Olympic 800 metres champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia moves his indoor season onto the international stage this weekend, and World 10,000m champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia will take aim on her own indoor 3000m record as these two luminaries provide the marquee events at Saturday evening’s 19th Sparkassen Cup - IAAF indoor permit meeting - in Stuttgart, Germany (28 Jan).
Mulaudzi, Mutua and Kamel to offer strong 800m opposition
Borzakovskiy still fondly remembers his first competition in Germany almost six years ago. It was in fact the first race outside of his native land for the then-18-year-old. As a completely unknown runner, he caused heads to turn in amazement with his now-trademark final sprint as he easily won the two-lap race in Cottbus early in the 1999 outdoor season.
Saturday’s competition will mark only the second time Borzakovskiy has appeared in Stuttgart. On his previous visit, in 2001, he posted a 1:45.64 win during an indoor season which concluded one month later with a gold medal at the World Indoor Championships in Lisbon.
Even in those early days, Borzakovskiy quickly jumped to the top of the statistical lists in the 800. Now he claims five of the top seven performances of all-time. Only the two World record races of Denmark’s Wilson Kipketer at the 1997 World Indoor Championships top the Russian’s best efforts.
Borzakovskiy will have a strong field to battle on Saturday, with Athens silver medallist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Joseph Mutua of Kenya both capable of winning fast races.
Additionally, Youssef Saad Kamel of Bahrain - formerly Gregory Konchellah of Kenya and the son of ex-world champion Billy - will test the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle track, as will two-time World Indoor medallist Nico Motchebon of Germany and past world indoor finalist Arnoud Okken of the Netherlands, who currently is the event’s season leader at 1:47.83.
Borzakovskiy will also line up against a familiar face in training partner Dmitriy Bogdanov, who himself was a finalist at the most recent European Indoor Championships (in 2002).
And a 1000m alternative…
Last year, Stuttgart meeting director Fredy Schäfer suddenly found himself with an overabundance of talent in the Men’s 800 metres. The only solution was to split the runners into multiple sections, to the genuine satisfaction of no one. This plan allowed Mutua and fellow Kenyan Wilfried Bungei each to claim fast section wins, but it deprived the audience of seeing these top exponents of the event in a head-to-head challenge.
This year, the 800-metre pot is similarly deep, but the runners have been given the option of running that event or notching up to the 1000 metres. The longer event will include reigning African champion William Yiampoy of Kenya, Budapest fourth-placer Laalou Amine of Morocco, and Birmingham finalist Bram Som of the Netherlands, plus one further Kenyan, Michael Rotich.
Adere has her World 3000m record in her sights
Although no attack on the men’s 800 metres World record is part of the meet planning, the same cannot be said for the global standard in the Women’s 3000 metres, which Adere is hoping to better on Saturday. She has run sparingly indoors during her career, but for the past three years she has made Stuttgart her season opener. Her first-ever contact with a board track came here in 2002, and it produced the current World Record of 8:29.15 in the 3000m. Last year, the Ethiopian took more than eight seconds off Gabriela Szabo’s 5000m record here, so it is not surprising that the Stuttgart hall assumes a talisman-like appearance in Adere’s mind.
Pushing the Ethiopian throughout the fifteen laps will be two-time Olympian Jo Pavey of Great Britain, the current European under-23 champion Krisztina Papp of Hungary, and Austria’s Susanne Pumper.
Also of interest in this contest are 18-year-old Siham Hilali of Morocco, the 3000m bronze medallist at last year’s World Junior Championships, and Adere’s compatriot Teyiba Erkesso, who was third over the short course at last year’s World Cross-Country Championships. Saturday’s encounter appears to be Erkesso’s first-ever indoor race. Sabrina Mockenhaupt of Germany also will contribute to this quality field.
Russian women on mass
In the Women’s 1500 metres, Russia’s Yuliya Chizhenko will face the challenges of Birmingham bronze winner Yekaterina Rozenberg, also of Russia, and the current European bronze winner, Alesya Turova of Belarus. European Indoor Cup winner Iryna Lishchinska of Ukraine is also in the field in that event.
Russian women also figure heavily in several shorter track races. Natalya Antyukh, the reigning European Indoor 400 metres champion, will joust over two laps with Tatyana Firova, the current Universiade titlist, as well as with Natalya Ivanova. Also in the competition will be former World Indoor champion Grit Breuer of Germany, who is returning to international competition after an injury pause last season.
The Women’s 800 metres will feature the European Indoor silver medallist, Natalya Tsyganova, and another finalist from that competition, Svetlana Cherkasova. Agnes Samaria of Namibia, the bronze winner at the last Commonwealth Games, is also part of the field, as is yet another Russian, Natalya Lavshuk.
The Men’s 1500 metres will see Timothy Kiptanui of Kenya, fourth last year in Athens, up against Ukrainian Ivan Heshko, whose bronze medal in Paris preceded an Olympic fifth place. The World Indoor 1500 champion from Budapest, Paul Korir of Kenya, and another Athens finalist, Adil Kaouch of Morocco, are also part of the competitor list.
Sihine heads African 3000m parade
Sileshi Sihine, the Olympic silver medallist in the 10K, will once again drop down to the 3000 metres as he did here last year. The Ethiopian will tangle with former African 5K champion Paul Bitok of Kenya, and Birmingham 3K finalist Mushi Salim Jawher of Bahrain (whose early career was under his Kenyan birth name of Leonard Mucheru). Another Kenyan native, James Kwalia, will be contesting his first race wearing his new Qatar colours, while 19-year-old Mulugeta Wondimu of Ethiopia - who ran 12:57.05 last fall in the Berlin Golden League meeting - will be making his indoor debut.
In-form Rogowska highlights the vault
Two Pole Vault competitions stand out among the four jumping events on the program.
The men’s Pole Vault features three members of the six-metre club in American Jeff Hartwig, plus Tim Lobinger and Danny Ecker of Germany. The event’s current world leader at 5.83, Brad Walker of the US, is also slated to compete, as is European silver medallist Lars Börgeling of Germany.
The women’s section is led by this year’s hottest jumper, Anna Rogowska of Poland, whose world-leading 4.73 earlier this week in Bydgoszcz was her second national record in the space of three days. She will be joined by her Polish teammate, Monika Pyrek, the bronze medallist in both Edmonton and Birmingham, plus last year’s World Athletics Finals runner-up, Tatyana Polnova of Russia.
Stringfellow back from injury
The reigning World indoor champion in the men’s Long Jump, Savanté Stringfellow of the US, returns to action after a late spring injury derailed his Olympic plans last season. He heads a deep entry list in that event, which will also feature the Athens fifth-placer, Chris Tomlinson of Great Britain, as well as Budapest bronze medallist Vitaliy Shkurlatov of Russia and Edmonton fourth-placer Miguel Pate of the US. Volodymyr Zyuskov of Ukraine, who finished sixth in Paris, will also be jousting for a high place, as will American Walter Davis and his countryman, Olympic triple-jumper Melvin Lister.
A pair of finalists in last year’s Olympic women’s Long Jump - Tünde Vaszi of Hungary and Germany’s Bianca Kappler - will appear in that event, as will veteran Valentina Gotovska of Latvia, who has been a finalist four times at World Championship competitions since 2001 despite the approach of her 40th birthday later this season. At the other end of the age range will be Denisa Šèerbova of the Czech Republic, the current World Junior champion.
Sydney 100 metres bronze medallist Tayna Lawrence of Jamaica and Bahamian Savatheda Fynes, winner of the same medal at the last Commonwealth Games, are among the notables in the Women’s 60m. Also competing will be Budapest finalist Yuliya Tabakova of Russia and Vida Anim of Ghana.
Budapest 200 metres bronze medallist Tobias Unger of Germany heads the field in that event, which will also include reigning European Junior champion Sebastian Ernst, also of Germany, plus Poland’s Marcin Jedrusinski, a finalist at the last European indoor.
The men’s 60 metres will feature three-time World Championship finalist Deji Aliu of Nigeria, plus Sydney finalist Coby Miller of the US.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF