USA's Sandi Morris celebrates her winning clearance in the pole vault (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Dusseldorf, Germany

Morris, Maslak and Schwanitz among the headliners as the World Indoor Tour moves to Dusseldorf

Just four days after the 2017 IAAF World Indoor Tour kicked off in Boston, the global series continues at the PSD Bank Meeting in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Wednesday (1).

After last year’s successful four-meeting inauguration, the series expanded with Dusseldorf joining the exclusive club. For the first time in the meeting’s 12-year-history women will take over the pole vault pit. With a field that includes Olympic silver medallist Sandi Morris and world U20 record-holder Wilma Murto, the meeting record’s bar could be raised to a height that proves challenging for years to come.

Morris took world indoor silver in Portland and, despite a fractured wrist in May, ended 2016 with an Olympic medal. She then added the proverbial cherry thanks to a 5.00m clearance at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels, making her only the third woman to surpass the five-metre mark. The 24-year-old cleared 4.65m in Reno this season and is looking to continue where she left off last year.

Challenging her will be 18-year-old Murto. Finland’s teenage pole vault prodigy has a 4.71m PB and has already topped 4.66m this season to currently rank second in the world. Also worth keeping an eye on in in the chase for World Indoor Tour points is Switzerland’s Nicole Buchler. The 33-year-old enjoyed a strong 2016 season that saw her better or equal the national record on six occasions, one which now stands at 4.80m. She narrowly missed out on a medal at last year’s World Indoor Championships and will open her 2017 campaign in Dusseldorf.

Swoboda to challenge world indoor champion Pierre

From one U20 world record-holder in the field to another one on the track.

The women’s 60m, also a scoring event on the World Indoor Tour, features Poland’s Ewa Swoboda who will take on world indoor champion Barbara Pierre of the USA.

Swoboda improved the world U20 record to 7.07 in Torun last year before taking 100m silver at the World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz. Pierre meanwhile has a 7.00 lifetime best set last year.

The two will face a host of up-and-coming German sprinters. The strongest among them is 24-year-old Rebekka Haase, who recorded a 7.14 PB on Friday, currently No.2 in the world. Murielle Ahoure’s meeting record of 7.08 from 2013 could be in jeopardy.

On the men’s side, evergreen Kim Collins is looking to defend his two-year reign at the meeting. The 40-year-old will face Olympic 200m bronze medallist Christophe Lemaitre, who ran 6.58 at the beginning of January.

Sprint hurdler Dimitri Bascou, another French Olympic bronze medallist, is also heading to Dusseldorf. Compatriot Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who with a host of world and European indoor medals has made a name for himself as somewhat of an indoor specialist, and Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega will join him in pursuit of 60m hurdles tour points. European champion Cindy Roleder is headlining the women’s field, a non-scoring event.

Maslak vs Taplin in the 400m 

Another dominant figure on the indoor circuit is current meeting record holder Pavel Maslak. The Czech tops the world lists over the unconventional 300m and 500m distances, and will be keen to prove his form over his main 400m distance.

With the men’s 400m a tour scoring event, the two-time world indoor champion will have one eye on securing his ticket to the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 early. Grenada’s Bralon Taplin, who missed out on a medal in Portland last year, could be Maslak’s main challenger.

Schwanitz looking for 2015 form

In the women’s shot all eyes will be on Germany’s Christina Schwanitz who will be looking to regain the form that brought her the 2015 world title. After sitting out last year’s indoor season, Schwanitz battled with a shoulder injury and finished a disappointing sixth in Rio. With the shot put a scoring event and Schwanitz also confirmed for the tour’s Karlsruhe leg, a win in Dusseldorf could prove a vital step in securing her wildcard.

Meanwhile, world indoor champion Yulimar Rojas will be favourite in the women’s triple jump. The 21-year-old Venezuelan improved her own national record to 15.02m last June, took Olympic silver in August, and last Friday reached a South American indoor record of 14.79m in Madrid, the best indoor mark in the world for four years.

Lining up alongside her and hoping for an extra push from Dusseldorf’s sold-out arena will be Germany’s world indoor silver medallist Kristin Gierisch. Also in the field is Portugal’s European champion Patricia Mamona, who arrives after winning the Boston leg of the tour.

With no steeplechase to contest indoors, Olympic bronze medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad will be lining up over 1500m instead. Joining the Frenchman will be a contingent of Kenyan milers including Elijah Manangoi and Silas Kiplagat, the 2015 and 2011 world silver medallists respectively. The only athlete in the field with tour points to his name so far is Jake Wightman. The Briton earned four after his third-place showing in the Boston mile.

The women’s 800m field includes a host of European talent chasing qualifying standards for the continent’s upcoming indoor championships in Belgrade. World champion Maryna Arzamasova ran 2:04.85 to finish outside the points in Boston and will face a field that includes Poland’s Joanna Jozwik, who finished fifth in a fast Olympic final, European silver medallist Renelle Lamote of France and European indoor champion Selina Buchel of Switzerland.

Although the men won’t be chasing points over 800m, the line-up promises to be equally thrilling with Poland’s Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski toeing the line. The two have raced each other 53 times over 800m since 2008, with Kszczot holding an 11-race edge. Last year’s tour winner Kszczot has five victories in Dusseldorf to his name already, but with a field that also includes world indoor bronze medallist Erik Sowinski and world bronze medallist Amel Tuka, he’ll have his work cut out for him to up his tally to six.

Michelle Sammet for the IAAF

2017 IAAF World Indoor Tour
28 Jan – Boston, USA
1 Feb – Dusseldorf, GER
4 Feb – Karlsruhe, GER
10 Feb – Torun, POL
18 Feb – Birmingham, GBR