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Leipzig set for inaugural European Indoor Cup

Leipzig moves to centre stage in European indoor athletics on Saturday as the German city hosts the first-ever European Indoor Cup competition in the new Arena Leipzig.

The format of the competition is essentially the same as for the outdoor European Cup competitions, which have been standard fixtures for many years: men’s and women’s teams from eight nations will compete, with one competitor per nation in each discipline. 

The scoring will be nine points for first place, seven points for second, six for third, etc. However, unlike the outdoor competitions, there will be no relegation based on team scoring. 

The countries invited to compete were selected based on the placings at last summer’s various European Cup competitions.  The first six teams in the Super League competition, plus the winners of the two First League European Cup competitions received invitations. 

This same formula will be used in future years to select the participating countries, with the added proviso that the host nation will always be guaranteed both a men’s and a women’s team.  If the host country has not otherwise qualified based on European Cup competition, the number of invited Super League teams will be reduced by one in order to accommodate the host nation.

On Saturday, men’s and women’s teams will be present from Germany, Great Britain, Russia, France, Poland, Spain and Greece. The Italian men and Romanian women make up the eighth team in each division. 

Because of the one-day format of the European Indoor Cup, an abbreviated slate of events will be offered for the streamlined (ca. 150-minute) programme. 

Both men’s and women’s divisions will compete in the 60, 400, 800, 1500, 3000, 60 Hurdles, and a progressive-style relay (200-400-600-800). 

In addition, the men will contest the High Jump, Long jump and Shot Put, while additional events for the women will be the Pole Vault and the Triple Jump.

Of equal interest this weekend will be the competition venue itself, for which the European Indoor Cup will serve as the first major athletics competition. The Arena Leipzig was constructed over a two-year period ending last May at a cost of 42 million Euros (approximately $45 million). The seating capacity ranges from slightly more than four thousand for athletics events up to twelve thousand for rock concerts.

The state-of-the-art arena boasts the only six-lane track in the country and will host the German Indoor Athletics Championships one week later, on 22 and 23 February.

The spacious track features hydraulic curves which can be raised or lowered to meet specific needs. In addition, there are two areas available for each of the technical events so that lengthy programmes, such as that of the German Championships, may be more easily accommodated within a specified time frame. 

The entire hall has a Mondo surface, and underneath the main arena is a running area (four lanes, 140 metres long) for warming up. 

As part of the 2012 Olympic bid by the German state of Saxony, the Arena Leipzig appears as one of the crown jewels. And the venue has already being considered as again being the host for next year’s European Indoor Cup. 

Ten medal winners from last year’s European Championships in Munich, including three gold medallists, will be competing. 

Hurdle champion Glory Alozie of Spain will go against Linda Ferga-Khodadin of France in a rematch of their one-two finish in Vienna last year.

European High Jump winner Yaroslav Rybakov will face the Munich fourth-placer, Alessandro Talotti of Italy. And World record holder Svetlana Feovanova will be challenged by German record-holder Annika Becker in the Pole Vault.

The top long jumper during this indoor season, Yago Lamela, leads the entries in that event, with Ruslan Gataullin of Russia appearing as the Spaniard’s most serious rival.

In addition, four more reigning European Indoor champions will contest their specialty events.

Jason Gardener, who suffered cramps in his last race in Chemnitz and returned to Britain to recover from a cold over the weekend, is listed in the men’s 60 metres. Fresh from a South African training camp is Poland’s Marek Plawgo, who may have his hands full in the 400 metres, with David Canal of Spain (second in Munich) and a rejuvenated Jamie Baulch of Great Britain.

Vienna Shot Put titlist Manuel Martínez of Spain will tangle with Ralf Bartels of Germany (third in Munich), while Natalya Antyukh of Russia attempts to even up her season record against Grit Breuer of the host country in the women’s 400 metres. 

After a 1:46.13 PB in the men’s 800 metres in Chemnitz last week, Germany’s René Herms has been selected to represent the host country in that event, while Olympic champion Nils Schumann will run the 800 metres in the relay. The man who finished just behind Herms, Russia’s Dmitriy Bogdanov, will challenge the 20-year-old German. 

And European Indoor 200 Metre champion Marcin Urbaœ will also see duty only in the relay with his Polish teammates. 

Ed Gordon for the IAAF