The longest running European international meeting under unbroken sponsorship celebrates a milestone on Saturday as the Sparkassen-Cup – IAAF Indoor permit – meeting presents its 20th edition in the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer Halle.
Thirteen medallists from last summer’s World Championships in Helsinki - including three individual champions - will highlight the evening’s activities.
Kipchoge's fine form promises much again at 3000m
Eliud Kipchoge, the Paris World 5000m champion, and fellow Kenyans Paul Bitok, the two-time Olympic silver medallist, and Mark Bett, who has the fastest ever indoor time in the 10,000m, are the most notable entrants for the men's 3000m. It is a race which will be awaited with much anticipation given that Kipchoge blasted out a 7:33.07 win over the distance in Karlsruhe, Germany last Sunday, indicating that the Olympic 5000m bronze medallist is currently in fine shape.
NOTE. Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar, who won his second consecutive World 3000m Steeplechase title last summer, and was due to contest the men's 3000m, pulled out today with a stomach upset.
Four Helsinki finalists on show in women’s 60mH
With the Winter Olympics approaching in another week, the early-season athletics schedule has become crowded this weekend, with two IAAF Permit meetings on the jam-packed schedule, and another outing in Stockholm set for this evening (2 Feb). This competition for talent seems not to have affected the women’s 60m Hurdles, as three of the top four placers from Helsinki will travel to Stuttgart.
Gold medallist Michelle Perry of the US will be challenged by the silver medallist, Delloreen Ennis London of Jamaica and Germany’s Kirsten Bolm, who finished fourth. Adding to the already strong field will be 2001 World indoor and outdoor champion Anjanette Kirkland of the US, and Athens finalist Lacena Golding-Clarke of Jamaica, along with her compatriots, former World champion Michelle Freeman and Vonette Dixon.
Long Jump for Davis
The men’s Long Jump field will be headed by Walter Davis, the Helsinki victor in the men’s Triple Jump. The multi-talented American will go up against a strong trio of his countrymen - Athens silver medalist John Moffitt, former World Indoor bronze medallist Miguel Pate, and current NCAA indoor champion Aarik Wilson. Also in the field is African champion Jonathan Chimier of Mauritius.
Not since 2002 has Tim Lobinger had as many pre-February competitions as the five he has had this winter. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was the year the German became the European Indoor champion and later won a medal at the outdoor European Championships. Lobinger comes to Stuttgart just four days after raising the world leading pole vault mark to 5.81 in Vienna, and he presents a formidable challenge to the other strongly-credentialed jumpers on the entry list, which includes 2003 World champion Giuseppe Gibilisco of Italy, who is also the Olympic bronze medallist.
Also in the field are current World and European Indoor champion Igor Pavlov of Russia, reigning World Indoor bronze winner Denys Yurchenko from Ukraine, and Germany’s Lars Börgeling, who will defend his European silver medal this summer. Other notables on the start list include Björn Otto and 2001 World finalist Richard Spiegelburg, both of Germany, and Ukraine’s Ruslan Yeremenko.
World 3000m record under threat
The evening’s best chance for a World indoor record lies in the Women’s 3000m with a pair of Ethiopians vying for the honour. Reigning World Indoor 3000 champion Meseret Defar - who barely missed the record last weekend in Boston - will joust with Helsinki 10,000m silver medallist Berhane Adere as they both chase the latter’s record of 8:29.15, established in this same Stuttgart meeting four years ago.
Accompanying this duo will be France’s Bouchra Ghezielle, the Helsinki 1500 bronze medallist; world championships 5000 finalist Zakia Mrisho of Tanzania; Morocco’s Bouchra Chaabi, the current African Steeplechase champion; World Indoor 3000 finalist Maria McCambridge of Ireland; and European indoor finalist Maria Martins of France.
Bungei and Benhassi head 800m entries
The usual surfeit of talent seeking starting spots in the Stuttgart men’s 800m will be divided between that event and the 1000m distance. Contesting the shorter race will be two-time World championships medallist Wilfred Bungei of Kenya and his compatriot Joseph Mutua, World Indoor finalist Amine Laalou of Morocco and his countryman Mohcine Chehibi, plus reigning World Indoor bronze medallist Osmar Dos Santos of Brazil.
The kilometre race will bring together Kenyans Michael Rotich and World 800m bronze winner William Yiampoy of Kenya, plus former World Junior 1500 bronze medallist and last year’s runner-up, Youssef Baba of Morocco. Also of note in the race is seventeen-year-old Bilal Mansour Ali of Bahrain, the World Youth 1500 champion, who began his competitive life as John Yego of Kenya.
The women’s 800m field got a sudden boost with the late entry of Morocco’s Hasna Benhassi, the silver medallist in both Athens and Helsinki, and a former World Indoor 1500 world champion. She will battle Mina Ait Hamou of Morocco - 4th in the Paris World Championships - along with Russians Natalya Tsyganova, a former world indoor bronze winner, and Svetlana Klyuka, the reigning Universiade champion. Also going to the line will be Tetyana Petlyuk of Ukraine, a former European Junior bronze medallist.
Gardener takes on Pognon at the dash
The men’s 60 metres pits Helsinki World finalist Dwight Thomas of Jamaica against the reigning World and European Indoor champion, Jason Gardener of Great Britain. Also in the mix will be European Indoor record holder Ronald Pognon of France and Nigeria’s Olusoji Fasuba, a semi-finalist in Helsinki.
The women’s short sprint will feature Sydney 100 bronze medallist Tayna Lawrence of Jamaica and former World indoor and outdoor champion Zhanna Block of Ukraine.
With the 200m events now stricken from the World and European Indoor programmes, contestants in those events will be taking advantage of rare start opportunities in invitational meetings. No better examples are Dominic Demeritte of the Bahamas and Stuttgart-area resident Tobias Unger, who are respectively the World and European Indoor champions in perpetuity after their victories in Budapest and Madrid the past two winters.
They will meet double European Junior medallist Till Helmke and former European Junior champion Sebastian Ernst, both from Germany.
The women’s one-lap event will find two members of Germany’s 2001 World champion silver medal relay - Birgit Rockmeier and Marion Wagner - challenged by American standout Stephanie Durst.
Heading the list in the men’s 60 metres Hurdles are Jamaica’s Maurice Wignall, 4th in the Athens Olympics, and Stanislav Olijar of Latvia, the reigning European silver medallist and former European Indoor champion. Their principal challengers will be American Ron Bramlett, 4th in the 2004 US Olympic Trials, the Commonwealth Games fifth-placer Charles Allen of Canada, and rapidly-improving Thomas Blaschek of Germany, a former World Junior silver medallist.
Kipchirchir Komen moves back up to 1500m
The current IAAF World Ranked number one for the men’s 1500m, Daniel Kipchirchir Komen of Kenya, heads the entry list in that event after a sparkling 2:18:19 win over 1000m in Karlsruhe last Sunday. Joining him will be compatriots Paul Korir, the reigning World Indoor champion, and Athens semifinalist Timothy Kiptanui, plus former European indoor silver medallist James Nolan of Ireland. Also in the field will be 18-year-old Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco, the reigning World Junior champion, as well as young German standout Stephan Eberhardt, who won the silver medal at last season’s European under-23 competition.
Another IAAF World Rankings Event leader, Tatyana Kotova, will head up the women’s Long Jump, in which her principal competition will come from European Indoor finalist Ineta Radevica of Latvia and reigning Commonwealth champion Elva Goulbourne of Jamaica.
An open women’s 1500m
The women’s 1500 metres has no clear favourite, with 2005 World finalist Helen Clitheroe and 2003 World bronze medallist Hayley Tullett, both of Great Britain, vying with reigning European Indoor bronze medallist Hind Dehiba of France and former European Indoor bronze winner Alesya Turava of Belarus. Also in the pack will be Iryna Lyshchynska of Ukraine, a finalist at the 2003 World Indoor Championships. Making her season debut after several years of abbreviated action will be Sydney Olympic gold medallist Nouria Mérah-Benida of Algeria.
The men’s 400 metres will showcase reigning World Indoor silver medallist Davian Clarke and Helsinki relay bronze medallist Sanjay Ayre, both of Jamaica. The women’s event includes 2003 World Indoor silver medallist Christine Amertil of Bahamas, as well as Germany’s Claudia Marx, a former silver winner at the European Indoor.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF