Yelena Isinbayeva celebrates at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Valencia (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Valencia, Spain

Pentathlon, pure speed and putters! - Valencia PREVIEW, DAY 1

With Friday (7) being the first day of competition at the 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships, the schedule is loaded with preliminary rounds. The sold-out Palau Velodromo Lui Puig will nevertheless see four titles decided in three hotly contested disciplines.

Pentathlon: Blonska's defense meets strong challenge

Of the eight women entered in the Pentathlon, none are to be taken lightly. Lyudmila Blonska, the Ukranian defending champion from 2006, is entered, as is Kelly Sotherton of Great Britain, who finished just behind Blonska in the Heptathlon in Osaka. Blonska is the only medalist from 2006 returning to the championships. Sotherton, twice the silver medalist at the European Indoors, has a better personal best than Blonska, but Blonska's marks are improving this season, including a 4771-point PB, the highest Pentathlon score this year.

Also entered are the year's second- and third-best performers in the event, Karolina Tyminska of Poland and Anna Bogdanova of Russia.

Another familiar name among the entries is Belgium's Tia Hellebaut, better known as a high jumper; however, Hellebaut scored 4877 for a Pentathlon in 2007.

Men's Shot Put: Cantwell feels capable of WR

It would be unfair to survey the men's shot and only mention Americans, but a glance at the 2008 list shows fourteen marks by five U.S. athletes before another flag makes an appearance. Christian Cantwell, who pushed the ball over 21.40cm six times in one competition at the end of February, considers himself capable of reaching beyond the World Record of 22.66.

With that record close to finishing out its second decade on the books, such a pitch would be momentous, but Cantwell may need such a toss to win over defending champion (and Osaka World Champion) Reese Hoffa. Others of note (providing they survive the morning's qualifying round) include the Netherlands' Rutger Smith, Germany's Peter Sack, and Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus, himself the silver medalist from 2006. With the USA only allowed two entries, at least one of these men should reach the awards podium -- if not two of three.

Women's 60m: Loaded

Very few of the top athletes on the 2008 World List are missing from the entry list for the women's 60m dash, and with two rounds of qualification earlier in the day, some of them may not even reach the final. Leading the year's list are Yevgenia Polyakova of Russia and Ene Franca Idoko of Nigeria, both of whom have run 7.09 this season.

Angela Williams, close behind with 7.11 and 7.13 timings this year, leads the American pair. Unlike the comparatively yound Idoko, Williams already has two silver medals from the World Indoor Championships in 2001 and 2003; her relatively short stature and explosive start makes her a strong challenger in the short event. Kim Gevaert of Belgium, whose 7.15 makes her fourth fastest in this field, calls Williams the favorite but may contend for the gold herself.

Men's 60m: Little to separate the best

The situation for the men's 60m is even more confused, with the five best entered athletes separated this season by only .05 seconds.

Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria has pride of place on the year's list with a 6.51 run in February on the championship track here in Valencia.

Michael Rodgers represents the U.S.A., traditional sprint powers, with a 6.54 from his national championship meet, but just behind him is Italy's Simone Collio with 6.55, also run here in Valencia.

The marks of Fasuba and Collio suggest that the sprint runway at the Velodromo Luis Puig is nothing if not quick, and the year's list is likely to be rewritten in the course of Friday, if not in the qualifying rounds alone. Like the women, the men will run all three rounds on Friday, with the first round in the morning session and the semifinal and final rounds in the evening.

Qualifying rounds -

Preliminary rounds on Friday, aside from the shot and 60m rounds, include the men's High Jump, Long Jump, and Triple Jump, the women's Triple Jump and Pole Cault, and both men's and women's prelims for the 400m, 800m and 3000m, plus the men's 1500m.

Parker Morse for the IAAF