Juan Miguel Echevarria’s eagerly anticipated 2019 debut will be among the key attractions on Saturday (2) as the IAAF World Indoor Tour resumes with the Indoor Meeting Karslruhe in this southwestern German city.
One year ago, Echevarria kicked off what turned out to be a sensational 2018 season with a victory in Karlsruhe, just four weeks before his upset triumph at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018. Still a teenager, the Cuban later went on to produce a stellar outdoor campaign, capped by an 8.68m personal best and a barely wind-assisted 8.83m leap at the IAAF Diamond League stop in Stockholm. Although it was just outside the allowable wind limit for record purposes, his leap, the longest in the world in 20 years, electrified the event.
On Saturday, Echevarria, now 20, will face another 20-year-old, Miltiadis Tentoglou, the European champion, who opened his season by taking the Mediterranean indoor U23 title 12 days ago with a 7.99m effort, an indoor career best. Karlsruhe's hometown hero Julian Howard, a four-time national champion in the event, is also in the line-up.
Sell-out crowd, global broadcast
Echevarria will perform both in front of a sell-out crowd at the Messehalle Karlsruhe as well as for fans tuning in from nearly every country on the planet. That’s courtesy of a live stream that begins at 19:15 CET (GMT+1) on the IAAF’s YouTube channel, part of the IAAF’s ongoing efforts to bring its events to global audiences - and those audiences closer to the sport’s biggest and rising stars.
Many of those will be on show this winter on the IAAF World Indoor Tour, a series that is comprised of the six finest indoor meetings on the globe, in which athletes compete for points in designated tour disciplines.
Now in its fourth season, this year’s tour kicked off in Boston last Saturday with the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, the start of an action-packed 26-day stretch that includes further stops in Karlsruhe, Torun (6 Feb), Madrid (8 Feb) and Birmingham (16 Feb) before the finale in Düsseldorf (20 Feb) where the series winners will be crowned, awarded their US$20,000 prize bonuses and handed the first wildcard entries for the IAAF World Indoor Championships Nanjing 2020.
Stefanidi v Nageotte, 2019 chapter 3
Tour points will be up for grabs in seven other events, beginning with the evening's first, the women's pole vault which features the third head-to-head of the year between world and Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece and rising US star Katie Nageotte.
Stefanidi got the nod on countback at the Pole Vault Summit in Reno 13 days ago when both cleared 4.74m, but Nageotte gained the upper hand in Boston, topping 4.86m on her first attempt to notch the first Tour win of her career. It was also an early season world lead and Nageotte's second highest leap ever.
Karlsruhe’s solid field includes authorised neutral athlete Anzhelika Sidorova, a two-time world indoor silver medallist, who has already topped 4.85m this season.
On the opposite side of the infield, Mateusz Przybylko will be commanding the spotlight in his return to Karlsruhe, this time as the European high jump champion. The 26-year-old German, who jumped to world indoor bronze in Birmingham last March, has an indoor best of 2.30m from 2018, but has sailed clear at 2.35m outdoors in each of the past two seasons.
He'll take on Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi, the 2016 European and world indoor champion who topped 2.38m indoors and 2.39m outdoors that season only to see his Rio Olympic hopes dashed in anguish by injury that sidelined him for nearly a year. A 2.33m clearance last August illustrated that the 26-year-old is on the mend.
Both will be making their season's debuts, but Wang Yu won't be. The Asian Games champion won in Hustopece five days ago with 2.30m, the season's second highest leap.
Schippers and Maslak headline the sprints
The women's 60m features the first head-to-head clash of 2019 between Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers and Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji. Schippers, a two-time world 200m champion, will make her fifth appearance in Karlsruhe aiming to duplicate her victory from 2016. On paper, she's the fastest in the field with a 7.00 lifetime best making her equal tenth fastest of all time.
That stat aside, it was Kambundji who reached the podium at last year's World Indoor Championships, taking 60m bronze ahead of Schippers. Kambundji shook off the winter rust with a 7.24 clocking in Paris last Sunday while Schippers will be competing for the first time this season.
Pavel Maslak heads the field in the 400m. The winner here in 2012, the 27-year-old Czech returns after piecing together one of the finest indoor track records of the past decade, having collected each major indoor title available to him in the subsequent six years: European indoor crowns in 2013, 2015 and 2017 and world indoor titles in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Maslak will also be chasing two other targets: most immediately, the meeting record of 46.11 set by East German Thomas Schonlebe in 1990, and points towards a second World Indoor Tour title in the event. He'll be chased by 2012 Olympic silver medallist Luguelin Santos and Spanish record holder Óscar Husillos.
Points are also on offer in the women's triple jump. Yesterday's withdrawal of European champion Paraskevi Papachristou of Greece shifts the focus to Germany's Kristin Gierisch, silver medallist at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, North American record holder Tori Franklin of the US and Portugal's Patricia Mamona, the Tour winner in 2017. The latter two have opened their season with modest jumps of 14.11m and 14.09m, respectively, while Gierisch will be making her 2019 debut.
Krause and Birgen chasing middle distance wins
Gesa Felicitas Krause, Germany's two-time European steeplechase champion, will be the centre of attention in the 3000m. But that field includes a pair of Ethiopian 1500m standouts, Axumawit Embaye and Gudaf Tsegay, who could very well control the race.
Embaye battled to 1500m silver at the 2014 World Indoor Championships while Tsegay, her 22-year-old compatriot, took world indoor 1500m bronze two years later. Both remain largely untested over longer distances, however, though Tsegay, with an 8:33.78 career best outdoors, is the fastest in the field. The race will also mark the international invitational debut of 18-year-old Ethiopian Tsige Gebreselama, the bronze medallist over the distance at last year's World U20 Championships.
Elsewhere, Kenyan Bethwell Birgen returns to action in the 1500m, one week after his runner-up finish to Yomif Kejelcha in the Boston mile. There the 30-year-old improved his lifetime best to 3:54.82. In a fairly wide-open contest here, he'll face Ethiopia's Aman Wote, the only man in the field who's ducked under 3:30 outdoors, and Vincent Kibet, a sub-3:32 runner at his best.
Roleder vs Visser in the sprint hurdles
Off of the Tour programme, the women's 60m hurdles will nonetheless attract considerable attention as Germany's Cindy Roleder makes her second start of the year as prep for a title defence at the European Championships later this winter. The 29-year-old clocked 8.10 and 8.14 in her season opener in Erfurt six days ago, but will likely need to go quicker than that on Saturday to fend off Nadine Visser, last year's world indoor bronze medallist. The 23-year-old Dutchwoman will be making her 2019 debut.
And in the men's 800m, also not a points-scoring race, Great Britain's Andrew Osagie and Erik Sowinski of the US, both world indoor bronze medallists, head the field.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF