Dayron Robles speeds to 12.92 seconds in Stuttgart (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Paris, France

Robles the central attraction on Paris’ start list - PREVIEW

Four current world season leaders will take part in the Meeting SEAT in Bercy on Friday (21) evening, with Dayron Robles (60m Hurdles), Yevgeniy Lukyanenko (Pole Vault), Olusoji Fasuba and Yevgenia Polyakova (60m) expected to make the “show” in the POPB hall, which hosted the 1994 European Indoor Championships and 1997 World Indoor Championships.

For the second edition of the meeting, an oval track has been added to include long distance running, and the organisation will test some new formulas for some of the events in order to dynamise the programme.

This winter, every time Dayron Robles steps onto an indoor track, the World record (7.30 set by Colin Jackson 14 years ago) seems under threat. Improving his Area Record to 7.36 in Stuttgart (2 February) and 7.33 in Dusseldorf six days later, the Cuban clocked the 2nd and 3rd all-time best performances in the process.

Robles’ ability to compete in many competitions in a short period of time is outstanding and he will try to prove it again as he competed in Stockholm last night (21), winning in 7.44 seconds, a day before the Bercy race. Incidentally, the same time of 7.44 was also the surprising performance last weekend set by Yevgeniy Borisov, who will be one of Robles chief opponents tonight. The Russian made won the European Indoor Cup with that time and will be closely watched.

Strongest field

Like Robles a winner last year in Bercy, Olusoji Fasuba, African record holder at 100m (9.85), is using a short stay in France to sharpen is preparations before the 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships, Valencia, Spain (7-9 March). Currently the world season leader with 6.51 secs for 60m, the Nigerian expects to lower his personal best of 6.49, which is the old track record held by Colin Jackson in one of his rare non-hurdling performances.

However, Fasuba’s opposition in this event will be tough as the sprint probably has the strongest of all the fields in Bercy: Simone Collio showed great shape in breaking the Italian record in 6.55 sec, making him the 2nd fastest man in 2008. Former World 100m champion Kim Collins (SKN), Brazilian bullet starter Vicente de Lima, and Russian Andrey Yepishin who is coming back close to his best level which took him to a silver at the 2006 World Indoor Championships, will also be prominent faces.

Russia vs France

The women’s 60m will offer another chapter in the dual between the two queens of French sprinting, Christine Arron and Muriel Hurtis-Houairi. Arron, recent winner of the national champs over Hurtis-Houairi, is looking to remain unbeaten this winter after her 7.28 secs in Eaubonne and 7.21 in Bordeaux. Nevertheless, the 100m European record holder (10.73) needs to lower her time closer to her national 60m record (7.06) in order to increase confidence ahead Valencia.

In this quest, Arron will also be pushed by the three fastest Russians of the year. Yevgenia Polyakova, the silver medallist at 2007 European Indoor Championships, set the world leading mark during the Russian Championships with 7.09, a time which is among her six races at 7.20 or under this year. However, she is keenly awaited by her opponents for this is her first race outside of Russia this winter. The same is so for the runner up at Russian nationals, Svetlana Nabokina, who showed significant improvement by winning the European Indoor Cup, lowering her personal best to 7.16. Natalya Murinovich (7.23) completes the Russian trio.

O’Rourke striving for top form

The women’s 60m Hurdles will be crucial for defending World champion Derval O’Rourke in her attempt to recapture her best shape. The Irish woman has been unfortunate this winter as her training was disturbed in early January by a niggling foot injury. Her 8.08 secs opener in Athens showed that she was on her way to quick recovery, but a throat infection hampered her in her following the race in Leipzig (8.20). In order to be competitive in Valencia, she will have to comeback to her 2006 form which led her to the World Indoor gold medal in 7.84.

This Bercy test will be an ideal one as O’Rourke will face three hurdlers who already have broken 8 sec this winter: Anay Tejeda (Cuba), who extinguished the former World Indoor Champion Aliuska Lopez’ national record with 7.90 in the heats in Karlsruhe before scratching in final after the first hurdle; Aurelia Trywianska (Poland), who set her season best with 7.99 in the same race; finally, Aleksandra Antonova, Russian national champion with 7.98.

Experimental

A new concept for this meeting will be tested during the distance running events, with the elimination of the last participant every lap from 500m for men’s 1500m and from 1200m for women’s 3000m. These events’ respective favourites are Suleiman Simotwo (KEN) and Meselech Melkamu (ETH), who of course shouldn’t be affected by this initiative!

Another experiment will see Pole Vaulters allowed to have a maximum of seven efforts, forcing them into a more tactical approach. Yevgeniy Lukyanenko (UKR), 5.85m this winter, will play this new game against the French duo Jérôme Clavier, the revelation of the season with 5.80, and Romain Mesnil, the silver medallist at the World and European Championships.

Finally, eight female Triple Jumpers will be given just four jumps each, after which the four best participants will have one last attempt for the victory. Teresa Nzola Meso Ba will have the best advantage by competing in front of her crowd, and is also in good current shape (14.53m). She faces Oksana Udmurtova (Russia), better known as a long jumper (7.02) despite on constant progresses at Triple Jump (14.43).

P-J Vazel for the IAAF

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