With the IAAF World Indoor Championships just six weeks away, the annual Sainsbury’s Glasgow International on Saturday (25) provided a taste of what lies in store in Sopot, Poland.
Nine world-leading marks were set, many of them by athletes who will be in contention for medals at the World Indoor Championships on 7-9 March.
The hosts had some fine performances too, including middle-distance victories for world 1500m finalist Chris O’Hare and European under-23 bronze medallist Laura Muir as Scotland looks ahead to a summer in which they will host the Commonwealth Games.
But in the overall team standings, it was the Commonwealth Select who held off Great Britain & Northern Ireland to grab first place by three points, with the United States in third and the Scots fourth.
USA’s Bernard Lagat, now aged 39, provided one of the world-leading marks. The three-time world indoor champion is intent on retaining his 3000m title and he held off a challenge from Britain’s Andy Vernon in 7:49.83, the fastest time in the world this year.
The Kenyan-born veteran remains highly motivated after proving he remains among the elite. “That makes me think I can do this,” he said. “So now what can I do at 39? It’s not getting any easier. I’m not getting faster. Time is getting shorter. But I still have to be motivated to do the best I can.”
Francena McCorory, a member of the USA’s 4x400m relay squad that took gold at the London 2012 Olympics, was exhausted after winning the 400m in a world-leading 51.79. “I had a plan to run and see where I’m at,” she admitted. “I would like to get as close as possible to my American record (50.54). If I can do it once, I reckon I can do it again.”
The pair were among six wins for the US team, which also included a 2.33m leap from Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard to claim the high jump with European champion Robbie Grabarz down in third while Nia Ali’s winter work paid off when she coasted clear of world bronze medallist Tiffany Porter in the 60m hurdles in 8.06. Porter’s husband Jeff took the men’s event in 7.66.
Another world lead came from British sprinter James Dasaolu who illustrated his intent to build on 2013 when he won the 60m in 6.50 ahead of Dwain Chambers. The 26-year-old will chase gold in Sopot with his best, he feels, still ahead.
“I don’t think I nailed it there,” said Dasaolu, whose PB is 6.48. “But it just shows that the consistent improvements I’m making in training is showing in competition. I opened up with 6.60 last year. I opened up with 6.50 today. Hopefully I’ll get a personal best.
“I didn’t think I got the first five metres right. Maybe it’s because I was nervous in my first race, but I know there’s plenty of room for improvement.”
His was among 13 wins for athletes from the United Kingdom, shared between the various teams. European indoor champion Holly Bleasdale consolidated her second-place position on this year’s world indoor season list in the pole vault, failing twice at her opening height before clearing 4.62m.
Coming back from injury, the world indoor bronze medallist has focused on improving her run- up through extensive sessions with coach Scott Simpson. It is still a work in progress but she is enthused to be in competition again.
“To be back doing the thing I love is the most rewarding thing ever,” she said. “I enjoyed myself out there. There are still a few things I can work on. It’s not the best I’ve ever jumped. I’m still a bit rusty out there. But I’m just looking forward to the next one now.”
Britain’s Asha Phillip took the 60m as she builds towards the World Indoors while Shara Proctor, the world indoor bronze medallist two years ago in Istanbul, will look for extra gains despite claiming the long jump with 6.59m.
“I just need to go back to the drawing board and fix little glitches I had,” she said. “It’s my first meet, so I didn’t expect too much, I just wanted to come out here and have some fun.”
Scotland, cheered on by a sell-out crowd, had plenty to celebrate with Muir, aged just 20, given the meeting’s performance of the day. She set a Scottish indoor 800m record with a world-leading 2:00.94 with a brave final lap that shook off Chanelle Price of the USA.
“I didn’t know how big a Scottish record it was,” she said. “I’m really surprised by that. My PB indoors before was 2:08 or something. There’s quite a bit to come as well. It’s early in the year.
“The crowd were amazing. In the home straight I didn’t know if they were cheering because someone was catching me or because I was winning. It bodes well for the Commonwealth Games.”
Guy Learmonth pulled out a strong showing to win the 600m while O‘Hare was equally self-confident in claiming the 1500m in a dive for the line that saw him come out on top in 3:48.62, just three-hundredths of a second in front of Kenya’s James Magut.
“I like to think of myself as an aggressive racer and leave everything on the track,” the former NCAA champion said. “It's pretty safe to say that I did that today. I thought I'd been pipped at the end. I thought I might dip but I think I might have dipped a half-step too early and he's coming through and got me. But my sprinter's dip practices have obviously paid off.”
Other world-leading marks were set by Desiree Henry in the 150m (17.32) and Chris Brown in the 400m, whose 45.93 is the fastest indoor time ever achieved by a man aged 35.
With Britain taking both 4x400m relays, the triumph for the victorious Commonwealth team was effectively sealed, ironically, by Britain’s JJ Jegede who produced a best of 7.93m in the long jump. But there was a captain’s showing from Kim Collins who set a PB of 15.84 in the 150m before later picking up the team trophy.
“I think when I came here the first couple of times, the team won, but then we went into a little bit of a drought,” the 37-year-old recalled. “After taking the lead early, there’s no way we were not going to leave without the victory.”
Mark Woods for the IAAF