Arriving on the heels of the world 2000m record she set on Tuesday, Genzebe Dibaba will command the spotlight when the IAAF World Indoor Tour resumes with the Copernicus Cup meeting in the northern Polish city of Torun on Friday (10).
This city of 200,000 is best known as the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, whose model of the universe revolutionised the way we look at the stars by placing the sun at its center.
This Friday the city's centre of attention – and that of the athletics world – will fall on the Torun Arena for the third edition of the meeting honouring its famed Renaissance mathematician where Dibaba will make her second of three scheduled appearances this winter.
On Tuesday night, the world 1500m champion clocked 5:23.75 over 2000m in Sabadell, Spain, the fastest time ever run over the distance, indoors or out. Her performance eclipsed both Gabriella Szabo’s 5:30.53 indoor best set in 1998 and Sonia O'Sullivan's outdoor world record of 5:26.88 set in 1994, giving Dibaba an early present on the eve of her 26th birthday. It also illustrated that the Ethiopian is clearly in strong form leading up to her only indoor 1500m appearance of the indoor season.
She now owns the fastest indoor times ever produced for the 1500m, mile, 2000m, 3000m, two miles and 5000m. She is also the world record-holder outdoors in the 1500m, which all conspires to raise expectations that a realistic assault on her 3:55:17 indoor standard is within reach on Friday.
In Torun, she'll face some fast company, too. Kalkidan Gezahegne of Bahrain, the 2010 world indoor 1500m champion, and Swede Meraf Bahta, the 2014 European 5000m champion, will make their first starts of the season. Dibaba will also have younger sister Anna at her side.
Local attention on Jozwik and Kszczot in the 800m
There will be plenty on the programme to attract local attention prior to the evening-capping women’s 1500m, most notably the two 800m contests.
Among the strongest local draws at the moment is Olympic 800m finalist Joanna Jozwik, who arrives riding the momentum from back-to-back tour victories. Jozwik celebrated her 26th birthday a day late with her 2:00.91 win in Dusseldorf on 1 February, the season's fastest, before following up with a 2:01.26 win in Karlsruhe on Saturday.
She'll take on world champion Maryna Arzamasova, who appears to be rounding into shape. The Belarusian will be making her fourth tour appearance after fifth, fourth and third-place finishes in Boston, Dusseldorf and Karlsruhe respectively.
Iceland's Anita Hinriksdottir, the 2013 world U18 champion, made a big leap forward in the senior ranks last weekend with a 2:01.18 national indoor record at home, and may be primed to challenge as well.
The men’s race, while not on the list of tour disciplines, will also figure prominently in the minds of local fans. That field is led by world silver medallist Adam Kszczot who has won two races in as many outings this winter. He opened with a 1:46.17 world lead in Dusseldorf and prepped for Torun with a 1:46.31 win in Sabadell. Chief among his competitors is Erik Sowinski of the US, the world indoor silver medallist, who won in Karlruhe in 1:46.80, a lifetime best for the 27-year-old.
Strong showdowns in men’s 60m hurdles and women’s 60m flat
Meanwhile, another hot showdown is expected in the men's 60m hurdles. The key protagonists are Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega of Spain, who won the Dusseldorf tour stop in 7.51 and finished second in Karlsruhe; two-time world indoor silver medallist Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France, who has clocked 7.53 this season; and another Frenchman, Garfield Darien, who has also sped 7.53 this year.
The focus in the women's 60m will centre on world indoor champion Barbara Pierre of the US, Jamaican Gayon Evans and Poland's rising star Ewa Swoboda. Pierre opened her season with a runner-up finish in Dusseldorf last week, clocking 7.17, but hit a road block in Karlsruhe where she was knocked out after a false start in the heats. Evans was the winner there with a 7.14 lifetime best, the fastest among the entrants in Torun.
Swodoba meanwhile is still chasing the form that propelled her to a 7.07 world indoor U20 record at this meeting one year ago. The 19-year-old didn't advance from the heats in the Dusseldorf and Karlsruhe stops of the tour and arrives with a modest 7.31 season's best. She performs well in Poland – she raced to silver in the 100m at last year's IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz – keeping local hopes high.
Men’s 1500m tour standings shake-up in the making
The men's 1500m features a showdown between the first four men in the tour standings, headed by world silver medallist Elijah Manangoi. The 24-year-old Kenyan won in Dusseldorf where he clocked a 3:37.62 world lead, and finished second in Karlsruhe last Saturday to Silas Kiplagat, currently second in the standings. Vincent Kibet, a finalist at last year's World Indoor Championships, and Bethwell Birgen, the Dusseldorf runner-up, are both capable to shake up the standings with a victory.
There's a big name showdown in the men's 400m as well, with Czech Republic’s Pavel Maslak the prohibitive favourite. The 2014 and 2016 world indoor champion opened with a solid 46.00 victory in Dusseldorf on Saturday, the third-fastest performance of the year.
He will face Grenada’s Olympic finalist Bralon Taplin, who clocked 46.25 in a different section in Dusseldorf. Taplin led last year's world indoor list with 45.20 so is, like Maslak, very comfortable on the narrow confines of the indoor circuit.
Dominican Republic's 2012 Olympic silver medallist Luguelin Santos, who clocked a 46.72 win in Sabadell, is also in the field, along with world and Olympic 4x400m champion Kyle Clemons of the US, and Poland’s Rafal Omelko, Lukasz Krawczuk and Jakub Krzewina, all European indoor relay medallists.
On the infield
Following up on her victory on Saturday in Karlsruhe, Lisa Ryzih of Germany will be looking to take sole possession of the tour lead in the women's pole vault. Her 4.67m clearance in the German city currently ranks her third on the world list, but Swiss record-holder Nicole Buchler isn't far behind at 4.61m, and is ready to provide the stiffest challenge. With season's bests of 4.55m and 4.51m respectively, Mary Saxer of the US and Czech Romana Malacova could play a role in the points chase as well.
After his 2.30m world lead from the jumps meet in Hustopece, Czech Republic, last Saturday, another Pole, Sylwester Bednarek, will start as the favourite in the men's high jump in his first tour appearance. The field also includes Konstadinos Baniotis of Greece, a finalist at the 2012 and 2016 World Indoor Championships.
With an insurmountable 13-point lead in the women’s triple jump – the discipline isn't on the programme in Birmingham next weekend – Portugal's European champion Patricia Mamona will be able to focus on improving her modest 14.11m season's best and ironing out some technical issues a month out from the European Indoor Championships. But victory won't come easy, at least not on paper; Germany's Neele Eckhardt trails Mamona by just two centimetres on this year's world list.
Other non-scoring events in Torun include the men's 60m, and women’s 400m and 60m hurdles.
The men's short dash features two-time NCAA champion Ronnie Baker of the US who clocked 6.54 in his 2017 debut in Mondeville on Saturday, and Andrew Fisher of Jamaica, who ran 6.53 over the distance outdoors in Kingston last month.
The key names in the women's 400m are hurdles specialists: Denmark's Sara Petersen, the Olympic 400m hurdles silver medallist, and Shamier Little of the US, the world silver medallist over the barriers. Both will be making their first indoor appearances of the season over the distance.
Jacquelyn Coward and Jasmin Stowers of the US, who have clocked 7.97 and 8.04 this season, lead the field in the women's 60m hurdles.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF