Shawn Barber in action in the pole vault
The organisers of the opening IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting, the Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe in Germany, have assembled a set of outstanding fields in their 12 featured events – 10 of which will count towards the IAAF World Indoor Tour standings – to get the innovative new series off to a flying start on Saturday (6).
With such a plethora of the sport’s stars on display, it’s unfair to focus on just a couple of the events but there is no doubt that the pole vault is expected to be one of the highlights of the night.
All three medallists from the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 will be in action: Canadian gold medallist Shawn Barber, who has already cleared 6.00m this winter, Germany’s 2013 world champion and 2015 silver medallist Raphael Holzdeppe and France’s world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie.
The trio have already met once this year, two weeks ago in the French city of Rouen, when Holzdeppe came out on top with an indoor best of 5.84m.
On the track, the men’s 3000m has mouth-watering possibilities with the world-leading time of 7:39.23 definitely under threat.
Kenya’s Augustine Choge set that time when showing a clean pair of heel to his rivals in Dusseldorf on Wednesday night and he again takes his compatriot and world indoor champion Caleb Ndiku and Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew, who finished second and third behind him two days ago.
The field for 15 laps of the Messe arena also includes the prodigiously talented Ethiopian teenager Yomif Kejelcha.
Down distance, Poland’s two-time European indoor champion Adam Kszczot and France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse face each other again over 800m.
In Dusseldorf, Kszczot convincingly came out on top, clocking a European-leading time of 1:46.00 but Bosse clocked a big indoor best of 1:46.79 and is looking to improve further.
Schippers the 60m star turn
World 200m champion and European record-holder Dafne Schippers will race over 60m, the indoor discipline at which she won a continental title last year when she set a world-leading time and personal best of 7.05 in Prague.
Among Schippers’ rivals will be Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who finished second behind the Dutch sprinter in the Czech capital and in the summer became the first British woman to cover the 100m within 11 seconds when she ran a national record of 10.99 in London.
The women’s 60m hurdles sees the quick but internationally inexperienced Kendra Harrison, who recently ran a world-leading 7.83, have her first ever indoor race outside of the USA, and only her third international competition ever, her last coming in Beijing where she was disqualified in the 100m hurdles semi-finals.
She faces her compatriot and world indoor champion Nia Ali, Great Britain’s European 100m hurdles champion Tiffany Porter and Germany’s world silver medallist Cindy Roleder.
France’s European triple jump champion Benjamin Compaore will go go head-to-head with world bronze medallist and 2008 Olympic champion Nelson Evora while many people will be watching the shot put to see how Czech Republic’s Tomas Stanek follows up his world-leading personal best of 21.26m last weekend.
After equalling the world-leading time of 6.53 in Dusseldorf, St Kitts’ 39-year-old Kim Collins is the man to watch in the 60m but the fastest man in the field is US sprinter Trell Kimmons, twice fourth at the World Indoor Championships and with a best of 6.45, and who has been running consistently well in the USA this year.
Young faces in the 1500m
The women’s 1500m features two prodigious teenagers, USA’s Mary Cain, who doesn’t turn 20 until May, and Germany’s 18-year-old emerging star Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who won the European junior cross-country title in December and ran the fastest ever indoor 1500m by a European junior last week when she clocked 4:09.79, albeit in a mixed race.
However, the favourite has to be Ethiopia’s world indoor silver medallist Axumawit Embaye, only 21 herself and who has an indoor personal best of 4:02.92. Embaye is almost four seconds faster on paper than the next best in the field, that person being Cain.
Natasha Hastings, a regular feature on the USA’s medal-winning 4x400m teams at international championships in the past decade, will be the woman to beat in the 400m.
German fans will be excited to see the return of high jumper Ariane Friedrich who is back competing again this winter after an absence of almost three years, due to injury and childbirth. She cleared 2.05m at this meeting in 2009 and won in 2010.
However, it would be unrealistic to expect a fairy tale victory for Friedrich, especially as the six-strong field includes Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch, who jumped 1.94m in Karlsruhe two weeks ago.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF