8 March 2012Istanbul, Turkey - If you like your athletics to come thick and fast then you will not be disappointed by the fare served up on the opening day (9) of action at the IAAF World Indoor Championships inside the Atakoy Arena in Istanbul.
With more than eight hours of dizzying action across two sessions there will hardly be chance to draw breath as the stories across some 16 events start to unravel. Only two competitions will draw to a conclusion on the opening day, although in both events there is no shortage of class.
Spotlight on Chernova/Ennis clash
Shoehorned into one day is the five-event Women’s Pentathlon which begins at 11.25 with the 60m Hurdles and concludes at 19.35 with the 800m. Much of the pre-event attention has been focused on the battle between the Heptathlon gold and silver medallists at the 2011 IAAF World Championships – Tatyana Chernova and Jessica Ennis – and rightly so.
Ennis is the defending champion and her skill set appears perfect for the five-event format. Chernova, though, will want to make a clear statement that she will be the woman to beat ahead of their expected Heptathlon showdown at this summer’s London Olympics.
In a fascinating sub-plot to the main story, don’t rule out Olympic champion Natalya Dobrysnka of Ukraine, who has set a Pentathlon personal best this season and world leader Ekaterina Bolshova of Russia who has improved her lifetime best by more than 500pts this winter.
Can Storl spring another Shot surprise?
The day’s other medal event, the Men’s Shot Put, also boasts a top-class field. World outdoor champion David Storl is the rising star of the event, but to land top spot on the podium the German will need to repel the twin US threat of 2006 World Indoor champion Reese Hoffa and Ryan Whiting. Also entered is Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski. Qualification takes place in the morning with the final in the evening.
The Men’s Heptathletes are also set for a busy day competing in four events: 60m and Long Jump in the morning and Shot Put and High Jump in the evening session. Ashton Eaton looks the class of the field and by the time day one wraps up we’ll have a better idea as to whether the talented American can erase his own World record figures of 6568pts.
Outside of the multi-eventers, the busiest athletes on view today are the men’s and women’s 400m sprinters. Both sets of competitors will be looking to negotiate a morning heat and evening semi-final not to mention the hurly burly that normally ensues after the athletes depart their lanes just before the end of the first lap. Looking to avoid the pitfalls on the men’s side will be World outdoor 400m champion Kirani James of Grenada while in the distaff event, 2009 World outdoor champion Sanya Richards-Ross of the USA will be hoping for a trouble-free progression.
Defar’s Drive for Five begins
Elsewhere, Meseret Defar will begin her quest to become the first woman in history to land a fifth successive World Indoor title – by competing in the First Round of the women’s 3000m. The Ethiopian should have no real problems progressing, however, the unpredictable nature of championship athletics means nothing should be taken for granted.
The men’s 3000m is not short of class either with 2011 World 5000m gold medallist Mo Farah of Great Britain and defending champion Bernard Lagat of the USA competing in First Round heats this evening for a place in the final.
Can Pearson bring her outdoor momentum indoors?
The 2011 IAAF World Female Athlete of the Year Sally Pearson has recorded a string of blistering 100m Hurdles times in the Australian summer season including a best of 12.49. Here in Istanbul she will be making only her second ever indoor 60m Hurdles appearance and it will be fascinating to see how she goes in the First Round heats - the first scheduled event for the evening session.
The First Round of the Men’s 60m heats begin at 17:35 and expect the Jamaican and US sprinters to make their mark. Lerone Clarke and Nesta Carter are the Caribbean island’s two representatives with Trell Kimmons and Justin Gatlin, the 2003 World Indoor champion, looking to advance for the USA.
There will be no lack of home support for Ilhan Ozbilen Tanui when the First Round heats of the Men’s 1500m get underway at 12.55. The Kenyan-born Turk has impressed on the European circuit this season and he will be desperate to qualify for Saturday’s final.
Other events on the morning schedule are the women’s High Jump and Triple jump qualifications and the First Round of the Men’s and Women’s 800m. In the Evening session, qualification for the Men’s Long Jump and Women’s 1500m First Round also take place.
Steve Landells for the IAAF
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