Grant Holloway wins the 60m hurdles at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Torun (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright
Preview Madrid, Spain

Holloway takes centre stage in Madrid


With the greatest of respect to all the other stars at the Villa de Madrid meeting on Wednesday (24), the final of the 2021 World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold series, all eyes will be on the hurdler Grant Holloway.

The US sprint hurdler moved up to second on the 60m hurdles all-time list with his sparkling run of 7.32 in the French town of Lievin two weeks ago, a time just 0.02 shy of Colin Jackson's world record set nearly 27 years ago in March 1994, more than three years before the Holloway was born.

The career statistics related to Holloway, the world 110m hurdles champion, are astounding.

He currently owns three of the six fastest 60m hurdles performances in history, the threshold being 7.35 or faster, and has now run 7.38 or faster no fewer than seven times, one more than Jackson.

Into the bargain, under cover seems to be an environment where the multi-talented Holloway – a regular performer over eight metres in the long jump in recent years and who also cleared 2.16m in the high jump as a 16-year-old – seems to shine.

Grant Holloway wins the 60m hurdles at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Lievin (Jean-Pierre Durand)Grant Holloway wins the 60m hurdles at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Lievin (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright

 

He was last beaten in an indoor hurdles race back in 2014 as a 16-year-old in high school and since then has won 52 consecutive races, including heats and finals as well as one outing in a high school pentathlon.

With Madrid’s helpful altitude – the meeting venue Centro Deportivo Municipal Gallur lies at 625 metres – anticipation is high that Holloway can go into new territory for the 60m hurdles.

Madrid made for records

The Spanish capital has a history of producing spectacular marks in explosive events. The meeting record for the 60m hurdles is an excellent mark, held by Holloway’s compatriot Tony Dees with 7.40 in 2000, and there been a plethora of other world indoor records.

Russia’s Irina Privalova ran the current world indoor 60m record of 6.92 twice in Madrid in 1993 and 1995, albeit in a different part of the city as the Gallur venue has only hosted international athletics meetings since 2016, following immediately on from the Netherlands’ Nelli Cooman and Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey who preceded her with world indoor 60m records clocked in Madrid.

US sprinters Leroy Burrell, Andre Cason and Maurice Greene also all ran 60m world indoor records in Madrid and last year Venezuelan triple jumper Yumilar Rojas bounded out to 15.43m to break the 16-year-old world indoor record at this meeting.

Holloway would have been the favourite for the world indoor title had the championships not had to be postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic and in Madrid he will face the man who is still the reigning world indoor champion, Great Britain’s Andrew Pozzi.

Pozzi has a season’s best of 7.57 when winning at the World Athletics Indoor Tour bronze meeting in Luxembourg a week ago and won in Madrid 12 months ago with 7.48, in the brief period of normality at the start of 2020 before the world got turned upside down.

Tsegay v Hailu in the 3000m

In the longer distances, world records may be a bit of a stretch considering the issue of altitude, events longer than 1000m being affected in Madrid, so Ethiopia’s newly-minted world indoor record holder over 1500m Gudaf Tsegay may just content herself with aiming for a 3000m win over her compatriot Lemlem Hailu, who set a world-leading time over 15 laps of the track of 8:31.24 in Torun last week.

Ethiopian middle-distance runner Gudaf Tsegay (Jean-Pierre Durand)Ethiopian middle-distance runner Gudaf Tsegay (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright

 

The pair are familiar foes. Last year, they went-head-to-head in Madrid over 1500m, with Tsegay prevailing after an enthralling battle but Hailu has the additional motivation that victory this time would guarantee her topping the World Athletics Indoor Tour standing and an additional first prize of $10,000.

In the field events, Juan Miguel Echevarria returns to Madrid after jumping a world-leading 8.41m 12 months ago, which is also the World Athletics Indoor Tour record.

Clearly in good form after his 8.25m in Lievin, the Cuban will have two marks as targets in Madrid: the meeting record of 8.43m which belongs to his illustrious compatriot Ivan Pedroso from 1996 and his own indoor personal best of 8.46m, set when winning the 2018 world indoor title in Birmingham.

Eight Indoor Tour titles to be decided

Madrid will decide eight of the 10 disciplines of the World Athletics Indoor Tour. In addition to the US$20,000 first prize money, the winners get a confirmed entry to the next World Athletics Indoor Championships as a ‘wild card’.

In addition to the aforementioned men’s 60m hurdles, long jump, and women’s 3000m, in Madrid the ‘Tour champions’ for the men’s 400m, 1500m and women’s 800m, pole vault and triple jump will be decided.

Without the Karlsruhe and New York 400m winners Michael Norman and Marvin Schlegal in the field the opportunity has opened up for Czech Republic’s three-time world indoor champion Pavel Maslak or USA’s Tyrell Richard to take the prize with Spain’s European 400m indoor silver medallist Óscar Husillos also in the field.

Barega back in action

Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski and Ethiopia’s Solomon Barega are currently first and second respectively in the 1500m standings, but the latter emphatically beat the reigning European champion on home soil in Torun last week, winning in an indoor best of 3:32.97.

Eventual winner Selemon Barega leads the 1500m at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Torun (Jean-Pierre Durand)Eventual winner Selemon Barega leads the 1500m at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Torun (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright

 

However, Barega doesn’t have the mantle of favourite all to himself as his compatriot Getnet Wale will be on the start line and looking to extend his unbeaten indoor season which included his headline-grabbing 7:24.98 3000m in Lievin, the second fastest indoor run of all-time and an Indoor Tour record.

In the women’s 800m, Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu tops the tour standings and has already secured first place, assisted by her Tour record of 1:58.19 in Torun, but interest will also be on whether Ireland’s Nadia Power can improve further after her national indoor record of 2:00.98 when finishing third in Torun.

By contrast, the Tour title in the women’s pole vault is wide open after only one scoring contest this winter. The Madrid field is jointly headed by both Slovenia’s Tina Sutej and Canada’s Anicka Newell, who have both cleared 4.70m since the start of the year.

The women’s triple jump will be missing Rojas this year but brings together Cuba’s Liadagmis Povea, who jumped an indoor best of 14.54m to win in Karlsruhe, 2017 European U20 champion Viyaleta Skvartsova from Belarus, who jumped further than ever before when she reached 14.39 in Torun, and local star Ana Peleteiro, with the reigning European indoor champion having improved her season’s best to 14.21m at the Spanish championships on Saturday.

Like the other World Athletics Indoor Tour meetings this year, spectators will not be allowed to attend the meeting due to local restrictions relating to the pandemic.

The pick of the four non-tour events in Madrid is the women’s 60m hurdles which sees the Netherlands’ in-form Nadine Visser, having twice run a season’s best of 7.90 including at the Dutch championships on Sunday, up against Belarus’ European 100m hurdles champion Elvira Herman and Finnish record-holder Nooralotta Neziri, who have both clocked 7.91 since the start of this month.

The fastest man in the 60m is Ivory Coast’s Arthur Cisse, who equalled his personal best of 6.53 recently in Berlin, while Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 2019 world championships silver medallist Amel Tuka found 1:46.35 only good enough for sixth place in the thrilling Torun 800m and will be looking for a confidence-boosting run over four laps of the track ahead of returning to the Polish city for the European Indoor Championships which start next week.

Phil Minshull for World Athletics