Bernard Lagat wins the 1500m (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Glasgow, UK

Kallur, Lagat, Walker… assemble for Glasgow International - PREVIEW

Winning in Scotland has become something of a January tradition for Susanna Kallur, the European Hurdles champion. Every year for the past five years the Swede has opened her season at Glasgow’s compact Kelvin Hall; every year she has won.

On Saturday (26) Kallur returns for this year’s Norwich Union Indoor International seeking her sixth consecutive victory for Sweden in a five-way match against the hosts Great Britain, USA, Germany and a Commonwealth Select side.

“Glasgow is the start of another big year for me,” said the 26-year-old, who will face USA’s Lolo Jones and British heptathlete Jessica Ennis as she sets off in search of a World Indoor Championship gold to add to her European indoor and outdoor titles at the beginning of march in Valencia, Spain (7 – 9 March).

“I have had great success in the last year and in particular in the last six years at Kelvin Hall,” she said. “I look forward to holding on to my unbeaten run.”

Lagat and Walker bring glint of Osaka gold to Kelvin Hall

Though lacking some of the star quality it’s had in previous years, the meeting will be an important curtain raiser for a number of other World indoor and Olympic hopefuls, not least Bernard Lagat, who last summer became the first man ever to win World Championship titles at 1500m and 5000m.

How do you top a season that turned out better than you could ever have imagined? If your Lagat, you set your sights on the next big goal and take the first step. Lagat’s goal, of course, is that elusive Olympic gold medal that has twice fallen just out of reach, and the American acknowledged the importance of striking good early form indoors as he sets out on the long march to China.

“Last year was hugely successful for me,” said the 33-year-old, who has Olympic bronze and silver medals from Sydney and Athens. “If I can continue that way in the indoor season it will be great preparation for the Olympics.”

He will open his season over 1500m against Britain’s Michael East, Germany’s world leader Wolfram Müller, and Shadrack Korir, the Kenyan who took bronze in Osaka last August.

Lagat is the star name in a USA team that also includes another double World champion, pole vaulter Brad Walker.

“This is going to be a massive year for all athletes with the Olympic Games at the end of the summer, and I am no different,” said Walker, who won gold medals at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka and the 2006 World Indoors in Moscow. “The Norwich Union International provides the ideal opportunity to get the season off to a strong start.”

Walker vaults against Sweden’s Alhaji Jeng, the World Indoor silver medallist, and Britain’s Commonwealth bronze medallist Steve Lewis.

Pickering hopes for good start to season

Sprinter Craig Pickering will also be hoping to get his season off to a flyer. The 21-year-old Briton returns to the arena where he made his name last year by beating a field that included the former World Indoor champion Jason Gardener. Pickering went on to win European indoor silver and World relay bronze medals.

“I was overwhelmed with the outcome of last year’s event,” he said. “It was slightly daunting being against so many top athletes but this year I feel a lot more confident.”

Pickering lines up against USA’s double World 4x100m champion Darvis Patton, plus his own training partner Ryan Scott and European under 23 champion Simeon Williamson.

Patton also races over 200m where he will face Sweden’s Johan Wissman, the European silver medallist who set a Swedish record in this meeting last year.

Ennis to double-up

Pickering and Ennis are the leading names among a smattering of British internationals who’ll be warming up for their World Indoor Trials in a couple of weeks time.

Ennis, who finished fourth in the World Championships last summer, will not only take on Kallur in the Hurdles but also compete in the Long Jump against Jackie Edwards of the Bahamas and USA’s Rose Richmond.

Her teammates include middle distance runners Jenny Meadows and Lisa Dobriskey. Meadows competes over 800m in Glasgow, while Dobriskey runs in her Commonwealth gold medal-winning event, the 1500m.

Other notable international names include Grenada’s double World indoor champion Alleyne Francique in the men’s 400m, World junior bronze medallist Abraham Chapkirwok in the 800m, and James Beckford, the veteran Jamaican long jumper who takes on Britain’s Chris Tomlinson.

In the women’s events, Jamaica’s Olympic relay gold medallist Aleen Bailey goes for a sprint double in the 60m and 200m, while USA’s Monique Hennagan, twice an Olympic 4x400m gold medallist, takes on the young Scottish hopeful Gemma Nicol over two laps.

Home hope

No doubt Nicol’s efforts will be keenly followed by the partisan crowd, but there’ll be close attention on Allan Scott too.

Scott’s 7.52 victory at the recent Scottish championships leads the world so far this year for 60m Hurdles and he will start as favourite against USA’s David Oliver, Sweden’s European indoor bronze medallist Robert Kronberg, and fellow-Scot Chris Baillie, the Commonwealth silver medallist.

Matthew Brown for the IAAF