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

Holloway and Chepkoech look to maintain momentum in Torun

World champions Grant Holloway and Beatrice Chepkoech will aim to continue their record-breaking form when they head to Torun for the Copernicus Stop on Wednesday (17), the next World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting of 2021.

Every time Holloway lines up for a 60m hurdles race, the world record of 7.30 – set by Colin Jackson back in 1994, three years before Holloway was born – comes under threat. The world 110m hurdles champion owns the five fastest times in the world this year, topped by his 7.32 North American indoor record of 7.32 from Lievin which made him the second-fastest man ever for the distance.

Holloway, who owns three of the six fastest 60m hurdles performances in history, will take on France’s Wilhem Belocian, who has set a PB of 7.45 this year and currently leads the World Indoor Tour standings. World indoor silver medallist Jarret Eaton and his US compatriot Aaron Mallet are also in the field.

The meeting record of 7.48 – a time Holloway has bettered in all six of his races this year – looks to be living on borrowed time.

Like Holloway, world steeplechase champion Chepkoech has also had a busy few weeks. The 29-year-old Kenyan won the 3000m at the first World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting of the year in Karlsruhe, then set an indoor PB of 8:34.21 for that distance to place third in Lievin before heading to Monaco later that week where she set a world 5km record of 14:43.

Three days on from her exploits on the roads of Monaco, Chepkoech will return to the track in Torun where she’ll be up against Genzebe Dibaba, the world indoor record-holder and three-time world indoor champion at the distance.

Dibaba’s last indoor 3000m race was at the 2018 World Indoor Championships, where she went on to complete the distance double by also taking gold in the 1500m. The Ethiopian has raced sparingly in the past 12 months, but she’ll be keen to maintain her indoor winning streak; not counting a disqualification in Dusseldorf in 2012, Dibaba’s last loss in an indoor race came more than 11 years ago.

It won’t simply be a two-way battle, though. Ethiopian teenager Lemlem Hailu, who stole a march on the field to win in Lievin in a PB of 8:32.55, is also in the line-up, as is compatriot Fantu Worku.

Barega takes on the milers

World 5000m silver medallist Selemon Barega has been using the indoor season to work on his speed by contesting shorter distances. So far he has been rewarded with PBs of 7:26.10 for 3000m and 3:34.62 for 1500m, becoming just the third man in history – after Haile Gebrselassie and Augustine Choge – to break 7:30 and 3:35 indoors.

The 21-year-old Ethiopian lines up over 1500m in Torun and will face world bronze medallist Marcin Lewandowski of Poland and Kenya’s world indoor 3000m bronze medallist Bethwell Birgen. The meeting record of 3:35.57 looks to be a realistic target for the field.

World indoor champion Adam Kszczot may need to improve on his season’s best of 1:47.65 if he is to win the 800m in Torun. Britain’s Elliot Giles, who won in Karlsruhe and Lievin, will start as the favourite, but Kenya’s Collins Kipruto – who won in Torun last year with a meeting record of 1:45.86 – will be a formidable opponent. European indoor silver medallist Jamie Webb and Swedish record-holder Andreas Kramer should also be in contention.

African bronze medallist Habitam Alemu will start as favourite for the women’s 800m, a scoring event in this year’s World Athletics Indoor Tour. Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo, Poland’s Joanna Jozwik and Ireland’s Nadia Power – all of whom hold their respective national indoor records – will ensure the race is a competitive one.

Double Dutch power in 400m

Dutch training partners Femke Bol and Lieke Klaver have enjoyed undefeated seasons so far this year, breaking national indoor sprint records in the process.

Klaver briefly held the Dutch indoor 400m record with her 51.48 run in Vienna in January and she followed it with a 23.17 national record for 200m, which she reduced one week later to 23.10. Hurdles specialist Bol, meanwhile, broke Klaver’s 400m record with 50.96 and then clocked 50.81 in Metz earlier this month.

In Torun the duo will line up against one another for the first time this year and the distance, 400m, would appear to favour Bol. European champion Justyna Swiety and European indoor champion Lea Sprunger are also entered for the two-lap sprint.

USA’s Javianne Oliver has been undefeated so far this year, impressing with 60m victories in Metz, Lievin and Val-de-Reuil. The 26-year-old, who has twice clocked a season’s best of 7.10, currently shares first place in the World Indoor Tour standings, but a triumph in Torun will secure her overall victory as this is the last women’s 60m race in the series.

Switzerland’s Ajla del Ponte and Poland’s European indoor champion Ewa Swoboda look set to be Oliver’s stiffest competition on Wednesday.

The women’s 60m hurdles has provided some of the closest finishes on this year’s World Indoor Tour and that trend looks as though it could continue in Torun. World indoor silver medallist Christina Clemons of the USA takes on Finnish record-holder Nooralotta Neziri. The duo tied for second place in Lievin last week, clocking 7.91.

African champion Tobi Amusan, meanwhile, will be looking for redemption after falling in Val-de-Reuil last weekend.

Tamberi v Culver, Kendricks v Lisek, Haratyk v Fabbri

Following a defeat in Nehvizdy last week, 2016 world indoor high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi will aim to get back to winning ways in Torun. The Italian started the year by leaping a season’s best of 2.32m, but he may need to improve on that if he is to beat Trey Culver.

The US jumper won at last weekend's New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, equalling his lifetime best of 2.33m. Culver and Tamberi are now tied at the top of the World Indoor Tour standings, so it's all to play for in what will be the final scoring opportunity in the series. Ukraine’s 2.40m jumper Andriy Protsenko and European silver medallist Maksim Nedasekau are also in the line-up.

Two-time world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks heads to Torun buoyed by his recent 5.86m season’s best in Lodz. But the US vaulter may need to go even higher in Torun as he’ll be up against Filipino record-holder Ernest John Obiena, who finished second on countback in Lodz after matching Kendricks’ 5.86m, world bronze medallist Piotr Lisek and Olympic champion Thiago Braz.

Sixteen-year-old Belarusian Matvey Volkov, who last week set a world U18 best of 5.60m, is also in the field.

The men’s shot put features the three top-ranked European throwers in the world rankings. European champion Michal Haratyk, who last week set an indoor PB of 21.83m, will take on Czech record-holder Tomas Stanek, Polish indoor record-holder Konrad Bukowiecki and Italian indoor record-holder Leonardo Fabbri.

In the absence of world leader Liadagmis Povea, who won in Karlsruhe at the end of January, there will be valuable World Indoor Tour points up for grabs in the women’s triple jump. Finland’s Kristina Makela and Viyaleta Skvartsova of Belarus finished second and third respectively in Karlsruhe, but the latter has a superior season’s best.

European champion Paraskevi Papahristou and US record-holder Tori Franklin are also set to compete. The relatively soft meeting record of 13.97m could be exceeded by several women on Wednesday.

Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics