The biennial European Indoor Cup competition takes place at the CSKA Arena in Moscow on Saturday (Feb 16) and could offer a few vital clues ahead of the 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships, Valencia, Spain (7-9 March).
It is the fourth edition of the eight nation team cup which is led by the French men and the Russian women, the defending European Cup champions both indoors and out.
The star attraction in the 5000 capacity arena, which annual hosts the ‘Russian Winter’ IAAF indoor permit meeting, will be Olympic 800m champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy.
The Russian superstar has been in imperious form this season, winning all seven indoor races he has entered and heads the 800m World Lists after his sparkling time of 1:45.58 in Stuttgart.
In Moscow he competes in the 2000m medley relay where his blistering speed will be utilised in the 600m leg. Borzakovskiy forms one quarter of a powerful Russian team which also includes Dmitriy Bogadanov, who has run 1:46.24 this season and takes on the responsibility of running the 800m leg. With Vladislav Frolov and Roman Smirnov competing in the 400m and 200 legs, respectively, it is hard not to see Russia securing a hat-trick of titles in this rarely run event.
Elsewhere in the men’s competition, two of the world’s top performers in the 400m come head to head in Moscow. Russian champion Maksim Dyldin has been a revelation this season improving his personal best for almost a second and recording an impressive 46.32 in the semi-finals of his national championships.
The 20-year-old, however, will face stiff opposition from Sweden’s versatile sprint ace Johan Wissman. The former 200m man made a successful switch to the 400m last year, reaching the one-lap final at the World Championships in Osaka, and he has maintained his form on the boards, recording 46.37 to win in Valencia earlier this month.
Russia have produced another find in the 800m with Yuriy Koldin hacking almost two seconds from his lifetime best during an impressive early phase of the indoor campaign. Koldin was the second fastest overall at the Russian Championships in 1:46.36, and also won the 1500m title. He faces, among others, 2001 World Championships bronze medallist Pawel Czapiewski in what will be another test of his 800m credentials.
The men’s 60m Hurdles has been a globally red hot event this year, chiefly down to the staggering performances of Cuba’s Dayron Robles. But Germany’s Thomas Blaschek has also been quietly making his mark and has been consistent recording a pair of 7.54 clockings. The European 110m hurdles silver medallist will be up against Russian champion Yevgeniy Borisov and Spain’s European Indoor bronze medallist Jackson Quinonez in the Russian capital.
A world class High Jump should provide the stand out attraction in the women’s competition as Russia bid to make it four wins out of four in the European Indoor Cup.
The 2007 World Championships silver medallist Antionetta Di Martino of Italy makes her indoor debut for the season but faces fierce opposition. German Ariane Freidrich has made a huge advance this year jumping 2.00m in Glasgow while also in the field are 2006 World Indoor bronze medallist Ruth Beitia of Spain and Russia’s former European Under-23 champion Tatyana Kivimyagi, who cleared a personal best of 1.98m earlier this indoor season.
Oleysa Zykina, who heads the world season lists over 400m after her 51.09 sec performance to win the Russian Championships, will be strongly fancied to pick up maximum points in the 400m. Zykina, the 2002 European champion, is showing signs of returning to her best after suffering a number of frustrating years in the sport.
It is hard to oppose Russia’s Svetlana Nabokina in the women’s 60m. Her 7.16 clocking at the Winter Meet in Moscow puts her among the world leaders in her event and she is the fastest in the field by a significant margin.
The 800m could provide one of the races of the day as IAAF World Championship bronze medallist Mayte Martinez makes her first indoor appearance of the season over her speciality distance. The Spaniard will face Italy’s emerging star Elisa Cusma Piccione and Marina Shapayeva yet another sub-2:00 Russian woman.
The 60m Hurdles features another potential medallist at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia as Yauhenia Valadzko of Belarus, who shattered her personal best by 0.16 earlier in the season to record 7.89, is up against Spain’s Josephine Onyia.
Steve Landells for the IAAF