Ethiopia's Samuel Tefera tore up the script for the Muller Indoor Grand Prix Birmingham, upstaging compatriot Yomif Kejelcha to break the long-standing world indoor 1500m record* at the IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting on Saturday (16).
Kejelcha, who last week came within 0.01 of the world indoor mile record at the Millrose Games, had announced his intentions to break the 1500m mark ahead of his race in Birmingham. But Tefera, the world indoor champion at the distance, had a plan of his own.
The pacemakers hit their required target times with Bram Som taking the field through 400m in 55.69 and Jordan Williamsz leading them through 1000m in 2:21.27.
With the pacemakers having done their job, Kejelcha reached 1200m in 2:49.28 and was still on course to challenge the record, but Tefera was tucked close behind and looked ominously comfortable with the pace. Australia’s Stewart McSweyn was a few strides adrift in third place while Kenyan duo Bethwel Birgen and Vincent Kibet were further behind.
The clock ticked through 3:03 as the bell sounded for the final lap and Tefera made his move, kicking past Kejelcha to take the lead and leaving his compatriot unable to respond. Tefera charged towards the line and stopped the clock at 3:31.04, taking 0.14 off the previous record set by Hicham El Guerrouj in 1997.
Kejelcha finished second in an outright personal best of 3:31.58 while McSweyn held on to third place with an Oceanian indoor record of 3:35.10.
“I can't believe that,” said Tefera. “I’m delighted with the outcome and to have the world record is a special feeling.”
Another record-breaking performance came just 40 minutes later.
European 1500m champion Laura Muir had been coy about her goal for the mile in Birmingham and insisted beforehand that simply winning and running well was her main target. But once the race got underway and her opponents fell further and further behind, it became clear that she was on course to smash the national indoor record of 4:23.86.
Paced through 409m (1:07.69) and 809m (2:12.37), Muir was alone in front for the second half of the race but kept churning out the 32-second laps. The clock showed 3:47.97 as Muir embarked on her final lap, meaning she had to cover the last 200 metres in 36 seconds to get the record. She went significantly quicker, though, and reached the finish in a world-leading 4:18.75, the third-fastest indoor mile of all time.
Her 1500m split of 4:01.83 was also an improvement on the British indoor record, a mark Muir already held.
"To get the British record was fantastic, but, for me, it was just about having a solid run today, coming away with the win and with a good time," said the double European indoor champion. "I have done that with the world lead and the joint third fastest time ever behind the current world and European record - I will take third. When you run by yourself, it is tough, but I felt good.
"I just wanted to run a similar distance to 1500m because I have not raced over 1500m since the end of last season. It was the perfect way to prepare for the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow, to run one of the fastest times ever, a British record and get the win in the last race before a championships is perfect. I am really happy and confident going into Glasgow."
Echevarria and Samuel the first World Indoor Tour champions of 2019
Juan Miguel Echevarria bookended his series with the two best marks of the day in the men’s long jump, securing the World Indoor Tour title in the process.
The Cuban, who won the world indoor title in this same arena last year, opened his account with 8.15m to take an early lead. Tajay Gayle set an indoor PB of 8.10m in the penultimate round to threaten Echevarria’s lead, but the 20-year-old responded with 8.21m with his final jump of the competition.
By winning the women’s 3000m earlier in the afternoon, Alemaz Samuel became the first confirmed World Indoor Tour champion of 2019, bagging a $20,000 bonus and a wild card entry to the IAAF World Indoor Championships Nanjing 2020.
The Ethiopian bided her time during the early stages of the race, allowing Dana Giordano to lead through the first 1000 metres in 3:06.43 before Claudia Bobocea brought the field through 2000 metres in 6:07.37.
The pace finally picked up in the final kilometre as the Ethiopian contingent of Samuel, Axumawit Embaye and Meskerem Mamo began their long drive for home. Samuel, the world U20 1500m champion, proved to have the best finish and won in 8:54.60, 0.37 ahead of Embaye.
Su sizzles to 60m world lead
World indoor silver medallist Su Bingtian outclassed the men’s 60m field to win in a world-leading 6.47.
After a conservative 6.60 to win his heat earlier in the day, the Chinese sprinter produced the third-fastest clocking of his life to win from Britain’s European 100m silver medallist Reece Prescod, who equalled his PB with 6.53. Mike Rodgers was third in a season’s best of 6.54 while Japan’s Takuya Kawakami recorded the same time in fourth to set a national indoor record.
The women’s 60m was a lot closer with just 0.02 separating the top three finishers. Double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson was given the verdict in 7.13 over European indoor champion Asha Philip (7.14) and double world silver medallist Marie Josee Ta Lou (7.15).
US sprint hurdler Jarret Eaton was involved in a tight finish when he last competed at Arena Birmingham, eventually settling for the silver medal at last year’s World Indoor Championships. In another close race 12 months on from that, Eaton was this time declared the winner.
In his most convincing race of the year so far, Eaton stopped the clock at a season’s best of 7.51 to hold off the challenge from compatriot Freddie Crittenden, who was rewarded with a lifetime best of 7.53. Olympic finalist Milan Trajkovic was third in a season’s best of 7.54.
With 30 points – 11 clear of his nearest rival – Eaton has already done enough to win the World Indoor Tour in the 60m hurdles.
Eaton’s compatriot Evonne Britton made it a US sprint hurdles double, winning the women’s event convincingly in a lifetime best of 7.91.
Bradshaw, Tobe and Spanovic highlight the jumps
A competitive and high-quality women’s pole vault competition resulted in a three-way tie at the top of the World Indoor Tour standings.
Katerina Stefanidi, Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou, Katie Nageotte and Holly Bradshaw were all left in the competition as the bar went up to 4.81m. Bradshaw cleared it on her first try to take the lead from Nageotte. Stefanidi failed her three attempts at that height while Nageotte and Kiriakopoulou both got over it with their third tries.
The bar moved up to 4.88m, but none of the three women remaining in the competition were able to clear it, leaving Bradshaw the winner. Stefanidi and Nageotte now have 20 World Indoor Tour points, moving them into the joint lead with Anzhelika Sidorova heading into Dusseldorf.
World leader Naoto Tobe notched up his third high jump victory of the year, winning easily with 2.29m before a couple of decent attempts at a would-be national record of 2.36m. Tobe now leads the World Indoor Tour standings by 10 points.
Returning to the runway on which she won world indoor gold last year, Ivana Spanovic sailed out to 6.78m to comfortably win the women’s long jump. The Serbian fouled her first two attempts before registering 6.56m in round three to move into second place, just three centimetres behind Abigal Irozuru.
Spanovic improved to a season’s best of 6.78m in the following round and her lead wasn’t seriously challenged for the remainder of the competition.
Convincing wins for Oskan-Clarke and Strother
In a women’s 800m where many athletes were chasing qualifying times and team spots for the upcoming European Indoor Championships, world indoor bronze medallist Shelayna Oskan-Clarke controlled the race to win in a season’s best of 2:01.16 from fellow Briton Adelle Tracey’s 2:01.95.
Oskan-Clarke now moves into a share of the lead in the World Indoor Tour standings ahead of the final race of the series in Dusseldorf.
Nathan Strother consolidated his lead in the World Indoor Tour standings by securing his third win of the series. Slovenia’s Luka Janezic reached the bell first in a conservative 22.09 with Strother tucked in close behind. The US sprinter then overtook Janezic on the final bend, winning in 46.45. Janezic lost his balance towards the end but stayed on his feet to take second place in 47.04.
In the women’s 400m, a non-scoring event, Jamaica’s Stephenie-Ann McPherson led throughout to win in 52.24, holding off world indoor bronze medallist Eilidh Doyle, who clocked a season’s best of 52.43.
The men’s 800m was decidedly more scrappy with Cornelius Tuwei and Guy Learmonth taking a tumble as the field broke for the inside line after just 100 metres. Two or three others in the field were briefly thrown off balance but managed to stay on their feet. Australia’s Joseph Deng picked up a few scrapes but recovered well before going on to win in an Oceanian indoor record of 1:47.27.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures