Editing a statistics handbook for a global athletics event focuses the mind wonderfully on the new facts and figures which might emerge at the championships about to unfold.
The IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 will certainly see athletics of the highest standard with all manner of records, but what statistics will help us put into context the results to come across the four days of action?
The United States have headed the medal table at the past four editions and will be expected to do so again on home soil. The host country has now won a total of 95 golds since 1985, so it is reasonable to assume that at some point during this year’s championships, the 100th US gold will be won.
Purists will know that four of those 95 golds came in events without full championships status: Diane Dixon’s success at the 1985 World Indoor Games and three further exhibition titles in 1993. Even not counting those, a 100th gold would be possible given that the USA won as many as 10 in Istanbul in 2012.
We won’t know for sure who their new champions are likely to be until after the US Championships, but surely whoever is selected after that meeting will be a contender in most events.
This might be a championships for the old-timers. Chris Brown and Bernard Lagat are already world indoor legends at the 400m and 3000m respectively and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the podium again; each could take a sixth individual medal.
Assuming he has no reaction to his episode of cramp in Glasgow, 39-year-old Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis would be a contender for gold in the men’s 60m. He would be his country’s first ever champion indoors.
Ruth Beitia nearly won gold in Sopot 2014. If the 36-year-old were to do so in Portland, she would knock over two statistical skittles: Spain’s first ever female world indoor champion and the oldest-ever winner of a high jump title. In any case, just by being at the championships she’ll match Maria Mutola’s appearance record of nine editions.
Another Mutola record – of nine medals in one event – cannot be equalled in 2016, but Meseret Defar will climb to second on that list if she wins a seventh medal in the 3000m.
With just two per country per event, there has never been a medal sweep at the World Indoor Championships. The IAAF World Indoor Tour wildcard opens up this possibility in Portland, especially the men’s 60m, 3000m and women’s 1500m and 60m hurdles.
In the women’s 1500m, the prohibitive favourite will be Genzebe Dibaba, as she will be at 3000m. She would not be the first to win that particular double; both Hail Gebrselassie and Gabriela Szabo managed it in Maebashi 1999 though they each only had to contest a straight final at the long distance.
Further absorbing possibilities based on early season performances: Asafa Powell could finally win a global individual title after 12 years of heartbreak, Bralon Taplin could became the third Grenadian (after Alleyne Francique and Kirani James) to be a world champion at 400m; high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi could provide Italy’s first world indoor gold since 2001, long jumper Bachana Khorava could be Georgia’s first ever world indoor medallist (or finalist); new Asian champion Betlhem Desalegn could become the first United Arab Emirates woman to win an IAAF medal; Gong Lijiao could win China’s first women’s world indoor gold for 25 years.
Twenty-six countries have contested every edition of the World Indoor Championships and the World Indoor Games. Of these ‘ever presents’, Austria are Japan are the only two without any golds, even in 1985. Sadly the 2016 world lists indicate that this situation probably won’t change, though Seito Yamamoto could be in the mix for medals in the men’s pole vault.
At the other end of the scale, there are seven countries who have yet to supply any competitor at the World Indoor Championships, so it will be a welcome moment if a man or woman from Belize, Kosovo, Montenegro, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, South Sudan, East Timor or Vietnam takes to the track, runway or shot put circle at the Oregon Convention Center.
Mark Butler for the IAAF
Leading medal-winning countries at World Indoor Games and Championships