At the pre-meet press conference, Kenenisa Bekele confirmed that an assualt on Daniel Komen's 3000m World indoor record is 'possible.' (Hasse Sjogren) © Copyright
Preview 20 February 2007 – Stockholm, Sweden

Bekele gunning for 3000 WR, while Swedish stars share the spotlight - Stockholm preview

20 February 2007Stockholm, SwedenEver since 1990 the international invitational in the Stockholm Globe Arena has been one of the major events on the indoor circuit. Still the 2007 edition of the GE Galan – IAAF Indoor Permit - on Tuesday (20) promises to become the best ever qualitywise with no less than twelve exciting events all but three featuring at least one gold medallist from either Olympic Games, World Championships or European Championships. And the remaining three events have some silver and bronze medallists...

Bekele: Komen’s 3000m WR is “possible on a special day”

Flash back to Stockholm, Sweden, 19 February 1997: At the press conference podium a soft spoken Ethiopian distance runner says that he is in form to try for a very fast time, perhaps even a World Indoor Record, the next night at the athletics gala in the Globe Arena.

Return to 19 February 2007: At the press conference podium a soft spoken Ethiopian distance runner says that he is in form to try for a very fast time, perhaps even a World Indoor Record, the next night at the athletics gala in the Globe Arena.

A decade ago the athlete was Haile Gebrselassie and he did indeed set a new World Indoor Record the following evening as he became the very first sub-13 minutes 5000m runner indoors. Now the athlete was Kenenisa Bekele, who has made a habit of matching/surpassing everything his role model achieved, and the task in front of Bekele is trying to break the 3000m record of 7:24.90 belonging to Kenyan Daniel Komen since 1998.

Bekele – two days ago running a World best for 2000m thanks to an absolutely spectacular finish - himself was well aware of how tough a task it would be:

“I am in good shape and I was very happy with my 2000m race in Birmingham as that distance really is too short for me. Beating Komen's record will not be easy, but it is possible on a special day if the pace is good and if everything else also is perfect.”

Looking at the cast for the 18th edition of the "GE Galan" in the Stockholm Globe Arena Bekele probably will need that special day to compete for the attention from the already sold out arena: He lead off a press conference of almost two and half hours where a string of world class athletes visited the podium to be questioned by a large congregation of journalists.

Swedish jumping stars on display

Of course the jumping events had the strongest representation. A very upbeat Christian Olsson looked very much forward to jumping on one of his favourite Triple Jump runways.

“It could be a little bit tricky to find the right rhythm but I have always jumped well here,” said the reigning Olympic and European champion from Sweden. “If you manage to take advantage of the ‘bounce’ in the runway it almost feels like having a 2.0 following wind. Despite having only one legal jump in Birmingham on Saturday I felt that everything began to click technically. My second jump there was 17.50+ with only a marginal foul, so I am definitely looking for improving my world leading 17.44 tomorrow.”

Which probably will be more or less necessary to keep his winning streak as Christian will be opposed by up-and-coming young Cubans David Giralt and Osniel Tosca who currently occupy positions No 2 and 3 on the 2007 World Indoor list.

Momentum with Holm and Thörnblad

Coming into the meet with lots of confidence are also high jumpers Stefan Holm and Linus Thörnblad. Last week Holm defeated "half the world" with his 2.37 in Banská Bystrica on Tuesday and the next day Thörnblad took care of "the other half" with his 2.34 in Bydgoszcz.

Holm's own analysis of the current situation was straightforward.

“The reason why 2007 has begun so much better for me than last year is very simple,” the 30-year-old Olympic champion explained. “This time I have been able to train according to plan since November while last year I had a string of injuries and illnesses making a mockery of all planning. Getting the 100th 2.30+ meet in Banská Bystrica in front of an enthusiastic crowd holding up "Holm 100" signs was a marvellous experience.”

“And as long as I stay healthy and have no problem finding new challenges to keep me motivated, for exampe Patrik Sjöberg's score of 118 meets at 2.30+ is one. But of course I have also thought about the chance of becoming the first ever double Olympic champion in my event. For (Tuesday) I am mainly hoping to keep the level of consistent jumping I have had so far this winter.”

Thörnblad, not yet turned 22 with most of his career in front of him, didn't need to talk about any special reasons to maintain his motivation.

“I haven't made any major changes this year, I just want to continue to build upon last year,” said Thörnblad, who last year jumped to bronze at the World Indoor Championships. “To be consistent at the 2.30 level and to do my best jumping in the major international events. Because to me the important thing is how you compete when the chips are down. As for (Tuesday) I very much want to jump well as I haven't managed to do that here before.”

And Thörnblad will have to compete well if he has any winning ambitions. Because he will be facing not just formidable compatriot Holm but also foreign guests like Yaroslav Rybakov (the Globe Arena record holder with his 2.38 two years ago), Andriy Sokolovskiy and Tomas Janku – all of whom this winter have matched or surpassed Thörnblad's PB 2.34.

Slesarenko, Hellebaut and Vlasic invade Bergqvist territory

No less competitive will the women's High Jump where reigning Olympic and World Indoor champion Yelena Slesarenko takes on reigning World champion Kajsa Bergqvist and reigning European champion Tia Hellebaut, yet the winner could very well be Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic who has jumped the highest (2.01) of the participants previously this winter.

Bergqvist expressed frustration about how the beginning of this indoor season has turned out.

“Four meets at 1.95-1.97 was not what I had expected after having been able to train according to plan during the autumn and earlier winter,” said the Swede, who last year raised the World record indoors to 2.08. “I am 5-7 centimeters below my previous level, I just haven't got the rhythm and the quickness in my run-up and therefore not the necessary lift off the ground.”

“When you are in form everything just comes naturally and you don't have to think about any details technically,” Bergqvist continued. “Now I have perhaps been thinking too much about what is wrong. However, it did feel better in Banská Bystrica last week where I was quite close to making 2.00 for the first time this year. So hopefully I will get it (here) instead.”

Hellebaut, the Belgian record holder, has already cleared 2.00m in her first meet this year but after her brilliant Pentathlon the Belgian got ill last week and felt a little bit uncertain about her current form.”

“Before I got ill I was in very good shape and I had progress in all events,” said Hellebaut. “I don't know how much this illness has affected my form, so I have not yet decided whether I will compete in the High Jump or the Pentathlon in Birmingham. The combined events are really my first love – but the High Jump is also very nice.”

Klüft, Kallur also vying for attention

But it is not just in the jumping events that the 2007 GE Galan will feature Swedish medallists from the 2006 European Championships in Göteborg.

Olympic, world and European champion Carolina Klüft will compete in a special triathlon consisting of 60m Hurdles, the High Jump and 400m where she will meet the Göteborg silver and bronze medallists Karen Ruckstuhl and Lilli Schwarzkopf.

“I am little bit nervous about the hurdles as my practice for this event has been very limited due to the injury I had last year,” said Klüft. “Now I can run the hurdles without any pain but it is still something else to do it in a competitive setting.”

Susanna Kallur, who has lost only one hurdles competition indoors during the last three winters, is back on track and will compete against the likes of Canadian Perdita Felicien, Spaniard Glory Alozie, Aurelia Trywianska of Poland and Russian champion Aleksandra Antonova after having been forced to miss Karlsruhe due to a knee injury.

“It was absolutely nothing serious,” said Kallur, this year’s world leader at 7.85. “I just hit a hurdle with my right knee in training so it swelled up and got a little red and blue. I only had to rest from running for a couple of days.

“I have no explanation why I have been more successful indoors than outdoors. Perhaps it is due to the indoor season being so short that you never get weary. Instead you are really looking forward to every competition, it is almost like going to a party!”

Johan Wissman will continue his transition from the 200m – where he got the silver medal at last summer’s European championships – to the 400m. In his first attempt on the international scene last Saturday in Birmingham he promptly lowered his indoor PB by a second finishing runner-up in 46.22.

“I am very happy with the race in Birmingham, but I am still in the process of learning the event, so I won't make any specific promise for (Tuesday).”

As if not all this would have sufficed for constituting a top class indoor meet, the 2007 GE Galan will also offer:

- Men's 60m Hurdles with world leader Dayron Robles
- Women's Pole Vault with Tatyana Polnova and the NR-alternating Czech duo Pavla Rybova and Katerina Badurova
- Men's 800m with world leader Wilfred Bungei against Amine Lalou and European Champion Bram Som
- Women's 1500m with the top-3 of the World list headed by Lidia Chojecka
- Men's 1500m with World leader Daniel Kipchirchir Komen challenged by the clock and by countrymen Augustine Choge and Isaac Songok.

So not just Bekele, but also any other athlete wanting to receive centre stage attention at the Globe Arena, will need to have a very special day!

Lennart Julin for the IAAF