Susanna Kallur powers to the world indoor 60m hurdles record in Karlsruhe in 2008 (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview 20 February 2008 – Stockholm, Sweden

In Stockholm, all eyes on Kallur – GE Galan preview

Stockholm, SwedenAnother sellout crowd is expected at the Stockholm Globe Arena on Thursday evening for the 2008 edition of the "GE Galan". And despite twelve international events loaded with top athletes offered it is safe to state that at least 99% of the 10,000+ spectators will be primarily looking forward to see one single athlete that is competing in the final event of the evening.

Because after her incredible string of victories in the 60m Hurdles - 7.81 (Glasgow), 7.75 (Göteborg), 7.72 (Stuttgart), 7.68 (Karlsruhe) and 7.75 (Birmingham) - this winter the pending World record holder Susanna Kallur most likely is the most popular – not just in sports – person in Sweden at the moment. Those marks added to her always-smiling, and at the same time down-to-earth personality, that is a simply irresistible combination!

But even though Kallur’s 60m Hurdles will be the final event of the evening there is absolutely no risk that the spectators will be bored while waiting. Because the start lists for the other eleven events are such that just about anyone of them could have been billed as the main attraction.

Teenager Kaki ready for the spotlight?

Already the first running event on the programme, the men's 1000m could provide something very, very special courtesy of Sudanese teenager Abubaker Kaki, probably the most exciting short middle distance talent the world has seen since Wilson Kipketer.

The soft-spoken Kaki in Leipzig on Sunday made his indoor debut and despite being shocked when first seeing the banked turns produced a world leading 1:46.06 in an 800m race he won by almost three seconds. So even though Kaki will run the 1000m distance for the first time ever the meet record (Niyongabo 2:15.62 in 1995) is not the only record under threat.

Plenty of highlights expected

The action on the oval will be continue to be highly exciting during the whole evening thanks to this string of races:

* Women's 1500m with Maryam Jamal vs Gelete Burka, probably the top-2 challengers to Yelena Soboleva for the 1500m gold in Valencia!

* Men's 800m with Yuriy Borzakovskiy vs Wilfred Bungei vs Abraham Chepkirwok! Borzakovskiy won this meet for four straight years 2003-2006 and three of those years he established the world leading 800m time of the season. The current top mark for 2008 is his own 1:45.58 from Stuttgart.

* Men's 3000m with Bernard Lagat vs Paul Kipsiele Koech! Lagat says he is aspiring to challenge his 7:32 PB while Koech shadowed Kenenisa Bekele almost to the finish line in the Birmingham 2 miles last Saturday.

* Women's 800m with Maria Mutola vs Olga Kotlyarova and Maite Martínez. Mutola on her farewell tour returns to the meet and arena where she twice (1996 and 1999) set 1000m world records and where she also has three wins and two second place finishes at 800m!

* Men's 400m with Tyler Christopher vs Chris Brown and Johan Wissman. In Osaka last September they finished within 0.27 seconds of each other in the 400m final. Last Saturday Christopher set the WL mark of 45.80 in Birmingham while Wissman won at the European Cup in Moscow.

However, this said the athletes racing on the oval track still will find it tough to grab the attention from what is going on in the infield. Traditionally the jumping events have taken centre stage not just literally at GE Galan and they will certainly put up a strong fight for the attention also this year.

Loaded fields in the field events

In the men's High Jump Stefan Holm is looking not just for his 119th meet at 2.30+ but also for a confidence boosting victory over the formidable Russian trio Ivan Ukhov, Andrey Silnov and Andrey Tereshin, the Osaka medallist Kyriakos Ioannou and not least compatriot Linus Thörnblad. From the World top-6 this season only one is missing!

And the women's Long Jump looks set to become a dress rehearsal for Valencia with Portugal’s Naide Gomes, Russian Irina Simagina and Karin Mey of South Africa. But that trio can't expect to have the event for themselves with the likes of Carolina Klüft, Tatyana Kotova and Lyudmila Kolchanova also in the mix.

The men's Pole Vault will feature top Russians Yevgeniy Lukyanenko (current World leader with 5.85) and Igor Pavlov, Ukrainian Denys Yurchenko, Germans Tim Lobinger and Danny Ecker as well as Swede Alhaji Jeng (World Indoor silver medallist 2006, injured in 2007 but showing return to form as No 4 in Donetsk last Saturday).

Recently retired local superhero Kajsa Bergqvist will of course be sadly missed by the spectators but the women's High Jump still provides good quality with Osaka silver medallists Antonietta Di Martino and Anna Chicherova as well as Russian talent Svetlana Shkolina and Helsinki medallist Emma Green.

... and don’t forget Robles

The new (very latest state-of-the-art Mondo) sprint straight will only see two races – the men's and women's hurdles - but those two races will feature the two most exciting athletes so far this indoor season: Cuba's Dayron Robles and Sweden's own Susanna Kallur.

Robles had a whirlwind start to his indoor season with five meets within just thirteen days: 7.45 in Göteborg, 7.53 in Linz, 7.36 in Stuttgart, 7.33 in Düsseldorf and 7.40 in Karlsruhe. In Düsseldorf he missed the World record by a mere three hundredths of a second. After Karlsruhe Robles took a well-deserved break of one and a half weeks to "recharge the batteries". But on Thursday he is back.

However, as said, the only event this evening that is certain to get the complete, undivided attention of the crowd will be the women's 60m Hurdles featuring Susanna Kallur. The organisers have assembled five other runners from the 2008 World top-10: Yauhenia Valadzko, Anay Tejeda, Josephine Onyia, Lacena Golding-Clarke and Priscilla Lopes-Schlep. But still none of these five are statistically even within two tenths of Kallur this winter.

A. Lennart Julin for the IAAF