With the sudden withdrawal today of local heroine Kim Gevaert, the KBC Flanders Indoor - IAAF Indoor Permit - in Gent on Sunday (24) will now be highlighted by the men’s 3000m with Daniel Kipchirchir Komen (KEN), the 1000m with the junior sensation Abubaker Kaki (SUD), the Pole Vault headed by Yevgeniy Lukyanenko (RUS)', and a strong Cuban turnout in the men’s Triple Jump with Betanzos, Tosca and Copello on the infield.
The European sprint champion Kim Gevaert – 60m, 100m, 200m - has not recovered from a slight illness that started on Tuesday and is physically not fit enough to compete on Sunday. Muriel Hurtis-Houairi from France has been added to the startlist of the 60m by way of replacement.
The current world leader Yevgeniya Polyakova from Russia will be the French athlete's greatest opponent in the Topsporthal, where a capacity crowd was expecting to cheer Gevaert home. Anna Geflikh (RUS), Vida Anim (GHA) and Laura Turner (GBR) are also in the line-up.
Hellebaut vs. Kivimyagi in the High Jump
Thankfully Belgium's other local favourite, high jumper Tia Hellebaut will be competing and takes on Tatyana Kivimyagi (RUS) and Tatyana Efimenko (KGZ). The European Indoor champion is aiming for a medal in the World Championships Pentathlon where she seeks to take advantage of her world class high jumping. Hellebaut ranks fifth in the actual Pentathlon Top Lists, but she is confident that she can raise her performance level at the World Championships.
Anna Geflikh is the favourite in the 200m against Hanna Mariën (BEL) and Thelia Sigère (FRA). The 60m Hurdles gives Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep the occasion to sharpen her form against Adriana Lamalle and Reina-Flor Okori from France, Nevin Yanit (TUR) and Belgian record holder Eline Berings who actually lives and trains in Gent.
Daniel Kipchirchir Komen takes on a 3000m challenge
The 3000m is expected to be one of the strongest events of the day. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, the best in the world so far at 1500m, wants to check his form on the longer distance as well.
“It’s hard to tell if I can do better than the world season’s best mark of 7:31.09 from Tariku Bekele. My first goal is to attack the meeting record of 7:35.15 from my compatriot Moses Kiptanui.” Kipchirchir Komen will run the 1500m for Kenya at the World Indoor Championships.
“The 1500m is a tactical race, but I’m prepared for all sorts of tactics. I have the speed, the endurance and the confidence to win. I want to be the world champion in Valencia.”
He also is keen to talk a lot about the situation in his country, where he witnessed violence and tribal tensions. “There has to be respect for human rights. I believe that sports and athletics can contribute to unite the people in Kenya and to bring peace. Yes, I am still proud to run for my country and to carry the flag and the colours of Kenya.”
Moroccons Khalid El Amri and Ali Maataoui and fellow Kenyans Isaak Kipruto Sang and James Kosgei are in the race to put the pressure on.
The 1000m is hardly less interesting with world leader, the fastest junior indoors of all-time Abubaker Kaki from Sudan taking on the challenge against Belal Mansoor Ali from Bahrain and Suleiman Simotwo from Kenya. Also in the fray could be Ismail Kipngetich Kombich (KEN) and Ismail Ismail (SUD).
Lukyanenko hits the international Pole Vault scene
At the age of 23, Yevgeniy Lukyanenko surprisingly placed 6th at the World Championships in Osaka in 2007. Since then the Russian only seems to have grown in confidence and consistency. Lukyanenko is the world indoor leader with 5.85m but the field in Gent includes Jérôme Clavier (FRA) who already cleared 5.80m this year, Sergey Kucheryanu who was the European Cup winner with 5.75m, Denis Yurchenko (UKR), Steve Lewis (GBR) and Fabio Gomes Da Silva (BRA). This should be a thrilling and entertaining event as ever, especially if local pole vaulter Kevin Rans can mix in with the favourites.
A strong Cuban delegation gathers in the Triple Jump. Yoandri Betanzos is certainly the internationally most experienced of them, but Osniel Tosca and Alexis Copello have the guts and the ambition to take their chance. Yevgeniy Plotnir (RUS) and Mykola Savolaynen (UKR) are the other main contenders.
In the men’s 60m, the crowd will be able to savour the flowing sprinting action from Jaysuma Saidy Ndure who brought down the Norwegian national record to 6.56 in Birmingham last week. Kim Collins (SKN), Rikki Fifton (GBR), and Henry Vizcaino (CUB) are in a battle too.
Tickets are sold out, but fans can get live coverage on Belgian television.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF