French stars Christophe Lemaitre, Renaud Lavillenie and Teddy Tamgho will be among a slew of headliners at the Meeting Pas de Calais in Liévin, France, on Tuesday (8), the fourth meeting of the 2011 IAAF Indoor Permit Meeting series.
The occasion marks a major opportunity for the French public to see its heroes in action one month prior to the European Indoor Championships to be held in Paris (4-6 March).
Tamgho targeting 18m
Triple Jumper Tamgho has set his ambitions high, announcing at the pre-meeting press conference that he was expecting no less than an 18-metre performance. The World indoor champion and Record holder (17.90m) is indeed in great form, judging by his two competitions so far: 17.46m in Liévin for the regional meeting in late January, and in Eaubonne last week, where he accomplished a remarkable series - 17.33m, 17.59m, 17.56m, and 17.13m. Coached by retired Cuban Long Jump legend Ivan Pedroso, the 21-year-old Frenchman refuses to set any limit in order to fulfill his unknown potential.
“I fouled an 18 metre jump indoors in Bercy two years ago, so I know I can jump even farther now,” he said. The Stade Couvert Regional, rebuilt in 2009, has been the setting for eight World indoor records and about 50 Area records since the first edition of the meeting in 1988.
“The quality opposition in Liévin will push me to my best”, he said.
The other 11 competitors registered all have jumped beyond 17 metres. Among them, the two Cubans who placed second and third at the World Indoor Championships last year behind Tamgho: Yoandris Betanzos and Arnie David Girat. Former World indoor record holder Christian Olson (SWE) will open his season, while David Oprea (ROM) has already shown good form in Athens with 17.20m.
Robles looking for solid follow-up after Stuttgart snafu
Cubans will also line up strong entries in the 60m Hurdles, including 110m Hurdles Olympic Champion and World Record holder Dayron Robles. Opening his season in Stuttgart with 7.51 in heats, he stumbled over the barriers in final and finished dead last. In Liévin, he will face his teammates Yuniel Hernandez and Dayron Capetillo. Keep an eye out for rising French hurdler Dimitri Bascou, who smashed his personal best to 7.57 a few days ago.
In the women’s Triple Jump competition, Françoise Mbango Etone, double Olympic Champion for Cameroon (2004 and 2008), will make her first appearance as a Frenchwoman.
Lavillenie to battle Stuttgart winner Mohr
Pole vaulter Lavillenie gained confidence last month after clearing 5.92m in Aubière on 15 January, and several impressive attempts at 6.02m. But the European Champion is back to France after an unexpected loss in Stuttgart where he finished third at 5.60m.
“I’m frustrated as I have the impression that I didn’t make mistakes,” he said. “My run-up is fixed but the pole was touching the mat while flexing during the jump. I hope I’ll have better conditions next week.”
Liévin will have the flavour of revenge with the presence of German Malte Mohr who set a new personal best of 5.84m to win in Stuttgart. Romain Mesnil will have an outsider role, although he has already announced he will not participate to the European indoor championships. “The bouncy wood track in Bercy hall requires a special tempo, and my run-up technique is not adapted to it,” said the World silver medallist in 2007 and 2009. “I would have to change my natural style and this is not an option for me.”
Lemaitre hoping to get back on track
Sprinter Lemaitre will also be keen to show his true value after a disappointing opener in Stuttgart. Just coming back from a strenuous training camp in Miami, the first ever triple European champion (100m 200m 4x100m) had obviously not recovered as he twice ran 6.67 in the 60m in Stuttgart, far behind winner Mike Rodgers (6.55).
“I had no sensations,” said Lemaitre, 20. “I will now forgot this competition to prepare for Liévin,”
Rodgers will be there, along with Kim Collins, the runner-up in Moscow on Sunday with 6.60. Lemaitre’s programme includes a 200m, where he will go against German Sebastian Ernst, the Stuttgart winner with 20.75.
The rarely-run 300m will feature an interesting cast with Frenchman Djhone, who claims the European best in the event at 32.47, taking on the Belgian twins Kévin and Jonathan Borlée.
Myriam Soumaré, the surprise 200m European champion last summer, will have to work hard to beat the newcomer Olesya Povh in the women’s 60m. The Ukrainian, who beat the Frenchwoman by 0.09 in Stuttgart, has been very consistent so far with five races between 7.14 and 7.16. Ruddy Zang Milama, who clocked 7.14 in Moscow, will make a strong case for the win thanks to one of the most powerful starts on the circuit.
Kaki and Baala highlight middle distances
Sunday’s double World indoor 800m champion Abubaker Kaki will run for the first time in Liévin. We should expect a fast race, as his main rivals, Kenyans Jackson Kivuna and Richard Kiplagat, have worked on their pace in leading the 600m (1:15.69 and 1:15.92, respectively) in Moscow on Sunday.
Frenchman Mehdi Baala has chosen to race over his favourite distance (1500m) after opening his first indoor season for two years with 2:20.68 over 1000m in Mondeville on 5 February.
Pierre Jean Vazel for the IAAF