat goes over 3000m

Double Osaka World champion (1500 and 5000) Bernard Lagat of the US arrives in Stuttgart after his splendid Mile win at New York’s Millrose Games last weekend and heads up a men’s 3000 metres field the distance at which he was World indoor champion in 2004. His opposition includes Valencia bronze winner Abraham Cherkos of Ethiopia, Osaka 1500 bronze winner Shadrack Korir of Kenya, reigning European indoor 3000 champion Cosimo Caliandro of Italy, eight-time European cross country champion Sergiy Lebid of Ukraine, Athens 1500 bronze medallist Rui Silvia of Portugal, plus former World and Olympic 5000 silver medallist Ali Saidi-Sief of Algeria. 

The men’s 1500 metres includes Valencia champion Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia, plus a pair of Beijing finalists, Augustine Choge of Kenya and Italy’s Christian Obrist.  Also in the field will be current German indoor champion Carsten Schlangen. 

Ed Gordon for the IAAF