Stockholm, SwedenThe organisers of Wednesday’s GE Galan in Stockholm couldn't have wished for a better promotion than that provided on Saturday in Germany by Blanka Vlasic and Meseret Defar.
The GE Galan is the fifth of nine meetings in the IAAF Indoor Permit series for 2010.
Vlasic, competing in the traditional High Jump gala in Arnstadt, raised her own world leading mark to 2.06m and then attacked the World indoor record by attempting 2.09m, getting quite close with one of her attempts.
Defar, running the 3000m in the prestigious Sparkassen-Cup in Stuttgart, also challenged the World indoor record and came even more tantalizingly close by missing her own record by a mere 0.74 seconds.
Both Vlasic and Defar have fond memories of competing in Stockholm both outdoors at DN Galan and indoors at GE Galan. Vlasic first competed in the GE Galan in 2001 as a teenager and has the arena record at the Olympic Stadium with her 2.07 at the 2007 DN Galan. Defar has both her outdoor and indoor PB's at 5000m from Stockholm: 14:12.88 in 2008 (No 2 world all-time) and 14:24.37i (No 1 world all-time)!
On Wednesday both will be back in Stockholm to build upon those already impressive legacies. For Defar the ambition is very straightforward, to improve the World record she set in the same arena one year ago. For Vlasic there is an intermediate goal available on the way to the ultimate: To get the record for the Globe Arena which at 2.03m currently belongs to Kajsa Bergqvist.
Robles vs Oliver, Kaki vs Ismail vs Kiprop
Vlasic and Defar certainly weren't the only Stockholm-bound athletes that impressed this past weekend. Hurdlers Dayron Robles and David Oliver, who ran 7.48 (WL) and 7.49 in Stuttgart, will face off again with a further improvement of the World leading mark probably necessary to come out on top.
While the women's 5000m most likely will be Defar vs the clock the other three middle/long distance events scheduled for Wednesday look very competitive and hard to predict.
The men's 800m features Abubaker Kaki (who won in Stuttgart, and has triumphed at 1000m at the two last editions of GE Galan) vs countryman Ismail Ismail (1:45.99 in Düsseldorf, 3 Feb.) and Kenyan Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop.
In the women's 1500m reigning World champion Maryam Jamal in her first indoor race of the year will be facing Russian Anna Alminova (4:03.88 in Stuttgart), Kenyans Irene Jelagat (3rd in Stuttgart) and Sylvia Kibet (8:41.24 for 3000m in Karlsruhe) plus Ethiopians Kalkidan Gezahegne and Genzebe Dibaba who finished 1-2 at 3000m in Boston!
But the best quality field on the oval probably belongs to the men's 3000m where Düsseldorf winners Augustine Choge (3:36.75 for 1500m) and Paul Kipsiele Koech (13:02.95 for 5000m) will face off with Tariku Bekele, Bob Tahri, Abreham Cherkos, Edwin Soi and Sammy Mutahi added to the mix. Will Kenenisa Bekele's arena record of 7:30.51 really survive that kind of mass attack?
Olsson's comeback continues, again against daunting field
With Christian Olsson healthy and back competing the Triple Jump is once more a featured event at the GE Galan. And if Olsson wants to win he needs to jump very far as he will be up against the Cuban duo David Giralt (WL 17.27m in Göteborg last Tuesday) and Alexis Copello, as well as World champion Phillips Idowu, former World champion Walter Davis, European indoor champion Fabrizio Donato and World junior champion Teddy Tamgho.
Also the men's Long Jump will have the World champion in action, Dwight Phillips. The US jumper must be hungry for redemption after finishing 4th in Stuttgart with a – for him – mediocre 7.72m. Among those he will be up against now is current World leader (8.05m) Viktor Kuznetsov plus two more who reached eight metres recently, Andrey Makarchev (8.04m in Moscow) and Morten Jensen (8.00m in Linz).
One group of athletes that will be in action during most of the evening are the participants in the three-eventer consisting of the Long Jump, 60m Hurdles and 400m. The decathlon medallists from Berlin – Trey Hardee, Leonel Suárez and Aleksandr Pogorelov – who are all heading to the heptathlon at the World indoors in a month will be there. However, judging from a similar competition last week at the SamsungGalan in Gothenburg they won't have it all to themselves.
Because in Gothenburg – where there was the Shot Put instead of 400m – Hardee and Suárez had to be content with finishing 3rd and 4th behind Berlin 7th and 8th placers Nicklas Wiberg and Yordani García who are both on the start list also in Stockholm. Wiberg together with Olsson will be two of three top Swedish athletes featured at this edition of GE Galan, the third being high jumper Emma Green who will make her 2010 debut after missing the SamsungGalan due to a slight groin problem.
But hopefully the traditionally enthusiastic and knowledgeable Globe Arena crowd and the top class opposition will be inspiring also other athletes to raise their game and strengthen their chances to get on the Swedish team bound for Doha in mid-March. Athletes like e.g. Michel Tornéus (Long Jump), Philip Nossmy (60m Hurdles), Mattias Claesson (800m) and Ulrika Johansson (1500m).
A. Lennart Julin for the IAAF