The 2020 World Athletics Indoor Tour began with national records and fantastic performances in Boston, as world champions Donavan Brazier and Nia Ali kicked off their Olympic campaigns with victories at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday night (25).
Brazier, the world champion in the 800m, dominated the men’s 600m. In the final event of the evening, Brazier came through 400m in 49.62, and obliterated the field to win in a meeting record of 1:14.39. Brazier, who owns the world indoor best for the 600m with his 1:13.77 from last year’s US Indoor Championships, won by nearly six seconds from Michael Stigler.
“It feels great,” said Brazier, who was contesting his first race since the World Championships. “This is my tradition so far while being a professional. I’ve run at the Reggie Lewis Center four years straight now and I’ve come out with four wins in a row – so I might as well just keep coming back.”
Ali started her indoor season right where she left off, winning the 60m hurdles in 7.94. The world 100m hurdles champion pulled away over the final barrier to beat world indoor silver medallist Christina Clemons, who finished in 7.98.
“It means a lot to start off the season here,” said Ali after running her fastest 60m hurdles time since winning the 2016 world indoor title. “My family is able to get down and see me and I appreciate that. Especially being from the East coast. I know the crowd is always good to me, so I love it.”
In the women’s 1500m, Jessica Hull of Australia sat on the shoulder of Konstanze Klosterhalfen for 1450m before bursting to the front in the final straight to win in 4:04.14, taking more than two seconds off the Oceanian indoor record.
Klosterhalfen, the German athlete coming off a bronze medal in the 5000m at the World Championship in Doha, finished second in 4:04.38. Ciara Mageean finished third in 4:06.42 to break her own Irish indoor record.
In his first indoor race as a professional, Bryce Hoppel, who did not lose a race collegiately last year, nipped Jake Wightman at the line to win the 1000m in 2:17.41. Wightman, who set a British indoor record of 2:17.51, led going into the final lap, but Hoppel clocked a 27.1 final circuit pick up the win.
World indoor bronze medallist Bethwell Birgen of Kenya won a duel over Edward Cheserek, who announced this week he would be competing internationally for Kenya, in the 3000m. After the pacemaker stepped off the track with just over 1000m to go, Cheserek and Birgen traded the lead before Birgen unleashed a stunning final 300m, closing his last lap in 26.33 to take the win over Cheserek, 7:44.21 to 7:46.74.
In the women’s two miles, Elinor Purrier buried the competition over the final lap to win in 9:29.19 as 2017 world steeplechase champion, Emma Coburn, finished third.
Gabby Thomas blitzed a 36.52 to win the 300m. Thomas, a graduate of Harvard University, won the first heat by a wide margin and held on for the win after Shamier Little beat out Kendall Ellis in the second heat, 37.07 to 37.36.
“It was really great to compete at home, here in Boston,” Thomas said. “Especially this being my first year out of college and having that energy around me, it’s a really an amazing feeling.”
Chris O’Hare of Great Britain held off a hard-charging Nick Willis in the men’s mile, winning 3:59.62 to 3:59.89.
Demek Kemp won the 60m in 6.50, taking 0.05 off his personal best. Trayvon Bromell, running the 60m for the first time since winning the 2016 world indoor title at the distance, finished seventh in 6.84. Obi Igbokwe, a senior at the University of Houston, won the men’s 400m in 46.50.
In the field events, Pablo Torrijos of Spain kept his cool after four successive fouls in the men’s triple jump, eventually sailing out to 16.75m in the fifth round to seal the victory. Amina Smith of the US cleared 1.89m to win the women’s high jump.
The World Athletics Indoor Tour will next head to Karlsruhe, Germany, on 31 January, when athletes will continue to chase tour ranking points as well as wildcards for the World Athletics Indoor Championships Nanjing 2020.
Liam Boylan-Pett for World Athletics