After another impressive edition of the Orlen Copernicus Cup in Torun on Wednesday (6), the IAAF World Indoor Tour has reached its midway point with series honours still very much undecided across the 11 designated disciplines.
Staged over the course of 26 action-packed days, the fourth edition of the series began in Boston on 26 January before crossing the Atlantic with stops in Karlsruhe (2 February) and Torun (6 February) with further stops in Madrid on Friday (8 February) and Birmingham (16 February) before reaching its final destination Düsseldorf on 20 February where the series winners will be crowned, awarded their US$20,000 prize bonuses and handed the first wildcard entries for the IAAF World Indoor Championships Nanjing 2020.
Wednesday's meeting was the third in as many 2019 World Indoor Tour stops that attracted a sell-out crowd – sell-outs have already been announced in Madrid, Birmingham and Dusseldorf, underscoring the tour's popularity and appeal. Those crowds, along with fans in virtually every territory in the world who have been able to follow along via live streams from the Karlsruhe and Torun stops, have been rewarded with some dramatic competitions which ensure that the winners won't be revealed until the tour's conclusion.
How it works
The tour features 11 point-scoring disciplines, five for men (400m, 1500m, 60m hurdles, high jump, long jump) and six for women (60m, 800m, 3000m/5000m, pole vault, triple jump and shot put).
The first four finishers are awarded points: 10 for first, seven for second, five for third and three for fourth.
Each athlete’s best three results will count towards their point score and the athlete with the most points in each discipline at the end of the tour will be declared the winner.
Where we stand
In the men's 400m, three-time world champion Pavel Maslak, the winner in Karlsruhe and Torun, has collected 20 points to hold a three-point lead over Boston winner Nathan Strother, who won his section in Torun on Wednesday but finished second overall. Strother brings that momentum to Madrid on Friday. Competitive opportunities remain in both Birmingham and Dusseldorf.
The battle in the men's 1500m is wide open. Bethwel Birgen has tallied 14 points to carry a narrow four-point lead to the Madrid start line on Friday. Boston winner Yomif Kejelcha, Karlsruhe winner Vincent Kibet and Samuel Tefera, who raced to a world lead in Torun, are in a three-way tie for third with 10 points apiece. Birmingham and Dusseldorf are also staging the event.
Jarret Eaton has tallied 15 points in the men’s 60m hurdles contest, to bring a five-point lead to the start blocks in Madrid. But there he'll once again take on Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega, who impressed in Torun with a 7.49 victory to equal the world lead while beating Eaton into third. Momentum is clearly on the Spaniard's side. After Madrid, the top hurdlers will also compete in Birmingham and Dusseldorf.
The men's high jump is also wide open, with Naoto Tobe, the world leader courtesy of his 2.35m Japanese record leap in Karlsruhe, and authorised neutral athlete Ilya Ivanyuk, who won in Torun, tied with 10 points apiece. Two competitions remain: Birmingham and Dusseldorf.
The men’s long jump has also turned into a tight battle, with world indoor champion Juan Miguel Echevarria of Cuba and Swede Thobias Nilsson Montler tied with 17 points each after swapping 1-2 finishes, Nilsson Montler winning in Karlsruhe and Echevarria in Torun. Neither of the two key protagonists will compete in Madrid, leaving Birmingham to decide the winner.
With two wins in as many women’s 60m World Indoor Tour races, world leader Ewa Swoboda has tallied 20 points to piece together a 10-point lead over Boston winner Michelle-Lee Ayhe. In Madrid, she’ll once again face Dafne Schippers, who was a well-beaten second behind the Pole in Karlsruhe. But with stops to follow in Birmingham and Dusseldorf, fortunes in the event can still turn.
The women's 800m will almost certainly come down to the wire. Nobody has raced more than once thus far, with Ethiopian Habitam Alemu, the Torun winner, and Raevyn Rogers, who triumphed in Boston, tied with 10 points apiece. Britons Laura Muir and Lynsey Sharp trail by three with seven points each with races remaining in Birmingham and Dusseldorf.
It's a similar scenario in the women’s 3000m/5000m, with Melissa Courtney and Konstanze Klosterhalfen, winners in Karlsruhe and Boston respectively, tied for the lead. But a victory in Madrid for Gudaf Tsegay, who was third in Karlsruhe, could catapult the Ethiopian to the top of the standings with just the Birmingham race remaining.
Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi tops the standings in the women's pole vault with 17 points, four ahead of USA's Katie Nageotte, the Boston winner, and Canadian record-holder Alysha Newman, who finished in a four-way tie in Karlsruhe. But Newman, as well as Anzhelika Sidorova, the world indoor silver medallist currently in fourth place with 10 points, should be adding to their totals after their appearances in Madrid. Points will still be up for grabs in Birmingham and Dusseldorf.
The women's triple jump is shaping into a two-woman battle. Karslruhe winner Ana Peleteiro leads two-time world indoor champion Yulimar Rojas 10-7, but both will butt heads again on Friday in Madrid. And then again at the finale in Dusseldorf.
With her victory in Torun, Christina Schwanitz will be sitting in a strong position when the women’s shot put resumes and concludes in Dusseldorf. The German has collected 17 points, seven ahead of Maggie Ewen and Jessica Ramsey of the USA. She'll have to finish outside of the top four for anyone to mount a challenge.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF