Arriving on the heels of her world-leading 7.08 performance in the 60m in Karlsruhe on Saturday, Ewa Swoboda will command the spotlight when the six-meeting IAAF World Indoor Tour resumes with the Orlen Copernicus Cup in the northern Polish city of Torun on Wednesday (6).
This city of 200,000 is best known as the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, the famed Renaissance polymath who formulated a model of the universe that revolutionised the way we look at the stars by placing the sun at its centre.
On Wednesday the city's centre of attention, and that of the athletics world thanks to a near-global live stream, will fall on the Torun Arena for the meeting’s fifth edition, which this year hosts several key battles in the 26-day chase for World Indoor Tour points and series honours in this year’s 11 designated disciplines.
The World Indoor Tour, this year celebrating its fourth edition, kicked off in Boston on 26 January with the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix and crossed the Atlantic to the Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe two days ago. After reaching its midway point in Torun, further stops will include Madrid (8 Feb) and Birmingham (16 Feb) before the finale in Düsseldorf (20 Feb) where the series winners will be crowned, awarded their US$20,000 prize bonuses and handed the first wildcard entries for the IAAF World Indoor Championships Nanjing 2020.
Swoboda riding solid momentum
No events will be more attentively followed by the sell-out crowd of 5200 expected than the women’s 60m, where Swoboda returns to action four days after producing the finest season’s debut of her young career.
Swoboda sped to a 7.08 win in her heat in Karlsruhe, a scant 0.01 shy of the Polish record she set at this meeting in 2016. She was nearly as fast in the final, clocking 7.10 in a decisive victory. Tonight (4), Swoboda warmed up for Torun with a 7.13 win at the Orlen Cup in Lodz for another dominant win.
Marie Josée Ta Lou will be her key challenger in what has turned out to be the evening's marquee face-to-face. The 30-year-old from Ivory Coast won here last year, two weeks before taking silver over the distance at the World Indoor Championships with a 7.05 lifetime best. Ta Lou was among the top 100m runners in the world in 2018, winning in 11 of her 12 outings. She'll be making her season's debut.
Meanwhile, the men's 400m pits Nathan Strother, the winner in the series opening leg, against Karlsruhe winner Pavel Maslak, the evening's only event where two of this year's World Indoor Tour winners will clash head-on. Maslak, the three-time world indoor champion, clocked 46.78 in Karlsruhe and Strother 46.97 in Boston.
The field also includes Slovenia's Luka Janezic who has run much faster than both courtesy of a 46.13 run in Vienna on 26 January.
Echevarria and Nilsson Montler eye meet long jump record
It’ll be a busy night on the infield, starting with the women’s shot put which kicks off the programme at 18:03 CET. There, the focus will fall on Pole Paulina Guba, the European champion outdoors, who'll be making her second start of the season. The 27-year-old threw 18.10m in her season opener tonight in Lodz, finishing third.
She'll take on German Christina Schwanitz who opened with back-to-back 19-plus metre efforts - 19.07m in Chemnitz and 19.16m in Erfurt - before finishing second in Boston with 18.87m. World indoor champion Anita Marton of Hungary is also in the field, chasing her first solid outing of the season. In her three starts this year, the 30-year-old failed to breach the 18-metre mark.
In the long jump, world indoor champion Juan Miguel Echevarria will be looking to bounce back from his narrow defeat in Karlsruhe, where he was edged by Swede Thobias Nilsson Montler on countback. Both reached 8.08m on Saturday but struggled with their approach, Nilsson Montler achieving just two measured efforts and the Cuban three. The meeting record of 7.98m set by China's Li Jinzhe in 2015 is clearly under threat.
The men's high jump field will be led by authorised neutral athlete Ilya Ivanyuk, the European bronze medallist, who's topped 2.27m this season, and Bahamian Donald Thomas, the 2007 world champion, who was third in Karlsruhe.
Ortega vs Eaton in 60m hurdles
Back on the track, the World Indoor Tour points chase continues in the women’s 800m and men’s 1500m and on the straight in the men’s 60m hurdles.
That event will be headed by Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega, who improved his season's best to 7.59 on Monday in Lodz, his fourth win in as many starts this season. He set the meeting record of 7.48 in 2017.
But Jarret Eaton, the runner-up at the World Indoor Championships last year, has gone a tick faster this season, clocking 7.58 in Mondeville two days ago. He’ll arrive undefeated in three starts this season. Hungary's world bronze medallist Balazs Baji is also in the field.
Muir vs Buchel at 800m
The women's 800m features middle distance star Laura Muir in her first appearance over the distance this season, some speed work as she prepares to defend both her 1500m and 3000m European indoor titles next month. She'll face a good test.
The field includes Selina Buchel, the two-time defending European indoor 800m champion who'll be making her first start of the season over the distance. Poland's Sofia Ennaoui, the European 1500m silver medallist outdoors last year and bronze medallist indoors the year before, is also in the field, along with 21-year-old Ethiopian Habitam Alemu, a finalist at the last two editions of the World Indoor Championships, and Moroccan Rababe Arafi, the 1500m winner here last year.
Tefera on Lewandowski’s turf
The local favourite in the men's 1500m will be Polish middle distance star Marcin Lewandowski, whose most recent international accolade was silver over the distance at last year's World Indoor Championships. He finished behind 19-year-old Samuel Tefera in that tactical Birmingham final; the pair will be reunited in Torun on Wednesday in their 2019 debuts.
Taresa Tolosa, the 2016 world U20 1500m silver medallist, will also be making his season's debut. The 20-year-old won the event here last year.
Kendricks vs Lisek and Wojciechowski
It may be off of the World Indoor Tour programme, but the men's pole vault nonetheless features one of the strongest fields of the night.
World champion Sam Kendricks has won two of his three competitions this season, most recently in Berlin on Friday where he topped 5.86m, currently the second highest vault of the season. But Poles Piotr Lisek, who won here last year, and Pawel Wojciechowski, the 2011 world champion, are catching up. Both topped 5.80m in Lodz tonight with plenty of room to spare.
The women's 400m features European outdoor champion Justyna Święty-Ersetic, who'll be making her 2019 debut, taking on Lea Sprunger of Switzerland, the continental 400m hurdles champion, who defeated the Pole at this meeting last year clocking a 51.28 meeting record. Czech Zuzana Hejnova, a two-time world 400m hurdles champion, is also in the field.
Elvira Herman of Belarus, the European 100m hurdles champion, and Germany's Pamela Dutkiewicz, runner-up to the Belarusian at the European Championships, top the field in the women's 60m hurdles. Dutkiewicz is the world leader at 7.89.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF