Abeba Aregawi at the press conference ahead of the 2014 XL-Galan (© Hasse Sjogren)
Almost immediately as Abeba Aregawi had finished the 1500m at last year’s XL-Galan, having missed the world indoor record by an agonising 12 hundredths of a second, she decided to return to the IAAF Indoor Permit meeting in Stockholm on 6 February even more determined to break the mark.
But just a few days ago, Aregawi’s goal changed dramatically as Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba stormed to 3:55.17 in Karlsruhe, lowering the world indoor record by more than three seconds in one blow.
The magnitude of that performance is best illustrated by the fact that it is faster than any outdoor performance for more than 16 years.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the obvious question for Aregawi was how her plans had been affected by Dibaba’s performance.
“Of course it was a great time and it is obvious that she has trained very well,” said the world champion. “But so have I, and apart for a couple of weeks with a stomach bug around new year, everything has gone according to plan.
“So my previous ambition still stands, I want to try to challenge the world record on Thursday.”
Dibaba’s super run in Karlsruhe also changed the face of the women’s 3000m in Stockholm. Before, it looked to be an exciting dress rehearsal for the IAAF World Indoor Championships next month with Dibaba up against reigning champion Hellen Obiri.
But considering the amazing form Dibaba showed last week, and the fact that last year in Stockholm she missed Meseret Defar’s world indoor 3000m record by less than three seconds, the race on Thursday night could take on another exciting dimension.
The XL Galan in the Globe Arena was born in 1990 and throughout the years the middle and long-distance races have provided much excitement. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the meeting and it looks to follow that tradition which so far has provided no less than five world indoor records and three world junior indoor records.
In addition to the women’s 1500m and 3000m, there are exciting line-ups in the men’s 1500m and 800m. In the metric mile, the top five on the current 2014 world season list will be competing, headed by 2011 world silver medallist Silas Kiplagat. The Kenyan will also be up against 2014 Diamond Race Ayanleh Souleiman, African champion Caleb Ndiku and world bronze medallist Johan Cronje.
In the 800m, Ethiopia’s world champion Mohammed Aman returns to the track where he ran a solo 1:45.05 to top the 2013 world indoor season list. His 600m win in Moscow last Sunday proved his form is at least as good as it was last year.
The second major part of the quarter-century legacy of XL-Galan has been the jumping events. The 2014 edition also lives up to that tradition.
The women’s high jump brings together Russia’s world leader Mariya Kuchina, Spain’s European champion Ruth Beitia and home favourite Emma Green Tregaro, who between them have provided the best six jumps in the world so far this winter.
The women’s pole vault features Germany’s Silke Spiegelburg and Czech Republic’s Jirina Svobodova, two of the four vaulters sharing the first place on the current world list with 4.71m.
The programme also includes two long jump competitions. In the men’s event, local hero Michel Tornéus is looking for his fourth straight win at this meeting, but he will need to bring his best form to succeed.
The European indoor silver medallist will be up against the likes of world silver medallist Ignisious Gaisah, 2008 Olympic champion Irving Saladino, 2011 world bronze medallist Ngoni Makusha, 2010 European champion Christian Reif, British record-holder Chris Tomlinson, world finalist Li Jinzhe and indoor debutant Zarck Visser.
In the women’s event, world bronze medallist Ivana Spanovic will be the favourite to win, although she will have an handful of opponents including Stockholm native and European indoor bronze medallist Erica Jarder, whose indoor PB of 6.71m is just two centimetres shy of the Serbian’s indoor best.
The 2014 XL-Galan has more than just jumping and distance running events. In the sprints, a quality men’s 60m hurdles is in store with the two fastest men in the world so far this winter – Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Jeff Porter – going head-to-head.
In the women’s 60m, another close contest is expected between top Europeans Verena Sailer and Ezinne Okaparaebo and USA’s LaKeisha Lawson, winner at the Russian Winter meeting last weekend.
The men’s 400m also promises to be an exciting race with Olympic silver medallist Luguelin Santos running against world indoor champion Nery Brenes and European indoor champion Pavel Maslak.
A Lennart Julin for the IAAF