Russian Yaroslav Rybakov’s national indoor record High Jump of 2.38, the highest indoor leap in the world since March 2000, was the outstanding moment of the 16th GE Galan – IAAF indoor permit – meeting in the Swedish capital this evening.
A packed house of 10,000+ spectators perched on the steep sided tribune of the vast Globe Arena, the upper dome of which has been a distinctive feature of the skyline of the southern outskirts of Stockholm since 1989 - the first GE Galan took place the following year - were entertained to an enthralling two hour programme of competition. With outside temperatures of minus 5c and a thick layer of crisp new snow covering the city, the whole evening was a much needed hot toddy which revived the winter spirits.
Klüft - Not quite sparking but still great entertainment
Fireworks (yes, this was an indoor meeting!) announced the arrival of four of the principal stars of the evening – Borzakovskiy, Mutola, Wissman and Klüft – at the start of the show. Moments later with action underway Klüft hardly produced her own pyrotechnics but a 8.36 run in the 60m Hurdles was enough to get her night’s triathlon (60m H, LJ, 400m) off to a winning start, if the clocking was someway behind her personal best (PB) of 8.19.
A winning 6.59m as part of the main Long Jump competition beating the specialists was much more inspiring (if still way short of her indoor PB – 6.92) and produced an ear drum splitting eruption of cheering and applause from the capacity crowd. Behind Klüft came Bianca Kappler (6.56m) but of more interest in her Combined Event struggle was Naide Gomes, the reigning World Indoor Pentathlon champion whose 6.51m was a new indoor personal best.
The last event of the night, the Triathlon was to end with an even more rousing win for Klüft, a 53.59 second victory in the 400m. Her personal best again remained untouched (53.25) but none of the crowd cared, the race and overall win had been taken by their heroine. In this context the exact points total was unimportant with a three event 3060 total to the Swede, ahead of Gomes (2812), and Olympic silver medallist Austra Skujyte (2751) in third.
Rybakov – 7th equal on all time indoor list
Local sentiment aside, the night belonged to reigning European outdoor High Jump champion, Yaroslav Rybakov. The Russian has been beaten into second place on two occasions at the World Indoor championships by Sweden’s currently injured Olympic champion Stefan Holm. Tonight he had the satisfaction of coming into the Swede’s lair and setting not only the current season’s world lead but also a new Russian record with a fine third time attempt at 2.38m. That height took Rybakov’s PB to one centimetre better than that of the absent Swede, and as an athlete into the world all-time indoor list as the 7th equal highest jumper in history.
While Czech Jaroslav Baba, who before tonight’s competition had shared the world lead with the Russian thanks to their joint 2.37m performances in Arnstadt, pushed Rybakov throughout, neither of his second time clearances at 2.29 or 2.34 looked too confident. By contrast Rybakov looked every centimetre the best with five first time, exceptionally crisp successes (2.21, 2.26, 2.29, 2.32, 2.34), before he stumbled twice at 2.38m. Suddenly, he looked fallible for the first time but while his third attempt was not as impressive as his earlier successes, the bar was left with a slight wobble, there was no doubting the magic we had witnessed.
Baba finished second with 2.34m, with former World champion Vyacheslav Voronin a distant equal third on 2.21m, along with Cuban Victor Moya. World champion Jacques Freitag was back in 7th also with a 2.21 best.
“The pressure has been taken off a bit because the (Russian) Federation have reduced their requirements for selection for the European (indoor) championships,” confirmed Rybakov. “So I felt at ease tonight.” He was probably referring to the previous requirement that all those wanting to be selected for Madrid had to compete at last week’s Russian Championships, something which Rybakov had failed to do.
“I wish Stefan (Holm) a quick recovery from his injury.... Is there a chance that he can beat me? Yes, there is always a chance but there is no doubt about my current shape,” concluded the winner.
Martinez runs Mutola close – three go below 2 mins
There will be understandably few complaints from Maria Mutola about her win in the women’s 800m in a time of 1:59.48. In only her second race since last summer’s Olympic final, and presumably haunted by memories of her recent hamstring injuries, Mutola went through 600m in 1:28.35 (having earlier followed a few strides behind Tatyana Levina’s pacemaking - 56.87 split - at 400m), and won clear of her pursuers.
However, Mutola who is obviously still short of fitness had her head right back and was gasping for the line as Spain’s Mayte Martinez closed on her toward the finish. Mutola won thanks to a characteristically gritty run, in 1:59.48, with the Spaniard second (1:59.61), and an inspired Agnes Samaria of Namibia at Martinez’s heels in third (1:59.91).
Borzakovskiy takes ‘easy’ world lead win
By contrast despite a world season’s lead of 1:46.10 there really seemed nothing special about the men’s 800m, or perhaps that is just being unfair to Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy, who is racing in a style unmatched by anyone else in the world at present. Nothing that either a ridiculously isolated pacing effort from World bronze medallist Osmar Dos Santos (who was at some stages 30m ahead of the chasing pack), or the sprinting power of South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi or Wilfred Bungei of Kenya, could prevent the Russian’s trade mark late finish taking the honours for the third consecutive year.
Bungei was third in 1:47.43, and Mulaudzi was second in 1:46.41, and if neither the fastest athlete of 2004 or the Olympic silver medallist respectively can cope with Borzakovskiy, then perhaps we should redefine our initial appraisal of what we witnessed this evening. The Olympic champion remains very special indeed and is presently peerless.
Kallur - serious Madrid title hopes
Susanna Kallur, 23, who was already the second quickest female sprint hurdler this winter with 7.94, registered the third best time-in the world this year, and in the process took the notable scalp of Russia’s Irina Shevchenko. The season’s leader (7.90) was totally out of sorts this evening finishing dead last with 8.66. Kallur’s winning time was 7.95. Her twin Jenny was second (8.00) with Karlsruhe winner Vonette Dixon of Jamaica in third (8.02). Suddenly, Susanna Kallur looks a good bet for European Indoor gold in Madrid next month.
Miles stays in the winning groove
Moving quickly on from his personal best win (5.85m) last Saturday in Donetsk, American Derek Miles continued his successful indoor season with another Pole Vault victory at just 4cm lower. However, none of the vaulters were exactly on song in what was a scrappy competition where first time clearances were in short supply for the entire eight man field.
Miles’ winning 5.81m was taken on his first, as was his opening height (5.56), while second placed Denys Yurchenko of Ukraine (5.76) and World Indoor champion Igor Pavlov of Russia (5.71) who was the next best, topped the first time clearance total with three a piece. Miles made three attempts at 5.93, but none of them were close.
3000m ambitions for Estévez?
A final lap kick from former World (indoor and outdoor) medallist and reigning European Indoor 1500m silver medallist Reyes Estévez, 28, secured a well judged 3000m victory (in an indoor PB of 7:43.80 – previous indoors 7:55.48). Despite clocking 3:38.13, the 4th quickest time so far this year, in the 1500m in Valencia at the weekend, after tonight’s 3000m performance and with the Spanish Indoor Championships this coming weekend, he must surely possess goals for both national selection at this distance and ultimately a crack at the European Indoor crown next month.
In the battle of the World Indoor 200m silver medallists, Cameroon’s Joseph Batangdon (2003) just got the better of 2004 World runner-up and local hero Johan Wissman with a neck and neck battle off the final bend going to Batangdon, 21.14 to 21.20. It was enough to silence the stadium instantly but such depressions never lasted long on this atmospheric evening.
Wignall remains in fine form
Coming off the final barrier there was little to separate the six competitors in the men’s 60m Hurdles who included Cuba’s former Olympic champion Anier Garcia, last year’s bronze medallist in Athens. However, a good pick-up in the final dash to the line secured the win for the in-form Jamaican Maurice Wignall who is the world’s third fastest competitor this winter in what was otherwise a blanket finish. His winning time was 7.66, way off his season’s best of 7.54. Sweden’s Robert Kronberg was second (7.69) and Garcia, third (also 7.69).
The women’s 400m was a two-way fight with Russia’s world season leader Olesya Krasnomovets running 51.63 (her season's best - 51.26) getting the better of Ukrainian Nataliya Pyhyda’s PB of 52.02 which had pushed the Russian all the way.
Perhaps Pyhyda had decided on her aggressive tactics after watching the earlier men’s 400m, for it had witnessed a similarly impressive head-to-head contest. Davian Clarke of Jamaica took the fight to the reigning World Indoor champion Alleyne Francique. Despite a desperate attempt to pass the Jamaican on the final back stretch, the man from Grenada was not able to head Clarke, who took the line in 46.34. Francique was second in 46.86.
In the “B” races, the men’s 400m was won by American Jerry Harris (46.44), the men’s 200m by The Netherlands’ Guus Hoogmoed (21.12), while the second string men’s 800m which had got the evening to a start was won by Tanzania’s Samuel Mwera in 1:48.04.
Chris Turner for the IAAF