Marie-Josee Ta Lou stormed to a world-leading 7.02 victory in the 60m while Jakob Ingebrigtsen defeated freshly-minted world indoor record holder Samuel Tefera in the 1500m to highlight the PSD Bank Meeting in Dusseldorf on Wednesday (20), the final stop of the 2019 IAAF World Indoor Tour.
Neither race was bereft of drama but it was the latter, an eagerly-anticipated face-off between teenagers on the verge of redefining middle distance running, that stole the evening’s spotlight in front of another capacity crowd at the Dusseldorf Athletics Hall, the sixth in as many World Indoor Tour meetings this season.
Tefera immediately tucked in behind the pacesetters, covering the opening 400m in 56.14, with the Norwegian brothers choosing to follow from mid-pack with older brother Filip, the world bronze medallist, a stride ahead of Jakob, the European champion at 1500m and 5000m. Tefera looked strong, almost impatient over the next few laps, before building a lead of some four metres with two laps to go.
But behind him the brothers began to chip away at the margin, with Jakob eventually working his way up on Tefera’s shoulder by the bell. He was patient, seemingly running well within his limits down the back straight. He made his decisive move heading into the final straight and never looked back, reaching the line in 3:36.02 to clip 0.19 from his previous indoor best set 10 days ago.
Tefera, the world indoor champion, was next, stopping the clock in 3:36.34 to take the tour title, one of nine decided on the evening. As he stepped off the track, the strain of two hard races in four days finally showed.
Afterwards, Ingebrigtsen illustrated a cool confidence belying his 18 years.
“I felt good,” he said. “You always have some negative thoughts, going from zero at the start to that kind of pace. But through the race I started feeling better. From there on (the goal) was just to beat Tefera.”
And he did so with plenty in reserve.
“I ran 3:36 a couple weeks ago and now I’m in better shape than in that race. So obviously I could have run a few seconds faster, but today it was all about winning.”
Does he regret not having raced Tefera in Birmingham? Not at all.
“I had fun with my workout back home,” he said. “I decided to race here instead. I’m happy for that.”
Conventional wisdom says there will be plenty more record-breaking opportunities ahead. This season, Ingebrigtsen said, they simply weren’t a priority.
“Every record is touchable. I don’t believe I can break it this year because we haven’t put in the work to do that this early. My main goal is the outdoor season. I’ll be better prepared and in much better shape for those races.”
Ta Lou takes down Swoboda
The women’s 60m also witnessed a shift in the spotlight, from Ewa Swoboda, who had already secured the series 60m title, to Ta Lou, the world silver medallist at 100m and 200m.
It didn’t take her long either, as she broke from the even field just 20 metres into the race en route to her dominant 7.02 performance, clipping 0.03 from the personal best that propelled her to world indoor silver last year.
When she saw her time flash across the scoreboard, she let out a scream then dropped to her knees, then fell flat on to the track.
"Before the race my coach told me that if I get a good start I could run 7.10. So to get a big PB today was amazing."
Ta Lou embarked on an abbreviated four-race indoor season mainly to work on her start and finish as she looks ahead to the World Championships later this year. Counting heats, she had clocked 7.15 in four of her six 2019 races prior to tonight’s appearance, a time, she said, that was not indicative of her form. She finally illustrated that tonight.
"I was expecting to do faster than 7.15 this year, and it has come. I'm very glad."
She'll take the next week off for a bit of rest and relaxation at her winter training base in Paris before heading back home to Abidjan to reset her full focus on the World Championships in Doha.
Swoboda was a distant second in 7.10 with two-time world 200m champion Dafne Schippers further back, taking third in 7.19.
Tobe, Sidorova and Rojas prevail in the jumps
Meanwhile, the men's high jump produced an entertaining battle between Naoto Tobe of Japan, who had already secured the tour title, and China's Wang Yu, a finalist at last year's World Indoor Championships. Both topped 2.34m, Tobe on his first attempt and Wang with his second, to decide the finishing order. For Wang it was a national indoor record.
Authorised neutral athlete Anzhelika Sidorova topped 4.77m, a meeting record, to take series top honours in the pole vault. The two-time world indoor silver medallist secured the victory just three jumps into the competition, clearing 4.72m with her second attempt before needing a second attempt at the higher height. She called it a night after a pair of misses at 4.82m.
Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou topped 4.67m and Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi 4.62m to round out a 2-3 finish for Greece.
In the women's triple jump, world indoor and outdoor champion Yulimar Rojas never quite found her rhythm, but the Venezuelan prevailed nonetheless with back-to-back closing efforts of 14.45m and 14.46m to take the series title.
Patricia Mamona of Portugal, the World Indoor Tour winner two years ago, was a distant second with 14.22m. Finn Kristiina Makela reached 14.05m with her fourth jump to round out the top three.
As expected, Christina Schwanitz collected the first tour title of the evening with another dominant show in the shot put, winning by more than half a metre from Swede Fanny Roos. The German's opening effort of 19.13m would have sufficed, but she went one centimetre better in the fifth round to collect her seventh victory in eight competitions this winter.
Roos reached 18.47m in round four to finish second, with Hungary’s world indoor champion Anita Marton third, with 18.34m.
Strother defeats Maslak
Nathan Strother capped his first international indoor season with a convincing victory over three-time world indoor champion Pavel Maslak to cruise to the tour title in the 400m.
The 23-year-old ran confidently, fighting his way into the lead heading into the final bend and held position down the home straight en route to a 46.48 run, well clear of the Czech who clocked 46.73. It was the fourth victory in five World Indoor Tour stops for Strother whose only defeat of the season came in Torun. But even there, he wasn't beaten to the line, losing to Maslak who was 0.13 faster in a different heat.
Oscar Husillos won the first heat in 46.96 to finish third overall.
After extended delays, Ortega prevails
Jarret Eaton had already secured the World Indoor Tour title in the 60m hurdles, but the 29-year-old world indoor silver medallist was certainly hoping for a more ceremonious crowning than the one that awaited him here. Instead of another podium finish, he made an early departure after a false start disqualification in the heats, forced to wait and watch the final from the sidelines. And he waited a long time.
Another favourite, Orlando Ortega, false started in the second heat but was allowed to run again under protest. He advanced, and eventually was let into the final. That decision moved the final from the middle of the programme until its conclusion, but that wait didn’t seem to faze the Spaniard. Not too much, anyway.
Starting well, the Olympic silver medallist built a big enough early lead to hold off Milan Trajkovic's powerful close. Each clocked 7.52, with Ortega given the edge. Freddie Crittenden of the US was third in 7.60.
Ethiopian Habitam Alemu prevailed convincingly in the winner-takes-all women's 800m, crossing the line in 2:00.70 after running from the front over the final lap. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke of Great Britain was second in 2:02.25, holding off Latvian Liga Velvere by 0.03.
Su sub-6.50 again
Topping the non-scoring programme, Su Bingtian produced another convincing victory in the 60m, powering to a 6.49 clocking, just 0.02 outside of his world-leading performance in Birmingham four days ago. Running in the centre of the track, the Asian record-holder was running about even with USA's Bryce Robinson until the midway point, when he began to pull away. Robinson was second in 6.57, edging Michael Rodgers who was credited with the same time.
In the first of two non-scoring men's 800m contests, Spaniard Alvaro de Arriba powered away from Balazs Vindics over the final 50 metres to take the commanding victory in 1:46.63, more than a second clear of the Hungarian. Swede Andreas Kramer held off Australian Joseph Deng to win the second heat, 1:48.19 to 1:48.35.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF