Season debuts by pole vaulting star Armand Duplantis and world indoor champion Adam Kszczot will be among the key highlights at the International PSD Bank Meeting Dusseldorf, the third stop of the World Athletics Indoor Tour, on Tuesday (4).
Duplantis, who joined the pole vault's exclusive six-metre club as an 18-year-old in 2018, leads a field that includes all three of last season's outdoor six-metre jumpers: world champion Sam Kendricks, Pole Piotr Lisek, who also took world bronze, and Duplantis, who finished between the pair at the World Championships in Doha. Kendricks, who topped 6.06m outdoors last year, and Duplantis, with a 6.05m career best, sit second and equal-third on the all-time outdoor list with Lisek, at 6.02m, a scant three centimetres behind.
Kendricks, the winner in Cottbus with 5.80m last Wednesday, will be looking to bounce back from an off night in Karlsruhe where he topped just 5.50m to finish a disappointing ninth.
The field includes Dusseldorf native Bo Kanda Lita Baehre, fourth in both Doha and Karlsruhe two nights ago, who will have another sell-out crowd at the Dusseldorf Athletics Hall behind him at this now traditional stop on the World Athletics Indoor Tour.
The fifth season of the World Athletics Indoor Tour kicked off in Boston on 25 January with the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix and resumed last Friday in Karlsruhe. After Dusseldorf, the action-packed 27-day stretch continues with further stops in Torun (8 Feb), Glasgow (15 Feb) and Liévin (19 Feb) before the finale in Madrid (21 Feb) where the series winners in 11 point-scoring disciplines will be crowned and awarded their US$20,000 prize bonuses. The point-scoring disciplines this season include the 60m, 800m, 3000m/5000m, pole vault, triple jump and shot put for men and the 400m, 1500m, 60m hurdles, high jump and long jump for women.
Kszczot, Tuka and Lewandowski in 800m showdown
Eight of those are on Tuesday's programme including the men's 800m which is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated race on the track.
Over more than a decade, Kszczot has sat firmly on the short list of the planet's most consistent 800m runners, racing to medals in nearly all world or continental championships he's contested since 2011. However, 2019 left the Pole empty-handed, which will make him especially hungry as the Olympic year commences.
Kszczot will face a difficult task in his 2020 debut, taking on compatriot and world 1500m bronze medallist Marcin Lewandowski and world 800m silver medallist Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Hercegovina.
Lewandowski, the 2015 European indoor champion over 800m, focused more on the longer event in 2019. He set the Polish indoor record of 3:36.50 in Torun and went on the break the national outdoor record twice. His second, a 3:31.46 run at the World Championships, propelled him to the bronze medal.
Tuka earned 800m silver in Doha with 1:43.47, the second-best run of his career behind the 1:42.51 national record he set in 2015. His indoor best is 1:46.33. Like Lewandowski, he too will be making his season's debut.
Birgen vs Barega in hot 3000
The men's 3000m promises to be a highlight as well, with Kenya's Bethwel Birgen, the winner in the Boston and Karlsruhe legs, taking on Ethiopian Selemon Barega, the silver medallist over 3000m at the 2018 World Championships indoors and 5000m silver medallist at the 2019 World Championships outdoors, who will be making his first appearance of the year. Birhanu Balew of Bahrain, second in Karlsruhe, returns as well.
On the women's side, the 1500m will be a near-rematch of Friday's tactical Karlsruhe contest, pitting winner Axumawit Embaye of Ethiopia against runner-up Winnie Nanyondo of Uganda and Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech, the steeplechase world champion and world record holder. Chepkoech led the field into the final straight only to fade to fourth over the final 10 metres.
There’s also a men’s 1500m on the programme, a non-scoring event, with Norway's Filip Ingebrigtsen, the 2017 world bronze medallist in the event, facing Kenyans Vincent Kibet and Kumari Taki, the latter the 2015 World U18 and 2016 World U20 champion.
Amusan assumes favourite’s role
Another potential highlight on the women's programme is the 60mn hurdles where Tobi Amusan returns to the track three days after her convincing victory in Karlsruhe. Despite a somewhat sluggish first half, the Nigerian improved her lifetime best to 7.84 on Friday, boding well for her rematch with Christina Clemons, the world indoor silver medallist two years ago who clocked 7.98 for the second consecutive weekend.
Local eyes will focus on Pamela Dutkiewicz, the 2017 world bronze medallist outdoors who is on the comeback from injury and Cindy Roleder, who will be looking to bounce back from a subpar performance in Karlsruhe where she finished last.
Point chase picks up in men’s 60m, women’s 400m
After a break last weekend, the men's 60m returns to the Tour slate with a wide open field. Some of the names to watch include Hassan Taftian of Iran, a finalist at the 2018 World Indoor Championships, European indoor champion Jan Volko of Slovakia and Brandon Carnes of the US who has clocked 6.58 this season, the fastest in the field in 2020.
The point chase also continues in the women's 400m with Poland's Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, the reigning European champion outdoors, making her first Tour appearance of the season, to take on Lea Sprunger of Switzerland, the European indoor champion, who was second by a whisker in Karlsruhe. Lisanne de Witte, the Boston 500m winner, is also in the field.
The field events programme also includes with men’s shot put, with Konrad Bukowiecki, the European indoor champion in 2017 and a 22-metre performer indoors (22.25m) and outdoors (22.00m), heading the field. He'll take on Bob Bertemes of Luxembourg, who improved to 22.22m last season and Chuk Enekwechi of Nigeria, a 2019 World Championships finalist.
Collins looking to extend Tour momentum
In other non-scoring action, US indoor 60m champion Shania Collins returns to action after her 7.20 win in Karlsruhe to face Gina Bass of The Gambia, a double medallist at last year's All Africa Games, who made her indoor track debut with a 7.20 victory in Mondeville on Saturday. Ajla Del Ponte of Switzerland, second in Karlsruhe with 7.27, also returns.
Jarret Eaton, the 2018 world indoor 60m hurdles silver medallist and Tour winner in the event last year, returns to Dusseldorf to take on France’s world indoor bronze medallist Aurel Manga and two-time Asian silver medallist Yaqoub Al-Yoha of Kuwait. Eaton false-started in his heat here last year, a rare blemish for one of the most consistent indoor racers the past few seasons.
And in the women's triple jump, Portugal's Patricia Mamona, the Tour winner in the event in 2017 and the 2016 European champion, takes on Paraskevi Papachristou of Greece, the 2018 European champion, and Tori Franklin, the US indoor (14.57m) and outdoor (14.84) record holder. Franklin, 27, is also the early season world leader at 14.01m.
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics