Yulimar Rojas and Hugues Fabrice Zango will aim to inch closer to – and perhaps even surpass – the world indoor triple jump records at the Villa de Madrid meeting on Friday (21), the final stop on the World Athletics Indoor Tour.
Two-time world champion Rojas has already made history this season by becoming just the eighth woman in history to surpass 15 metres indoors. The Venezuelan leapt a South American indoor record of 15.03m in Metz earlier this month in her first triple jump competition of 2020.
Back in the city that has produced so many memorable moments for the world indoor champion – including the first outdoor 15-metre leap of her career back in 2016 as well as four of her indoor PB performances – Rojas will be keen to make history again in Madrid.
She will be up against training partner and European indoor champion Ana Peleteiro of Spain, Cuba's outdoor world leader Liadagmis Povea, 2017 World Indoor Tour winner Patricia Mamona of Portugal, European U20 heptathlon champion Maria Vicente, and Dominica’s Thea Lafond, who recently set a national indoor record of 14.33m.
Like Rojas, Zango has also got his year off to a phenomenal start. The world bronze medallist from Burkina Faso jumped an outright African record of 17.77m in Paris earlier this month to move to equal fourth on the world indoor all-time list, just 15 centimetres shy of the world record set by his coach, Teddy Tamgho. More recently he won in Lievin with 17.51m and had a foul that landed near to the 18-metre mark.
The conditions at Madrid’s Polideportivo Municipal Gallur, which sits at 629m of altitude, could be even more conducive to big jumps than his past two competitions. Zango will be pushed by the likes of 2008 Olympic champion Nelson Evora, European indoor champion Nazim Babayev, US indoor champion Donald Scott and Spain's Pablo Torrijos.
Zango and Torrijos are currently tied at the top of the World Athletics Indoor Tour standings, so whoever wins in Madrid will take the $20,000 series winner cheque.
Cuban long jump sensation Juan Miguel Echevarria will be making his 2020 season debut. The world indoor champion, who has produced wind-assisted leaps of 8.92m and 8.83m in recent years, will be up against two of his biggest rivals from the past two indoor seasons: Greece’s European champion Miltiadis Tentoglou and Sweden’s Thobias Montler.
World U20 champion Yuki Hashioka of Japan will make his indoor debut, while China’s 2016 world indoor bronze medallist Huang Changzhou and 2015 Asian champion Gao Xinglong are also in the field, along with Spain’s Eusebio Caceres and European indoor heptathlon champion Jorge Urena.
Battle between Barega, Birgen, Balew and Bekele
The men’s 3000m in Madrid could be one of the most hotly contested events of the night.
World silver medallist Selemon Barega heads to the Spanish city off the back of PBs in Dusseldorf, Val-de-Reuil and Lievin, his most recent 3000m best being 7:33.19. World indoor bronze medallist Bethwel Birgen, meanwhile, has also been in impressive form, having won in Boston, Karlsruhe and Glasgow.
But in a loaded field, they’re not the only contenders. Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew, who clocked an Asian indoor record of 7:34.58 in Lievin, will also take to the start line, so too will 2019 world 5000m leader Telahun Haile Bekele, who ran 7:38.85 on his indoor debut in Lievin, and Spain’s 2017 European indoor champion Adel Mechaal.
Birgen currently leads the tour standings from Barega, but if Barega wins in Madrid and Birgen places second, they will be tied on points and the winner will be decided by virtue of the fastest performance in the series.
The women’s 1500m line-up is of a similarly high quality. World bronze medallist Gudaf Tsegay, who came agonisingly close to breaking four minutes in Torun (4:00.09) and Lievin (4:00.60), leads the entries. Another win in Madrid will take her to the top of the World Athletics Indoor Tour standings.
Fellow Ethiopian Lemlem Hailu, who broke Tsegay’s world U20 indoor record in Torun and Lievin, will have another opportunity to improve on that mark. Axumawit Embaye, the 2014 world indoor silver medallist, and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo will also take to the start line, while Spain’s Marta Perez carries Spanish hopes.
Poland’s Adam Kszczot landed his first 800m victory of the year in Glasgow last weekend, overtaking Cornelius Tuwei in the closing stages to consolidate his position at the top of the World Athletics Indoor Tour standings. But in Lievin he was not so fortunate and crashed to the ground with one lap to go, so he will be fired up for the final World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting of the year.
Kszczot and Tuwei will duel again in Madrid, but Collins Kipruto – the winner in Torun and Lievin – will also be on the start line, along with world 1500m bronze medallist Marcin Lewandowski. Kszczot leads the tour standings, but Kipruto is right on his heels and could take the series title with a top-two finish.
Baker, Ali and Baker lead sprint fields
USA’s Ronnie Baker is unbeaten so far over 60m in 2020. The world indoor bronze medallist sits third on the world indoor all-time list with 6.40 and he got within 0.04 of that mark with his recent victory in Lievin, putting him joint top of the tour leaderboard.
Compatriot Demek Kemp won in Boston and finished second in Lievin, clocking 6.50 both times. He looks to be Baker's toughest opponent in Madrid and in the World Athletics Indoor Tour standings overall. Fellow US sprinters Mike Rodgers and Brandon Carnes will also take to their blocks for the 60m, so too will European indoor champion Jan Volko of the Slovak Republic and Shuhei Tada of Japan.
Following her win in Lievin earlier this week, two-time world indoor champion Nia Ali is a late addition to the women's 60m hurdles field. The world 100m hurdles champion currently leads the World Athletics Indoor Tour standings, but she'll only maintain that position - and her chance of a $20,000 pay day - if she wins again in Madrid and beats world indoor silver medallist Christina Clemons.
World indoor 60m hurdles champion Andrew Pozzi has been undefeated this year with victories in Paris, Torun and Glasgow. But Kuwait’s Yaqoub Mohamed Al Youha and Poland’s Damian Czykier, both of whom have clocked 7.54 this year, will challenge the Briton, as will Greek record-holder Konstantinos Douvalidis.
European champion Justyna Swiety-Ersetic heads to Madrid as the 400m leader on the World Athletics Indoor Tour. To maintain that spot, the Polish sprinter needs to finish in the top two on Friday night, but European indoor champion Lea Sprunger and European bronze medallist Lisanne De Witte are close behind in the standings, so there are still a few different possible outcomes.
Kuwait’s Youssef Karam has the fastest season’s best of the men’s 400m field, but the Spanish trio of Lucas Bua, Samuel Garcia and Manuel Guijarro will benefit from the support of the home crowd.
Gone are the days when a 21-metre throw would be sufficient to win the men’s shot put at international meetings. The world’s best now need to be closer to 22 metres to secure a victory, and sometimes even that isn’t enough.
Tomas Stanek of the Czech Republic and Konrad Bukowiecki are both 22-metre performers at their best and they head to Madrid with season’s bests of 21.86m and 21.88m respectively. Italy’s Leonardo Fabbri and Croatia’s Filip Mihaljevi, both of whom have set national indoor records in recent weeks, will also be in the circle.
Stanek and Mihaljevic are currently tied at the top of the tour leaderboard with Bukowiecki in third, so it's all to play for in Madrid.
Having already done enough to win the men’s pole vault on the World Athletics Indoor Tour, world record-holder Armand Duplantis won’t be in Madrid, but it should still be a close contest as the field appears fairly well matched.
Greece’s 2014 world indoor champion Konstantinos Filippidis will be looking to improve on his season’s best of 5.70m. Poland’s 2016 European champion Robert Sobera and Sweden’s European indoor bronze medallist Melker Svard Jacobsson should join him at the higher heights.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics