Reese Hoffa on his way to Shot Put gold in Osaka (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Boston, USA

Hoffa and the usual Ethiopian magic line-up on Boston’s indoor stage - PREVIEW

When Reese Hoffa was putting the shot in the shadow of two-time Olympic silver medallist Adam Nelson and top-ranked John Godina, he took other steps to get attention, such as throwing in a mask, or proposing that he compete in a bear suit. Since winning the 2006 World Indoor Championship, the 2007 USA Championship, and then the 2007 outdoor World Championship titles, all Hoffa needs to talk about to get attention is throwing far.

"I've been doing a lot more press stuff" this year, Hoffa said in a recent teleconference. He has also been talking throwing with Koji Murofushi, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist in the Hammer Throw and a renowned student of all the throws. "He's a great resource," says Hoffa of Murofushi. "He's done it all, and in Japan he's almost bigger than life. It's interesting to see how he handles that."

At the Reebok Boston Indoor Games on Saturday (26 Jan) evening, Hoffa will be one of four 2007 Osaka World champions competing, but he'll be the only one not opening his season at the Reggie Lewis Center. Hoffa threw 21.06m on Monday in California, a promising start to his campaign to defend his World Indoor title in Valencia in March. In Boston, Hoffa will face Nelson, 2004 World Indoor champion Christian Cantwell, and Dan Taylor, last year's winner and the 7th-ranked putter as a newcomer in 2007.

Dibaba and Defar separated by 218 metres

2007 World Athlete of the Year and World 5000m champion, Meseret Defar and her countrywoman and rival Tirunesh Dibaba both return to Boston, to the undoubted delight of Boston's Ethiopian community, but as is usual for this event they will not run the same race.

Dibaba, who set 5000m World Indoor records on this track in 2005 and 2007, will step down to 3000m, a distance where Defar repeatedly tried and failed to lower the World record here. The record of 8:23.72 is, of course, now Defar's, set in Stuttgart last February. This early in the season, that mark will pose a serious challenge even for the fleet Dibaba, who declined to challenge Defar at 5000m after retaining the 10,000m World Championship title in Osaka. Dibaba will be joined by one of her favourite pacemakers, sister Ejegayehu Dibaba.

Defar herself, rather than taking on 15 laps of the quick Roxbury track, will run 16 and a few extra strides in a Two Mile race, an event in which she holds the outdoor World record. The indoor World best in that infrequently-contested distance (9:23.38) was set in this meet in 2002, and should be easily within Defar's grasp. She will be joined by New Zealand's Kim Smith, 5th in the 10,000m in Osaka, and Serbia's Marina Muncan, pacemaker for Dibaba's 5000m record last year.

Klüft opens Valencia campaign

Sweden's Carolina Kluft, who currently holds the European indoor (Pentathlon) and outdoor (Heptathlon) titles as well as the World Championships and Olympic Heptathlon crowns, will open her indoor season by long jumping in Boston. Klüft, holds the event record (6.63m) from 2005 and Boston will be her first competition of 2008.

Vault opener for Stuczynski

The women's pole vault will feature Jenn Stuczynski, the second-highest vaulter in 2007 (at 4.88m). Stuczynski comes to Boston from the chilly back-yard vaulting enclosure set up by her coach, Rick Suhr, to take on Pole Vault Summit winner Jillian Schwartz. Stuczynski jumped 4.63m here last year on her way to her 4.88m, but the meet record of 4.72m (2003) is held by Stacey Dragila, who Stuczynski will face the following week in New York.

Shobukhova and Solomon

Before Defar runs the Two Miles, the woman whose 3000m record she broke will contest the Mile. Liliya Shobukhova, who won the New Balance Games Mile in 4:31.90 last weekend, will face many of the same women she raced in New York in only her second-ever race in the U.S.

In the shorter distances, 2004 World Junior 200m champion Shalonda Solomon will make her professional debut in the women's 200m. Solomon missed competing in 2007 due to injury, but she posted the two fastest marks on the 2006 list in winning the NCAA indoor title that year, which she followed with an outdoor title a few months later.

Men's 3000m all about the racing

While the Boston Indoor Games frequently brings record attempts and star athletes to their Roxbury venue, in recent years the finale has almost always been the men's 3000m or Two Miles, and the emphasis in that race has been on a deep field and thrilling competition. Last year's winner, Craig Mottram, quipped that he was in Boston on a mission to "find ice, and import it back to Australia," in the heat of its summer, but he suffered no slips in his race. This year he'll face a tougher field, including New Zealand's Commonwealth 1,500m champion Nick Willis and frequent Boston race-maker Markos Geneti.

The Boston Indoor Games will start at 5:30 PM local time at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Parker Morse for the IAAF