Genzebe Dibaba in Karlsruhe (© Bongarts/Getty Images)
Genzebe Dibaba’s return to the setting of her world indoor 1500m record will be the key attractions on Saturday (3) at the Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe, the opening stop of the 2018 IAAF World Indoor Tour.
The IAAF World Indoor Tour is comprised of the six finest indoor meetings on the planet, with athletes competing for points in designated tour disciplines. Now in its third season, this year’s tour will be staged over the course of 22 days, with further stops in Düsseldorf, Madrid, Boston and Torun before its conclusion in Glasgow on 25 February, just four days before the IAAF World Championships Birmingham 2018 get underway. At the end of the series, the individual overall winner of each discipline takes home US$20,000 in prize money and a ‘wild card’ entry to the World Indoor Championships.
The women’s 1500m is among the point-scoring events this year, adding an extra layer of excitement to Dibaba's return engagement.
The Ethiopian, now 26, smashed the world indoor 1500m record by more than three seconds at this meeting in 2014, albeit at a different venue, clocking 3:55.17. No one other than the Ethiopian has come within two seconds of the mark since.
That record came in the lead-in to the first of Dibaba's two world indoor 3000m title-winning runs. This year's appearance follows a 2017 season which started on an up-note indoors --Dibaba clocked a 5:23.75 world indoor 2000m record in Sabadell, Spain and was the world indoor leader at 1500m-- but ended prematurely due to illness at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
Saturday will be her first start since London, and she’ll be eager to wipe away that experience and start 2018 with a clean slate.
Dibaba faces a field that includes Kenyan Winny Chebet, who improved her PB outdoors last season to 3:59.16. Poland's Angelika Cichocka, the reigning European outdoor champion over the distance, should also be a factor. The 29-year-old also has 2014 world indoor 800m silver and European indoor 1500m silver from 2015 to her credit.
Meanwhile, local eyes will focus on rising star Konstanze Klosterhalfen. The 20-year-old made a big breakthrough in 2017, improving her lifetime bests outdoors to 3:58.92 and 8:29.89 over 1500m and 3000m. She also raced to silver at the European Indoor Championships last winter. Gesa Felicitas Krause, the 2015 World Championships bronze medallist in the steeplechase and reigning European champion, is also entered.
Kejelcha - Gebrhiwet 3000m showdown
The men's 3000m field is led by Yomif Kejelcha, the defending world indoor champion in the event. The 20-year-old has already gotten the year off to a good start, clocking 13:34.67 six days ago on Seattle's over-sized track.
He'll tangle with Ethiopian compatriot Hagos Gebrhiwet, the Olympic 5000m bronze medallist, who'll be making his first appearance of the season.
Kenya will be well represented by Bethwell Birgen, a 7:32.48 runner outdoors; perennial 1500m standout Silas Kiplagat; and Edwin Soi, the Olympic 5000m bronze medallist in 2008, who's looking to return close to the form that propelled him to world indoor bronze over this distance six years ago. Watch out too for Moroccan Adbalaati Iguider who's been a regular force in just about every major championship since 2008. The 30-year-old, fourth over this distance at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, opened his season with a 3:36.87 1500m performance in Val de Reuill last weekend.
The pacesetters have been given Shadrack Kipchirchir's 7:42.71 world lead as their target.
With the late hour withdrawal of Kenyan Kipyegon Bett due to a minor injury, the focus in the men's 800m will fall on the experienced Marcin Lewandowski, who's won European indoor gold at 800m and 1500m. The field also includes Briton Andrew Osagie, the 2012 and 2014 world indoor bronze medallist, and Erik Solinski of the US, the 2016 world indoor bronze winer who opened his season with a win in New York last weekend.
Thiago vs Lavillenie
The jumps are expected to figure prominently on the World Indoor Tour this winter and should get off to a rousing start in Karlsruhe.
The men’s pole vault boasts a strong field, capped by Olympic champion Thiago Braz da Silva who’ll be taking on world record holder Renaud Lavillenie. The Frenchman arrives as the world leader at 5.86m while Braz, on the mend from injury that curtailed his 2017 season, topped 5.70 in his sole appearance of the year.
Three other world outdoor champions will also be competing: Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski (2009), Germany Raphael Holzdeppe (2013) and Shawn Barber (2015) of Canada.
The field in the women’s high jump, another scoring event, is led by Ukraine’s rising star Yuliya Levchenko, whose breakout 2017 season included a bronze medal at the European Indoor Championships and silver at the World Championships in London. She's topped 1.97, an indoor PB, in both of her 2018 competitions.
German attention will centre on Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch, the 2016 World Indoor Tour winner who finished fourth at last August’s World Championships.
The women’s long jump features a clash between Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta and European champion Ivana Spanovic.
Bartoletta, who’s jumped 7.17m outdoors, has an indoor lifetime best of 6.80m which she set when winning the 2006 world indoor title but has jumped sparingly indoors since. Last weekend she competed in an indoor long jump competition for the first time in nine years, getting out the rust with a modest 6.38m effort and will be seeking to make amends.
Spanovic on the other hand, is one of the best indoor long jumpers in history. The world and Olympic bronze medallist won the European indoor title last year with a national indoor record of 7.24m, the best indoor jump in the world since 1989 which put her third on the world indoor all-time list.
British indoor record-holder Lorraine Ugen, who earned 2016 world indoor bronze and 2017 European indoor silver behind Spanovic, is also set to compete.
As expected, there will also be a strong German presence with European bronze medallist Malaika Mihambo, 2015 European indoor silver medallist Sosthene Moguenara and 6.95m indoor performer Alexandra Wester in the field.
Dutkiewicz in the spotlight
Perhaps the biggest attraction for the sell-out crowd will be the women’s 60m hurdles, featuring Pamela Dutkiewicz. The 26-year-old enjoyed a major breakthrough during the 2017 indoor season, improving her PB to 7.79 and collecting European Indoor Championships bronze. Outdoors, she won her first 12 races of the summer season and clocked a PB of 12.61 before racing to bronze at the World Championships in London.
She’ll take on compatriot Cindy Roleder, who’s on the mend from injury, twice European indoor champion Alina Talay of Belarus, and US trio of Jasmin Stowers, Sharika Nelvis and Christina Manning. All have lifetime bests of 7.85 or better.
The men’s 60m includes three of the young season’s five fastest men: Cuban Yunier Perez and Everton Clarke of Jamaica, who clocked 6.53 and 6.55 in Ostrava, and Su Bingtian of China, the winner last Friday in Berlin where he clocked 6.55.
Michael Rodgers of the US, a three-time World Indoor Championships finalist over the short dash and the 2016 World Indoor Tour winner, is also in the field.
Rounding out the Tour events on the track is the women’s 400m where Natasha Hastings of the US will start as the favourite in her 2018 debut over her specialist distance.
A multiple world and Olympic medallist in 4x400m relay, Hastings is by far the fastest in the field on paper, bringing lifetime bests of 50.80 indoors and 49.84 outdoors to the start line. Swiss 400m hurdler Lea Sprunger, a world championships finalist last year and Poland’s Justyna Swiety, the European indoor bronze medallist last year, should be in the hunt as well.
Wide open women’s 60m
Although it’s not a scoring event, the women’s 60m boasts a strong field. Barbara Pierre of the US, the reigning world indoor champion, is in the line-up as is Jamaican Gayon Evans, winner of the Tour last year.
German hopes rest with Tatjana Pinto, who’s already clocked 7.07 this season, and Gina Lückenkemper, who sped to a lifetime best of 10.95 in the opening round of the 100m at the World Championships, the fastest performance by a German woman for 26 years.
Bartoletta, whose massive collection of laurels includes two world indoor 60m bronze medals, is also in the field, doing double duty. Note that the long jump competition coincides with the women’s 60m final.
There’s also a men’s long jump on the programme, albeit a non-scoring competition, which features German champion Julian Howard and Italy’s Andrew Howe, the 2007 world silver medallist outdoors.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF