Grant Holloway in action in the 60m hurdles at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Madrid (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
It took a little time to confirm the true magnitude of his performance, but Grant Holloway fulfilled all the pre-meeting predictions and consigned Colin Jackson’s long-standing world indoor 60m hurdles record to history with a run of 7.29* in Madrid on Wednesday (24).
Holloway’s world indoor record inevitably provided the highlight of the final meeting of the 2021 World Athletics Indoor Gold series and it was provided in almost clinical fashion, despite Holloway’s assertion that he was relaxed about the record and was just racing for fun.
He was the first to rise out of his blocks and then produced a display of textbook technique over the barriers that it would be difficult to find fault with even to the smallest degree.
Holloway knew he had run fast as soon as he crossed the line as the trackside clock showed 7.32 but initially looked slightly disappointed that he had not run faster than his heat time, which had equalled his own world-leading time of 7.32 from Lievin two weeks ago.
However, the unofficial time on display had been a few hundredths slow all night and officials told the nonplussed Holloway several times just to wait a moment for the official time.
Time waits for no one
After what seemed like an eternity – but which was in reality little more than a minute – it was finally confirmed that Holloway had gone into new territory as the stadium announcer shouted 7.29.
However, as the announcement was in Spanish and Holloway’s mastery of the language is a little rusty despite the fact that he took classes in the subject in high school, the hurdler continued to look around for a translation and confirmation of his feat.
Once the uncertainty was resolved, a broad smile finally broke over Holloway’s face.
“I wouldn’t say it was a perfect race, but I tied my PR in the heat and that usually means I run faster in the final,” said Holloway. “I just went out there and executed my race to the best of my ability.
“I said before the race that if the record fell, it fell. But my main goal was just to have fun and that’s what I did. I know that it (7.29) is not going to be in the record books forever and when I fall asleep tonight – if I fall asleep – it will already be in the past. Now I will start looking forward. I want to get back to Gainesville (in Florida, where Holloway currently lives), talk to (his unrelated namesake) Coach Holloway, have a big old steak and go through the film.
“The world record outdoors (12.80, which has belonged to fellow US sprint hurdler Aries Merritt since 2012) is definitely in my sights but I want to let all this soak in first, then my priority is win the Olympic Trials and then the Olympic gold medal.”
Seven-year winning streak
Holloway now owns five of the eight fastest 60m hurdles performances in history.
To continue the statistics, this evening Holloway produced his ninth and 10th wins of 2021, and he extended his winning streak in indoor sprint hurdles races to 54 races. His last loss in an indoor sprint hurdles race came in 2014 when he was aged 16.
In Madrid, he won the race by 0.22, a yawning gap at this level with world indoor champion Andrew Pozzi finishing second in 7.51, an otherwise excellent time that moved him to equal third on the 2021 list.
Holloway had earlier given notice that the world indoor record was under threat when he flew to a time of 7.32 in his heat.
Gudaf Tsegay had preceded Holloway into the world indoor record books this winter with her 1500m run in Lievin. In Madrid, she opted to race over 15 laps of the track and produced the third-fastest 3000m time indoors when she crossed the line in 8:22.65, making her the second-fastest indoor performer in history.
The time was all the more remarkable because the 625 metres altitude of the Centro Municipal Deportivo Gallur usually mitigates against super-quick performances in distance events.
Tsegay had training partner Lemlem Hailu for company over the entire race as the pair reached 2000m in 5:34.84, just two seconds off the pace when Genzebe Dibaba set the world indoor record of 8:16.60 in 2014, but the pair drifted away from that target over the next couple of laps.
However, Tsegay had also been clearly been keeping something in reserve as she decisively pulled away from her compatriot with 500 metres to go and was never headed, with Hailu finishing second in a personal best of 8:29.28 and taking the World Indoor Tour title.
Barega never looks back
In the men’s 1500m, Tsegay’s compatriot Selemon Barega was in front from the gun and turned the race into a time trial before crossing the line in an impressive 3:35.42 to clinch the tour first prize.
Spain’s European indoor 1500m bronze medallist Jesus Gomez ran his own race in second place and was rewarded with an indoor best of 3:36.32. Having been 15 metres adrift with three laps to go, Gomez closed to just five metres at the line.
The non-scoring women’s 1500m produced a surprise winner in the shape of Ethiopia’s 20-year-old Hirut Meshesha, better known as an 800m runner.
The African Games 800m champion had paced her compatriot Tsegay to her recent world indoor 1500m record but finished her first serious international 1500m race in front of several better-known runners in 4:09.42.
In the women’s 800m, Habitam Alemu got the first of the day’s four Ethiopian victories. Alemu knew that she had already clinched top slot in the tour standings but was not content to rest on her laurels and started to move away from her nearest rival Nadia Power midway through the third lap.
Going through 400m in 58.33 and then 600m in 1:28.37, Alemu kept on working hard and putting more distance between herself and the tiring Irishwomen, eventually crossing the line in a meeting record of 1:58.95, less than one second away from her tour record of 1:58.19 set in Torun last week.
Power was overtaken in the closing stages by Spain’s Esther Guerrero, the pair clocking 2:01.13 and 2:01.55 for second and third place, respectively.
World lead for Visser
Preceding Holloway by just 10 minutes, Nadine Visser equalled Christina Clemons’ 60m hurdles world lead of 7.81 from a week ago in Torun. Like Holloway, she did not touch a single barrier, and took 0.02 off her three-year-old national record. Visser had earlier run a European-leading time of 7.89 in her heat.
Juan Miguel Echevarria returned to Madrid after jumping a world-leading 8.41m 12 months ago, the World Athletics Indoor Tour record, but the Cuban couldn’t get near that mark this year. His 8.14m in the opening round – the only jump beyond eight metres of the afternoon – sufficed for victory but after his first jump he suffered a series of technical problems which conspired to mean he never went farther.
In a women’s triple jump contest which was sadly missing Yulimar Rojas, the Spain-based Venezuelan having set a world indoor record of 15.43m at this meeting 12 months ago, the honours went to USA’s Tori Franklin with a last-round leap of 14.22m, which edged out Portugal’s 2016 European champion Patricia Momona by one centimetre.
However, Cuba’s Liadagmis Povea found 14.05m and third place was enough to give her the tour title on the tie-break rules. Both she and Franklin collected 15 points but Povea got the nod thanks to a better individual mark on the tour, her 14.54m winning mark in Karlsruhe.
Three-time world indoor 400m champion Pavel Maslak took the tour title in his specialist event in audacious fashion.
Running aggressively in lane five from the gun over the first lap, the compact Czech sprinter hit the front as the runners broke for the inside and went through halfway in 21.25.
Although the much taller and long-legged Tyrell Richard was on his outside shoulder on the final bend, Maslak dug deep and held the inside line to hold off his US rival for the tour first prize cheque, crossing the line in a season’s best of 46.12 with Richard 0.02 in arrears.
World pole vault finalist Iryna Zhuk of Belarus slithered over a national indoor record of 4.67m at the first time of asking and then watched Slovenia’s Tina Sutej and Canada’s Alysha Newman brought the bar down three times at that height to clinch the victory and first place in the tour standings.
In non-scoring events, the fastest man in the 60m was Ivory Coast’s Arthur Cisse, who won the final in 6.59, while Spain’s Mariano Garcia put down a marker that he should be viewed as an 800m medal contender at next week’s European Indoor Championships when he beat several better-known names to win in an outstanding personal best of 1:45.66.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s world silver medallist Amel Tuka finished second in a national indoor record of 1:45.95, the same time as France’s 2017 world champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, who was given third after the photo-finish was examined.
Phil Minshull for World Athletics
*Pending the usual ratification procedure