Maryam Yusuf Jamal wins the women's 1500m at the World Athletics Final (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Valencia, Spain

Women's 1500m WR assault on the agenda - Valencia preview

Seven individual medallists from last summer’s World Championships in Helsinki, along with a strong field in the women’s 1500m, top the bill at the ‘Reunión Internacional de Atletismo Ciudad de Valencia’ - IAAF permit - on Saturday (11 February).

Jamal targeting sub-4 in the 1500m

Organisers have assembled a strong line-up in the women’s 1500, aiming to challenge the World record of 3:59.98 set by Regina Jacobs in 2003. Heading the cast is Bahrain’s prodigy Maryam Yusuf Jamal.

Despite returning from Helsinki empty handed, Jamal can arguably be regarded as one the hottest stars assembled on the Valencia entry list. The Ethiopian-born Jamal –she switched her allegiance one year ago – was last year’s fastest woman over 1500m after her 3:56.79 win in Rieti in August.

In seven finals over the distance last season, the 21-year-old rising middle distance ace suffered her only defeat in Helsinki. After being impeded with less than 300m to go, Jamal eventually finished fifth after Russia’s Yuliya Chizhenko was later disqualified. Jamal clocked three sub-4 minute performances last season, more than any other competitor.

Pacemakers have been asked to cover the initial 1100m in a brisk 2:55 to secure a solid assault on the record. Jamal’ sub 4:00 quest comes on her 2006 debut.

But Jamal, who is based in Switzerland, won’t be the only high calibre 1500m specialist in the line-up. France’s World bronze medallist Bouchra Ghezielle, 2006 world Indoor leader Alesya Turova (4:08.05) of Belarus, and the Romanian pair of Elena Iagar and Corina Dumbravean, the 1-2 finishers at last year’s Europeans Indoor Championship, will all toe the line. Poland’s reigning European indoor 3000m champion Lidia Chojecka, 2003 World bronze medallist Hayley Tullett of Great Britain, and Ukraine’s Irina Lishchinska round out the solid field.

Vlasic, Savigne and Feofanova the women's infield focus

After raising her national record twice in less than a week, Croatia’s reigning World indoor bronze medallist Blanka Vlasic seems to be in the form of her life. Last weekend in Arnstadt, she cleared 2.01 and improved to 2.02 in Weinheim on Wednesday.  Vlasic, who witnessed live Swede Kajsa Bergqvist’s World indoor record of 2.08m in Arnstadt, will take on Ukraine’s Olympic bronze medallist Vita Styopina and Spain’s European indoor silver medallist Ruth Beitia (SB of 1.97). Styopina has reached 1.99 this season, Beitia 1.97.

In Helsinki last summer, Cuba’s Yargelis Savigne took a surprise silver medal in the Triple Jump. In her series she produced no less than four personal bests, to clinch the runner-up spot with a 14.82 effort. Three days later the 21-year-old added a praiseworthy fourth place (6.69) in the Long Jump, the event she herself considers her ‘specialist event’ and the event she will tackle in Valencia. Last weekend, Savigne leaped to a slightly wind-assisted 6.81 in Havana. Trying to deny her the top spot will be Jamaica’s Elva Goulbourne, Romania’s European indoor bronze medallist Adina Anton, Sudan’s Yamile Aldama and Grace Upshaw of the U.S.

Russian Svetlana Feofanova will be making her second appearance this indoor season, and tops the field in the Pole Vault. The reigning Olympic silver medallist, Feofanova opened with a 4.64 clearance in Bydgoszcz on 25 January. The 25-year-old, who has broken the World Record indoors on ten occasions - the last was her 4.85 in Athens on 22 February 2004 - will be aiming for Pole Anna Rogowska’s 2006 indoor leading mark of 4.70.

The women’s 800m features Olympic and World silver medallist Hasna Benhassi. The 27-year-old Moroccan ace, the World indoor champion at 1500m in 2001, will be looking to bounce back from her defeat last Saturday by Ukraine’s Tatyana Petlyuk in Stuttgart. Also in the fight to dip under the two-minute barrier will be Spain’s Mayte Martínez, fifth in Helsinki and the reigning European indoor silver medallist, and Russia’s Zhanna Smolina.

The in-form Swede Jenny Kallur (SB of 7.92), Danielle Carruthers of the US (SB 7.93), Poland’s Aurelia Trywianska (7.94), and Jamaica’s World silver medallist Delloreen Ennis London, and local heroine Glory Alozie will chase Susanna Kallur’s 7.86 world leader in the 60m hurdles.

Yiampoy, Korir, Silva top the fields in the men’s middle distances

The focus in the men’s programme will primarily rest on the three middle-distance races, 800m, 1500 and 3000.

In the 800m, Kenya’s William Yiampoy arrives fresh from a fine 1000m win in Stuttgart last Saturday in 2:21.17 ahead of the 2:21.45 by Bilal Mansour Ali of Bahrain who will also be in Valencia. Morocco’s Amine Laalou, Spain’s twice European U-23 medallist Manuel Olmedo and the French pair of Florent Lacasse and Antoine Martiak – all of them already 1:47 athletes at this early stage of the season – complete a classy line-up.

The 1500m will witness a thrilling showdown between Kenya’s reigning World indoor champion Paul Korir and Portugal’s multiple European and World medallist Rui Silva. At the Millrose Games last Friday, Silva finished third behind America’s Bernard Lagat and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele over one mile. They will be pushed by Spain’s Arturo Casado and Álvaro Fernández along with Kenyan Laban Rotich.

The Kenyan duo of Shadrack Korir (SB 7:37.49) and Paul Bitok (SB 7:39.76), who have already dipped below 7:40 this winter, head an interesting 3000m. The quality field also includes France’s 2003 European U-23 1500 champion Mounir Yemmouni (3:38.88 at 1500m in Stuttgart).

Madrid Shot Put podium reunion

In the infield, organisers have assembled Shot Put podium from last year’s European indoor championships in Madrid: Denmark’s Joachim Olsen (gold), Netherlands’ Rutger Smith (silver) and Spain’s Manuel Martínez (bronze). The remake of that final should be thrilling while Romania’s Gheorge Guset, Finland’s Ville Tisanoja and Poland’s Tomasz Majewski will be dangerous outsiders.

The fight in the 400m between Spain’s David Canal - European indoor/outdoor silver medallist with a 45.96 indoor PB - and Mauritius’ Eric Milazar of Mauritius will be targeting Alleyne Francique’s world leading mark of 46.19. Carlos Santa of Dominican Republic, Poland’s Piotr Rysiukiewicz, Belgium’s Cedric Van Branteghem, France’s Marc Raquil and Tunisia’s Sofiane Labidi will also be in contention.

The 60m event is led by France’s World 4x100 gold medallist Ronald Pognon. The 23-year-old, who holds the European record at 6.45, should improve on his SB of 6.64. Here, he’ll face South Africa’s Morne Nagel (6.61), Poland’s Dariusz Kuc (6.64) and Portugal’s Madrid-based Olympic 100m silver medallist Francis Obikwelu who will be making his 2006 indoor debut. In the Hurdles event, the main contenders will be Cuba’s Yoel Hernández, Ukraine’s Sergey Demidyuk, Brazil’s Matheus Inocencio and Ecuador-born Jackson Quiñonez who has recently received the Spanish nationality and is the season’s fastest (7.68) among the entrants.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF