Athens, GreeceThe “Athina” indoorIAAF Permit - meeting has already established a successful tradition in recent years. The meeting has to its credit two European records, Svetlana Feofanova (Pole Vault) in 2001 and Andres Diaz (1500m) in 1999, although a World mark - which has been attempted several times in the vault - has not yet been added to the meeting’s impressive CV of top results.
This year the meeting (Sunday 22 Feb) appears to have been upgraded once more. Just six months before the Olympic Games, Athens has attracted many of the world stars especially as the fast surface of the new indoor stadium promises top performances.
Isinbayeva versus Feofanova once more
The new women’s Pole Vault World record holder, Yelena Isinbayeva is coming to compete with her Russian compatriot Svetlana Feofanova. Both athletes participated in the meeting last year, when Isinbayeva was the winner with a clearance of 4.65m, while the Greek spectators also remember the competition of 2001 when Feofanova made attempts at a new World record.
Having competed frequently in Greece, the two Russians are among the most famous foreign athletes for the local crowd. This year, the participation of Poland’s Monica Pyrek, who was 4th in the World Championships in 2003 and has a season’s best of 4.61m, Russia’s Yelena Belyakova, 8th in Paris last year, and Thorey-Edda Elisdottir from Iceland, guarantee the high level of the competition.
Lebedeva returns to Athens for a double
The women’s Triple Jump is expected again among the highlights of the meeting. Tatyana Lebedeva, the double World outdoor champion, is already in supreme form this year. With jumps at 14.97 in the Triple Jump and 6.95 in the Long Jump she seems to be unbeatable in both events.
Lebedeva, who was the winner of the Triple in this meeting in 2000 and 2001 meetings, will this year face other top names. Among them the silver medallist from the World Championships in Paris, Cameroon’s Francoise Mbango, but also two more Russians, Anna Pyatykh, who was 4th in Paris and Yelena Oleynikova, who was 8th in the last World Championships.
Some Greek athletes, the former European champion Olga Vasdeki, Chryssopigi Devetzi (8th in Paris) and the new blood of the event Irene Dimitraki, who has already exceeded the 14 metres barrier this year, will also participate in the competition.
Lebedeva plans to compete also in the Long Jump, where the list includes some impressing entries: Tatyana Kotova, silver medallist in the World Championships last year, former twice World champion Italy’s Fiona May, and two more Russians, Olga Rublyova and Irina Simagina, and the Greek Champion Niki Xanthou.
Pedroso faces Beckford
Cuba’s Luis Meliz has the best season’s mark (8.10m) among the participants in the men’s Long Jump. The entry list includes one of the modern legends of the event, Ivan Pedroso who is a former five-time World Indoor champion, but also Jamaica’s James Beckford, World silver medallist from Paris last summer. Getting the crowd’s attention will be the Greek champion Luis Tsatoumas, the reigning European U23 Champion and one of the country’s warmest, hopes for the future.
Men’s High Jump
Yaroslav Rybakov, European Champion in Munich 2002 and Sweden's Staffan Strand, bronze medallist in the same championship will meet with Andrey Sokolovskiy, silver medallist in the World Indoor Championships held in Birmingham last year and Dragutin Topic from Serbia and Montenegro.
Ten track events on the card
In the men’s 60m, the spectators will welcome the Canadian champion whose family is of Greek origin, Nicolas Macrozonaris, who will compete with Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu and Nigeria’s Uchenna Emedolu. Besides the presence of the best Greek sprinter for this year, Angelos Pavlakakis, many of the other top national sprint names will have their first dash of the season. For instance, Georgios Theodoridis will have the chance to make the standard for the World Indoor Championships (Budapest, Hungary, 5-7 March 2004).
In the 200m race Marcin Jedrusinski of Poland, Dominic Demeritte of Bahamas, Claudio Roberto Souza from Brazil, along with the American Ramon Clay are the most significant entries.
The current 1500m world leader, the Ukrainian Ivan Hesko plans to run in the 800m against the fastest runner of 2003, Kenya’s Wilfred Bungei. The start list for this event also includes his compatriot William Yiampoy, the Russian Dmitriy Bogdanov, and Botwana’s Glody Dube. Among the participants of the 3000m. are the Kenyans Bernard Lagat, Mark Bett, and Paul Bitok and Ukraine’s Sergiy Lebid.
The World Indoor 60m champion Zhanna Block tops the entries in the women’s dash, while Russian Svetlana Goncharenko and Romania’s Ionela Tirlea are the top athletes in the 400m. In this race, the Greek champion Chryssoula Goudenoudi, who has three times broken the national record this year, will have a great opportunity to improve even more.
The women’s 1500m race is expected to be a rapid one. The fastest runner for this season, Ethiopia’s Kutre Dulecha after breaking the African record with 4.01.90 in Karlsruhe, will aim to improve the World record which stands at 3.59.98 and will has to compete with Belarus’ Alesya Turova and Hungary’s Judit Varga.
In the women’s 60m Hurdles Spain’s Aliuska Lopez and Haiti’s Nadine Faustin, along with the Greek Champion Flora Redoumi are expected to produce a race under 8 seconds. Redoumi, who won the European Cup last week, aims to improve again the national record and go to Budapest with upgraded prospects. In the men’s event, Cuba’s Olympic champion Anier Garcia and Yoel Hernandez are the stronger entries.