Ayanleh Souleiman (© Getty Images)
The XL-galan meeting - an IAAF Indoor Permit meeting - in the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm celebrates its 24th edition on Thursday (21) and the usually sold out crowd of more than 10,000 have been treated to no less than eight World indoor records as well as three World junior records.
The majority of those records were set in the middle and long distance events and looking at the start lists for this year's meeting, the best probability for another World record is in the men’s 1000m.
Great Britain's Michael Rimmer, Mukhtar Mohamed and Andrew Osagie all went under 1:47 over 800m in Birmingham last Saturday.
Add to the mix, Djibouti's in-form Ayanleh Souleiman and USA's 2011 IAAF World Championships 1500m bronze medallist Matt Centrowitz as well as Poland's 2010 European Athletics Championships 800m gold medallist Marcin Lewandowski, who seems to be in the middle of a successful transformation from being a specialist over two to a 1500m runner, and you have to ask the question: can Wilson Kipketer’s 2:14.96 from 2000 really survive that kind of onslaught?
Other middle and long distance also promise exciting races.
In the men’s 800m, Ethiopia’s Mohamed Aman - the only runner to have defeated David Rudisha in the last couple of years - makes his indoor debut over the distance this year, facing the likes of Sudan's Abubaker Kaki, Kenya's London 2012 Olympic Games 800m bronze medallist Timothy Kitum and Poland's Adam Kszczot.
The 2012 world -leading time of 1:46.55 looks very vulnerable indeed and maybe Aman might even be able to approach the World junior indoor record of 1:44.35.
Rupp and Dibaba the 3000m favourites
The 3000m races features USA's Galen Rupp and Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba, who both have run brilliantly in recent weeks.
Rupp heads the world Mile list and is a very close second in the 3000m while Dibaba has been the truly outstanding female 1500m runner this winter, leading the world list by almost seven seconds. Dibaba hasn’t run the 3000m in three years but, with a background as a two-time World Championships finalist over 5000m, she is not lacking in the endurance department.
Two years ago, Ethiopian-born Abeba Aregawi had an outstanding indoor season at 1500m, winning all her four races which culminating in her world-leading 4:01.47 in Stockholm.
She missed last winter due to injury but returned in the summer taking the overall win at the Samsung Diamond League, and at the end of last summer she also got her Swedish citizenship so this race now will be her first outing representing Sweden.
With the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Gothenburg quickly approaching, the spectators in the Globe Arena will have their eyes on the local medal hopes there, especially long jumper Michel Tornus and 400m runner Moa Hjelmer, the latter growing up not far from thee arena on the southern outskirts of Stockholm.
Torneus has thrived in this meeting in recent years, winning in both 2011 and 2012, and the Olympic Games fourth-placer seems to be in even better form this year having already jumped an indoor best of 8.15m at the national indoor championships in Norrköping on Sunday.
His performance just a few days ago puts him in a tie for second place on the 2013 world list with Greece's Yeoryios Tsakonas, who also will be competing in Stockholm.
Finland's Eero Haapala will be there, as well as the likes of Godfrey Mokoena and Chris Tomlinson.
Hjelmer - like Tornéus - first competed in the meeting in the youth relay before reaching her teens. Last year she was third in the 400m, narrowly missing by just 0.03 the Swedish indoor record before the surprise 2012 European Athletics Championships 400m winner finally improving on it a couple of weeks later in the semifinals at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Now, on Thursday, she will probably need to further improve on those 52.29 if she wants to challenge for the win as she will be facing USA's Ebonie Floyd and Czech Republic's Zuzana Hejnová who have already run faster this winter.
Ekelund an exciting talent
Another Swedish athlete that will get lots of attention is recent sprint sensation Irene Ekelund, who only turns 16 next month.
She defeated Hjelmer over 200m at the national indoor championships on Sunday and took 0.32 off the 19-year-old former Swedish indoor record, lowering it to 23.15.
At the XL-galan, Ekelund will be running the 60m but no one is expecting her to be a serious contender for victory as she will be up against three runners that have run between 7.09 and 7.13 this year.
Jamaica's two-time Olympic Games 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will be running just her second ever indoor 60m (the debut was her 7.09 for second place in Birmingham) but will be the favourite. However, she can expect pressure from Ukraine's Mariya Ryemyen and US Virgin Islands' Laverne Jones-Ferrette.
The women’s Pole Vault has seen a new World record in three previous editions of this meet, including last year when Yelena Isinbayeva established the current top mark of 5.01m, and while that is unlikely be approached this time an exciting competition is on the cards.
Holly Bleasdale and Cuba’s Yarisley Silva, the top two in the world this year, will face off for the fourth time this winter with the British vaulter 2-1 ahead so far.
Russia’s Anastasia Savchenko, who cleared 4.70m to win the Russian championships recently, and Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson are also in the field; with the latter, after missing last year due to injury, returning to the site of her spectacular World junior record of 4.63m in 2011.
The women’s High Jump has almost always been a featured event in this meeting thanks to first and foremost to popularity and prowess of the famous Kajsa Bergqvist.
Emma Green Tregaro and Ebba Jungmark carry on that tradition and they will face three more top-flight jumpers: Belgium's 2008 Olympic champion Tia Hellebaut, Estonia's Anna Iljustsenko and France's Melanie Melfort.
The really extensive world class menu offered on Thursday night also includes a 60m Hurdles featuring USA's 2013 world leader Kevin Craddock against the Cuban 'new generation' of Orlando Ortega and Yordan O’Farrill.
There is also a 400m where Olympic medallists Lalonde Gordon and Luguelin Santos, from Trinidad and Dominican Republic respectively, will be up against Czech Republic's 2012 European Athletics Championships gold medallist Pavel Maslak.
A Lennart Julin for the IAAF