Susanna Kallur powers to the world indoor 60m hurdles record in Karlsruhe in 2008 (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Birmingham, UK

Bekele, Defar, Kallur and many more to highlight Birmingham Indoor meet - PREVIEW

Only a rash of World records could change the focus of athletics headlines in Britain at the moment, and that’s certainly what UK Athletics and the organisers of the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix – IAAF Indoor Permit meeting - will be hoping for on Saturday (16).
 
The good news is there are a clutch of genuine contenders for the US$30,000 reward among the entrants for the 23 events on the programme at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena.
 
The organisers are fond of calling this annual gathering the highest quality one-day indoor meeting in the world, and with names such as Kenenisa Bekele, Meseret Defar, Susanna Kallur, Carolina Klüft, Stefan Holm and Bernard Lagat on the entry lists this year’s action could well live up to the claim.
 
Bekele for the record

For the fourth time in five years at this meeting Bekele will attack one of Haile Gebrselassie’s World bests, in this case the two mile mark of 8:04.69 that Geb set here in 2003.
 
Bekele has a mixed record of success in Birmingham. In 2004 he broke Gebrselassie’s 5000m record running 12:49.60 and last year he ran 4:49.99 for 2000m, taking nearly three seconds from Gebrselassie’s 1998 record, also set in the NIA.
 
But in 2006 he fell short, clocking 8:05.12 for the two mile mark he has returned to claim this year.
 
This World indoor 3000m champion will be pursued by Kenya’s Olympic bronze medallist Paul Koech and European 5000m silver medallist Mo Farah. After running 7:36.08 for 3000m in Valencia last weekend, Bekele will hope the Birmingham effect is working for him in 2008.
 
Defar again over 2 Miles

Defar will also be aiming to break a two mile record, in her case the time of 9:10.50 she clocked in Boston just three weeks ago. She’ll have company from fellow Ethiopians in the form of Gelete Burka and Meselech Melkamu, while Kara Goucher, USA’s World 10,000m bronze medallist, will be hanging onto their tails.
 
A trio of Britons – UK 3000m champion Helen Clitheroe, Commonwealth 1500m champion Lisa Dobriskey and Katrina Wootton, 3000m winner in Glasgow last month – aim to be pulled along to fast times.
 
Can Kallur do it again?

Like Defar, Kallur has already been in World record form this year. The Swedish hurdler’s sensational run in Karlsruhe last Sunday will take some beating, but given her consistently sparkling form in the last few weeks it would be foolish to bet against her improving again.
 
After all, she has been rather successful in Britain having won last year’s European indoor gold in this arena plus six consecutive 60m Hurdles contests at the Norwich Union International in Glasgow.
 
The challenge, if any, will come from Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada or Aurelia Trywianska of Poland, while the new UK champion Sarah Claxton leads the domestic opposition alongside Sara McGreavy and heptathlete Jessica Ennis.
 
Ennis, who won bronze over the hurdles at last year’s European under 23 championships, will have her eyes on her own PB of 8.18. She has opted to compete against the specialist hurdlers here rather than enter the ‘three event challenge’ laid on especially for multi eventers by the organisers.
 
Klüft takes on Sotherton’s challenge

This mini-multi competition, comprising a separate 60m Hurdles, a Long Jump and 400m, could be an enticing preview of the forthcoming struggle between Carolina Klüft and Kelly Sotherton at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Valencia. The two enjoyed a thrilling pentathlon battle in this stadium at last year’s European indoor championships which Klüft won by just 17 points.
 
For Sotherton, who was in decent Long Jump and hurdling form at last weekend’s UK championships, victory against Klüft in front of her home crowd would be a huge confidence booster.
 
Lagat aiming to remain unbeaten

When Bernard Lagat ran here last year and smashed the US 3000m record with 7:32.43 it proved to be the precursor to a spectacular season. The American double World champion returns to the Birmingham track confident of another 1500m victory after his sixth Wanamaker Mile triumph at the Millrose Games in New York two weeks ago and his powerful run in Glasgow at the end of January.
 
With this his last indoor race of the season, he will be hoping to head back to training with an unbeaten record. Among those out to deny him will be World bronze medallist Shadrack Korir, World steeplechase champion Brimin Kipruto, Uganda’s Abraham Chepkirwok, the in-form Kenyan Daniel Komen and the evergreen Europeans Rui Silva of Portugal and Reyes Estevez of Spain.
 
European champs Obikwelu and Gevaert lead 60m fields

European outdoor sprint champion Francis Obikwelu and former World 100m champion Kim Collins will take on a raft of Britain’s young guns in the 60m headed by Simeon Williamson, second in the UK trials last weekend.
 
The women’s 60m will star three-time European indoor champion Kim Geveart of Belgium against Jamaica’s Aleen Bailey and the US pair Angela Williams and Brianna Glenn.
 
Jeanette Kwakye, who beat Bailey in Glasgow, will lead the British contingent. After missing last Sunday’s UK championships final with injury, she’ll be hoping to make a point against the eventual winner Laura Turner.
 
Elsewhere…

The presence of World 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu will be an intriguing sideshow. Ohuruogu, making her only indoor appearance of the year, will race over both 60m and 200m.
 
Another Briton, high jumper Samson Oni, will feature in one of a trio of tasty men’s field events. As well as Holm, the Olympic champion, the latest addition to the 2.30-club will face Mark Boswell of Canada and the Czech Republic’s Svatoslav Ton.
 
Former British international Dalton Grant will also be in the field – the 41-year-old is aiming for a World indoor masters record of 2.10m.
 
Triple jumper Phillips Idowu, who leapt to third in the world with 17.24m at last weekend’s UK championships, returns to the arena where he won a spectacular European gold last year. The 29-year-old faces current world number two, Randy Lewis of Grenada plus Leevan Sands of the Bahamas, the 2003 World bronze medallist.
 
In the Pole Vault, USA’s Jeff Hartwig takes on the German pair Danny Ecker and Alex Straub, Alhaji Jeng of Sweden and Britain’s Steve Lewis.
 
British champion Richard Buck will aim to repeat his Glasgow victory against double World Indoor champion Alleyne Francique of Grenada in the men’s 400m, while it will be USA versus Britain in the 60m Hurdles with David Oliver, Anwar Moore and Robbie Hughes taking on Andy Turner and Allan Scott.
 
Jenny Meadows, Marilyn Okoro, Susan Scott and Jemma Simpson continue their battle for British bragging rights in the women’s 800m.
 
Matthew Brown for the IAAF