None of the three women's Combined Events medallists from Valencia 2008 will be competing at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, Doha, Qatar (12-14 March 2010) but it’s nevertheless a high standard competition where results should be even better than two years ago.
Belgian Tia Hellebaut, who recently announced her return from retirement, won in Valencia with 4867 points in 2008 with Briton Kelly Sotherton only 15 points behind (4852) and Russian Anna Bogdanova third with 4753.
This season three athletes have scored more than 4700 points with Russian Tatyana Chernova, the world leading athlete, with 4855 scored at the National Championships in Penza. But the number one favourite hasn’t even competed in a Pentathlon yet this year.
First Pentathlon for Ennis
24-year-old Briton Jessica Ennis, the 2009 World champion at Heptathlon, has however recorded excellent marks in individual events including a 7.36 personal best at 60m, a 7.95 national record in the 60m Hurdles and 1.94m PB in High Jump. Ennis’ personal best is “only” 4716 points from the 2007 European Indoor Championships, but she should be able to reach a score around 4900 points in Doha in her present condition.
World leader Chernova will offer strong resistance. Still only 22-years-old, she has taken big leaps forward after failing as one of the favourites in the Osaka World Championships in 2007. The Russian grabbed a bronze medal in Beijing and although she didn’t reach her best results during the 2009 season finishing in eighth place in Berlin, she has stepped up this indoor season setting a personal best in four out of five Pentathlon events plus of course the Pentathlon total score too. 6.72m Long Jump and 8.22 60m Hurdles are the most impressive individual results for the Russian in 2010.
The reigning Olympic champion from Ukraine, Nataliya Dobrynska also had a disappointing 2009 season, but her performance at the national championships in Sumy was an impressive one. Dobrynska scored a 4778 points national record and will be looking to better her fourth place finish from Valencia two years ago where she lost the bronze medal by a mere 11 points.
The fourth favourite for the win is American Hyleas Fountain, who won the Olympic silver in Beijing 2008. The 29-year-old will be competing in her second World Indoor Championships, she was eighth in Moscow 2006, but this time the agenda will be very different. Fountain scored the second best ever American score 4731 points already in January and has set personal bests in two Pentathlon events this winter as well. She was third at the national indoor championships with a 6.70m Long Jump best and earlier threw a 14.26m Shot Put for a PB.
Lurking behind the winning candidates are Polish Karolina Tyminska and the French athlete Antoinette Nana Djimou. Both have scored well over 4600 this season and should any one of the favourites fail they will be ready to grab a medal in the competition. Tyminska was sixth two years ago in Valencia and has a season’s best 4685 points, well below her 2008 best of 4769. Djimou set a personal best 4633 at the national indoor championships in Paris last weekend.
The remaining two competitors are Aiga Grabuste of Latvia, the European U23 champion last year and Russian Marina Goncharova who has set a 4605 personal best this season.
The men’s multi-event competition is wide open due to the fact that neither of the two favourites for the victory has competed in a full Heptathlon indoors this season. The winner of the Decathlon at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Trey Hardee will surely challenge fellow American Bryan Clay, the reigning World Indoor champion from Valencia 2008. Clay set his personal best 6371 points in Valencia winning the title with Hardee’s best 6208, but that was set four years ago in his last Heptathlon competition before Doha.
Will it be an Americans affair?
Although the two have not completed a multi-event competition this winter, the results in individual events have been impressive. Hardee set a 7.70 60m Hurdles personal best in Gothenburg while Clay also set a PB in the same event recording 7.71 at the national indoor championships. Clay has another impressive season’s best: 6.70 in the 60m. He also attempted to complete a Heptathlon in January, but he no-heighted in the Pole Vault in a competition which seemed to be more of a training session anyway.
The two Americans have the edge at the top, but of course anything can happen in a multi-event competition and therefore others will have their chance too.
26-year-old Russian Aleksey Drozdov is the world leading athlete in 2010 with a 6300 points personal best and will be competing in his second World Indoor Championships. Other medal favourites include 24-year-old Belarussian Andrey Krauchanka who will be defending his silver medal from Valencia where he scored a 6234 national record. This season Krauchanka has come close to that score with a 6206 result.
Ukrainian Oleksiy Kasyanov set a 6254 national record in January and will be looking for a medal in Doha. The Ukrainian who has been seen leading Decathlon’s during the first day in major championships lately was fourth in Berlin World Championships and won a silver medal at the European Indoor Championships in 2009.
22-year-old Cuban Leonel Suárez has won two straight silver medals in major decathlons in Beijing and Berlin, but it seems he doesn’t yet have what it takes for a medal indoors with his best event, the Javelin Throw, not in the programme indoors. The Cuban has scored a national record 5964 this winter, but is too far away to reach for the medals.
A big question mark lies over Aleksandr Pogorelov of Russia, who took a bronze medal from the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. Twice a silver medallist at the European Indoor Championships, Pogorelov didn’t finish the Heptathlon at the 2010 National Indoor Championships having not cleared his opening height in the High Jump.
Last but not least in the competition is 35-year-old Czech, two times World Indoor champion, Roman Sebrle who will be competing in his sixth World Indoor Championships in Doha. Sebrle, who still won a bronze in Turin at the European Indoor Championships last season has to do extremely well to challenge for a medal in Doha and is yet to compete in a Heptathlon this indoor season.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF