World Indoors Preview

TRACK EVENT PREVIEW – 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships, Budapest, Hungary (5 – 7 March 2004)
Wednesday 3 March 2004
Budapest, Hungary - We conclude our three part preview - Track, Field, and Combined - of the 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics (5 – 7 March 2004) with the TRACK EVENTS.

A rare double attempt, several title defences and an opportunity for emerging talents to share the spotlight will all be on tap when the track events get underway Friday morning in Budapest’s newly built Sportarena.



With seven of the year’s ten fastest performances, Britian’s Jason Gardener (6.46) has dominated the world list this season. But when he sets his blocks just before 10 am Friday morning, alongside seven of the year’s remaining nine fastest, his nine sub-6.55 clockings will mean little. Others have clearly been catching up. 2001 World Indoor 200m champion Shawn Crawford, who’s been training with highly touted coach Trevor Graham since last fall, lowered his personal best to 6.47 to win the US title. 19-year-old Nigerian Olusoji Fasuba, who clocked 6.50 to win in Chemnitz on Friday, will get his first taste of international experience. Ukrainian Kostyantyn Rurak and Yeóryios Theodorídis of Greece have each posted 6.54 performances, while Jamaican Asafa Powell, who performed well in the latter stages of last year’s outdoor season, should play a major role as well. Mickey Grimes, who joined the sub-10 club last summer, is the second American entrant.


Last year, Joseph Batangdon emerged on the scene after a surprise silver medal performance in Birmingham. This year the 25-year-old from Cameroon arrives in Budapest on the heels of his 20.57 win in Aubière, as the year’s fastest. Germany’s Tobias Unger (20.59), number two on the yearly list and Swede Johan Wissman (20.65), fourth fastest this year, are also in the field. No Swedish flat sprinter has ever reached the final of a World Indoor Championship; this weekend, the 21-year-old Wissman is a solid medal contender. In perhaps his final indoor campaign, World record holder and 1999 champion Frank Fredericks (NAM) cannot be discounted, nor can 2001 silver medallist Christian Malcolm (GBR).


Caribbean sprinters have a strong tradition in the 400, and look to be a formidable force here as well. Alleyne Francique (45.90) of Trinidad and Jamaican Gregory Haughton (45.94) are two of the year’s five sub-46 performers in the field. Sofiane Labidi (45.93) of Tunisia is another. Davian Clarke (46.21), the second Jamaican entrant is poised to be a factor, while US champion Milton Campbell, silver medallist in 1999 and 2001, aims to move up a notch to claim the 6th long sprint title for the US.


Despite the absence of world leader Yuriy Borzakovskiy and defending champion David Krummenacker, the 800 is building up to be an all-out brawl. Kenyan Joseph Mutua, who became the third fastest ever indoors after his 1:44.71 win in Stuttgart, leads a pack that includes South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (1:45.43) and the second Kenyan entrant, William Yiampoy (1:45.80). 21-year-old Ethiopian Berhanu Alemu and Osmar Barbosa dos Santos of Brazil have each run under 1:46 this season.


Ukraine’s Ivan Heshko has the year’s two fastest performances after wins in the season 's two toughest races. But more often than not, the indoor title is a decidedly tactical affair, and with eight others in the field who have shown 3:37 form or better, the title in Budapest is virtually anyone’s for the taking. Ali Saïdi-Sief (3:36.02) of Algeria, Spaniards Juan Carlos Higuero (3:36.39) and José Antonio Redolat (3:36.55), Kenyans Paul Korir (3:37.05) and Laban Rotich (3:37:17), and Britain’s Commonwealth Games champion Michael East (3:36.42) are expected to wage a fierce battle.


The absence of defending champion Haile Gebrselassie will not leave the event bereft of talent. Sydney Olympic 1500 bronze medallist Bernard Lagat has moved up in distance this winter and proved himself to be an immediate force after his 7:34.96 win in Athens. The second Kenyan entrant, Boaz Cheboiywo, achieved considerable success while a student at Eastern Michigan University, claiming NCAA titles in cross country and at 10,000m. After his 7:38.30 win in Fayetteville, the 25-year-old makes his first national team appearance as a medal threat. But Ethiopian entrants Abiyote Abate (7:38.43) and Markos Geneti (7:41.06) will do their part to keep the title in Ethiopian hands. Also in the field is cross country star Sergiy Lebid (7:41.01), who twice lowered the Ukrainian record in the event this season.

60m Hurdles:

Once again, two-time indoor champion Allen Johnson enters as the solid favourite. The four-time outdoor winner arrives in Budapest with the year’s fastest time -a scorching 7.43 win at the Millrose Games-but his defence will be anything but the proverbial cakewalk. The season’s second, third, fourth and sixth fastest are all en route to Budapest. 20-year-old Xiang Liu of China and Jamaican Maurice Wignall have clocked 7.51 this season, a national record for the latter and an Asian record for the former. US championships runner-up Duane Ross has a 7.53 to his credit, while Cuban Yuniel Hernandez has a pair of 7.57s this season.



Defending 60m Hurdles champion Gail Devers likes to set and accept challenges. Indeed, after countless World, Olympic and national titles, the seemingly ageless 37-year-old needs to devise new ways to keep herself and her countless fans entertained. Her task this weekend? To take her double 60m/60m hurdles victory at last weekend’s US championships -the first of its kind-and duplicate it on the global level. Arriving in Budapest as the season’s fastest in the hurdles and the tied as the third fastest in the sprint, her task, while difficult, is anything but folly.

With seven of the year’s eight fastest women in the field, Devers’ double drive opens the competition on Friday in quite formidable fashion. Consider the lineup: Christine Arron of France has run 7.12 or faster three times this year, topped by her national record 7.08. 23-year-old Russian Yuliya Tabakova leads the world with a 7.06. Yuliya Nesterenko lowered the Belorussian national record to 7.10. And second American entrant, 2003 bronze medallist Torri Edwards, arrives days after lowering her PB to 7.12.

Belgian record holder Kim Gevaert (7.13), the double sprint silver medallist at the 2002 European outdoor championships, entered the spotlight this winter after defeating Marion Jones in Birmingham.

43-year-old Merlene Ottey, fourth last year in Birmingham, is no stranger to a global championship held in Budapest. When the Hungarian capital hosted the second World Indoor Championships in 1989, Ottey dashed to a stunning win in the 200m, and claimed silver in the 60. With a 7.26 to her credit this season, the Jamaican-born Slovenian’s appearance is anything but a footnote.


Though not the fastest of the year, but Paris silver medallist Anastasiya Kapachinskaya (22.71) arrives in Budapest as the season’s most consistent. The 24-year-old Russian, who raced to bronze last year in Birmingham, has three of the year’s seven fastests clockings, and is the only performer with a pair of sub-23s. Austrian Karin Mayr-Krifka (22.88), the European indoor silver medallist, should pose a strong medal threat, along with Natalya Safronnikova of Belorus, second Russian Svetlana Goncharenko and US champion Crystal Cox.


Jarmila Kratochvilova’s 49.59 World record will celebrate it’s 22nd anniversary on Sunday, the day after the 400m final. After her sterling 49.68 last month, the third fastest clocking ever, defending champion Natalya Nazarova has resurrected serious discussion about the possibility that the Czech’s seemingly untouchable mark can indeed be broken. The 24-year-old Russian record holder is more than a second faster than the rest of the world this year, and is among the few clear favourites. Olga Koltyarova (50.64), the silver medallist in 2001, is the next fastest. Jamaican Sandie Richards, who beat Kotlyarova in Lisbon, returns, who along with teammate Allison Beckford, cannot be ignored.

60m Hurdles:

After a day off, Gail Devers’ quest continues on Sunday. Here too, her mission will be no less challenging. Swede Susanna Kallur (7.88), Jamaican Lacena Golding-Clarke (7.89) and Canada’s outdoor World champion Perdita Felicien (7.90) are 2-3-4 on the yearly list, and all will pose a significant challenge to Devers’ quest to become the first to successfully defend a women’s hurdles title. The French duo of Linda Ferga-Khodadin (7.93) and Nicole Ramalalanirina (7.94) along with Germany’s Juliane Sprenger (7.94) are medal threats as well.


It’s become exceedingly difficult to write anything about Maria Mutola that hasn’t already been written. The five-time indoor champion races often, and usually does so in dominating fashion. But an apparent misstep in her last outing, in the Birmingham 1000m two weeks ago where she failed to finish, showed that even the preeminent dominating force in the event for the past decade is not infallible. World indoor record holder Jolanda Ceplak, who beat the Mozambiquan in Gent two years ago, knows the task is difficult, but not impossible. With a pair of sub two-minute clockings, the popular Slovenian arrives in neighbouring Hungary near top form.

Mayte Martinez, who out-leaned Ceplak in Birmingham for bronze, has lowered the Spanish record to 1:59.52 this season.

Double US champion Jennifer Toomey, who has improved steadily in each appearance this season, is the latest American middle distance hope. Teetering on sub-two minute territory, and with a 2:34.19 national record in the 1000m this season to become the fourth fastest ever over the distance, the 32-year-old late-comer to the sport is a solid medal threat.


The metric mile features four of the year’s five fastest. Ethiopia’s Kutre Dulecha (4:01.90 and 4:04.47) is the most consistent, though both Alesya Turova (BLR) and Briton Kelly Holmes, the Birmingham silver medallist, have each run under 4:05 this season. Russian Gulnara Samitova (4:05.91) will be a factor, as will local favorite Judit Varga, who lowered the Hungarian national record to 4:06.04 in Karlsruhe.


The longest distance has all the makings of a team battle virtually no one would have envisioned just two months ago. Defending champion Berhane Adere (8:33.05) and compatriot Meseret Defar (8:33.44) are the year’s two fastest, but right on their heels is Briton Jo Pavey. Prior to this year, the 30-year-old had not even run indoors, but in only her second arena race she retired Liz McColgan’s 14-year-old British record with her 8:34.55 performance in Birmingham. Not further behind is Paris 1500m bronze medallist Hayley Tullett (8:48.77), who chose to contest the longer distance. Spanish record holder Marta Dominguez, who finished second to Adere last year, returns, while Russian entrants Gulnara Samitova (8:41.72) and European Cup winner Yelena Zadorozhnaya should play a key role as well.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

FIELD EVENT PREVIEW – 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships, Budapest, Hungary (5 – 7 March 2004)
Wednesday 3 March 2004
Budapest, Hungary - We continue our three part preview of the 10th IAAF World Indoor Championships (5 – 7 March 2004) with the FIELD EVENTS.


High Jump

Undefeated in seven competitions this season with an average winning height of more than 2.33—a mark only one other jumper has cleared even once–Sweden’s Stefan Holm is a clear favourite to win his third consecutive World Indoor title.

Only 19-year-old Czech Jaroslav Bába, last year’s European junior champion, is remotely close to the Swede’s level. His indoor best of 2.34 this season is supported by three additional 2.32 performances.

Andrey Sokolovskiy of Ukraine, the silver medallist three years ago in Lisbon, enjoyed three performances at 2.30 or higher within a ten-day period in February. Along with Romania’s Stefan Vasilache and his pair of recent 2.30 jumps, these two merit serious consideration as medal candidates.

Jamie Nieto registered a PB 2.32 in February and added a 2.30 when winning the US championships, while reigning European outdoor champion Yaroslav Rybakov drew attention with his 2.30 win in the Russian Championships ten days ago.

Tallin winner Oskari Frösén of Finland seems to be peaking at the right time with a PB 2.31 only last week. And Rozle Prezelj of Slovenia, with his early-season PB 2.31 and now free of recent foot problems, completes the list of eight 2.30-or-higher jumpers from this season going to Budapest.

Pole Vault

No distinct forerunner has emerged here, although the always-helmeted Toby Stevenson of the US (5.81) and Russia’s Igor Pavlov (5.80) have shown the most consistency at the top end with multiple performances at 5.75 or higher. Both bring with them teammates with strong resumés—season leader Jeff Hartwig (5.88) and Pavel Gerasimov (5.77).

Defending champion Tim Lobinger of Germany (5.75) still has to be reckoned with for his long experience with pressure competitions, as does European outdoor champion Alexander Averbukh of Israel (5.81), who has shown the ability to convert a single remaining try into a win.

Also moving into vaulting’s top rank after his 5.81 last Sunday in Leipzig is Germany’s Björn Otto.

The condition of Paris champion Giuseppe Gibilisco is unknown after reports of a recent illness which has swept through the Italian team in the past week. Until now, the Sicilian had built upon his sudden success last year with an indoor national record 5.82.

Budapest could be the opportunity for 2003 outdoor leader Romain Mesnil of France (5.71) to break loose. If Holland’s Rens Blom (5.70) can score a PB as he did last year in winning the bronze in Birmingham, another medal could well land in his pocket.

Freshly arrived in Europe is Paris silver medallist Okkert Brits of South Africa (5.75), also in a position to make an impact despite only two indoor competitions. And moving from strong outdoor seasons to indoor competiton for the first time are Australian’s Dmitri Markov (5.75), the Edmonton champion, and Paul Burgess (5.70).

Long Jump

This has been one of the more invisible events of the winter, with rare appearances on the programmes of international competitions.

Savanté Stringfellow’s season includes both a world-leading 8.41 but also an 8.26 last weekend in winning the US championships. Vitaliy Shkurlatov (8.24) of Russia brings a strong resumé of four jumps of over eight metres to Budapest and looks to be Stringfellow’s main challenger.

Bogdan Tarus put forth a strong 8.20 in the Romanian national championships, and 8.13 jumps from Paris finalist Vladimir Zyuskov of Ukraine and China’s Zhou Can bring that trio into the picture, although somewhat obliquely.

Although he’s jumped only 8.04 this season, one somehow feels that Spain’s Yago Lamela, a two-time World Indoor silver medallist, will find renewed energy under these championship conditions and will be fighting for a medal when the final rounds approach.

Plagued by a tender quadriceps lately, Olympic champion Iván Pedroso of Cuba (8.01) does not appear to be in condition to bounce back for a try for his sixth indoor gold, but compatriot Luis Meliz (8.10) is surging at the right moment.

Triple Jump

Even more certain than Stefan Holm’s overwhelming favourite role is that of fellow Swede, Christian Olsson, who is riding the crest of a 22-competition winning streak, with an astounding consistency measure of surpassing the seventeen-metre mark in 48 of his last 49 meetings.

Brazilian Jadel Gregório has looked strong lately, with a 17.46 South American record only two weeks ago. Month-old season bests—all PBs and from the Samara competition–are presented by Russia’s Danila Burkenya (17.41), Paris silver medallist Yoandri Betanzos of Cuba (17.39) and European U23 champion Dmitriy Valyukevich of Belarus (17.31).

Presumably recovered from a calf injury which likely denied him a medal in Paris last summer, Romania’s Marian Oprea seems ready to leap farther than his current season-best 17.16 and could be a medal factor.

The Russian champion at 17.23 two weeks ago, Aleksandr Sergeyev is still somewhat of an unknown, despite his bronze medal in the last World Junior Championships.

Shot Put

New US champion Christian Cantwell is the season leader at 21.95 (increased from last year’s PB of 20.86), and he owns four of the year’s top performances, prompting glowing reports from eyewitnesses praising his recent technique refinements.

Joachim Olsen of Denmark exploded after nearly one-month’s rest with a 21.63 in Tallinn last week and appears ready to challenge the young American.

Should that pair falter in the least in Budapest, then a number of others move into challenging positions for the top medals.

Cantwell’s teammate, Reese Hoffa, had a superb month with a 21.05 PB, followed by a 20.97 in the US Championships.

The defending champion, Manuel Martinez of Spain (20.78)—who dramatically outdueled Olsen in Vienna two years ago to win the European title—and Britain’s mammoth Carl Myerscough (20.91 last Saturday for his US university team) appear ready to make a move up, along with Holland’s Rutger Smith, who won his national title with a NR 20.75 less than two weeks ago.

One of the lessons gleaned from Paris last year is to never overlook the top Belarus throwers, and with a 20.85 more than a month ago in his single appearance, Andrey Mikhnevich, the World outdoor champion, is a definite threat.

Yuriy Belonog of Ukraine, the indoor bronze medallist last year, opened the year with a significant 20.47, and then dropped out of sight, but he could be poised to spring a surprise in Budapest.


High Jump

This is potentially the best high jump field ever at the World Indoor Championships, with all six jumpers at 2.00 or higher this season on the card for Budapest prior to Sweden’s double champion Kajsa Bergqvist’s withdrawal through injury earlier this week…

Tops for the year at 2.04 has been Russia’s Anna Chicherova of Russia, whose early season included four performances at 2.00 or higher within a month’s time. Even though defeated in the recent Russian Championships at 1.98—a competition won at 2.01 by Yelena Slesarenko—the Birmingham bronze medallist should still have the inside track over her less-seasoned compatriot.

Daniela Rath is the only remaining jumper in the field with multiple visits to two-metre territory this year. However, the German’s relative inexperience in pressure situations would make her an outside shot for a medal, as is also the case with Spain’s Ruth Beitia (2.00).

Rather, look to Croatia’s Blanca Vlasic (1.99), the fourth placer in Birmingham and seemingly overdue for a two-metre indoor performance, and Vita Palamar of Ukraine (2.00) to enter the medal race.

Pole Vault

This may be the most highly anticipated event of the weekend. In the last two years, defending World Indoor champion Svetlana Feofanova of Russia nudged up the world record nine times without any visible challenger.

Only three weeks ago, Russian rival Yelena Isinbayeva, the Paris bronze medallist, broke the standard twice in one day at the all-star meeting in Donetsk to shatter Feofanova’s iron hold on the record.

It took Feofanova and her new stiff fiberglass weapon only a week to move the record back into her own dossier at 4.85, and a riveting duel should ensue in Budapest.

Barring complete collapse of these two top protagonists, only one medal is realistically up for grabs. Sydney champion and former world-record holder Stacy Dragila of the US (4.71) should be in the thick of that battle. Additionally, Poland’s Monika Pyrek, the Birmingham bronze winner, is coming off a recent national record 4.65 and showed good form last weekend in Chemnitz.

But in truth, all of these are just ladies-in-waiting for the two Russian claimants to the women’s pole-vaulting throne.

Long Jump

The big question: Will Russia’s Tatyana Lebedeva decide to compete in both jumps in Budapest?

Sitting in the unique position of leading the world in both the long and triple jumps, Lebedeva could be on the brink of World Indoor history by winning the gold in both. But with qualifying rounds now back in the programme after a brief absence, her decision will require careful consideration.

Teammate Irina Simagina won’t be fazed by Lebedeva’s plans because she too has a 6.95 yearly best, as both jumpers put on a thrilling show at the Russian Championships. That would leave defending World champion and third-ranked Tatyana Kotova (6.81) in limbo, depending on Lebedeva’s course of action.

Former World champion Fiona May of Italy (6.69), with three performances at 6.61 and higher, stands out among the non-Russians, as Marion Jones of the US (6.75) has not included Budapest in her plans.

If success at home can be exported to Budapest, national champions Valentina Gotovska of Latvia (6.72) and Spain’s Conchi Montaner (6.65) might be part of the final mix.

Not to be overlooked is Australia’s Bronwyn Thompson, who brings a 6.72 from outdoor competition.

Germany’s Bianca Kappler leaped a PB 6.63 in her narrow win over World Heptathlon champion Carolina Klüft of Sweden (6.62) last week, and both are part of the tightly-bunched field distantly behind the Russians.

Triple Jump

With defending World champion Ashia Hansen of Great Britain absent, the chase for the title will be led by Paris champion Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia, the year leader at 14.97 (and also with two more performances over 14.90).

Next in the year rankings is Greece’s Hrisopiyí Devetzí with a freshly-minted 14.81 a week ago in Athens. Whether she can improve on her away-from-home best—an eighth-place 14.34 in the Paris championships—will play a major role in her fortunes.

Two Cuban-born jumpers with new allegiances—Yamilé Aldama of Sudan (14.65) and Magdalin Martinez of Italy (14.62)—stand ready for medal honours, as does possibly Romania’s Adelina Gavrila (14.58). However, late word indicates Aldama is possibly not at full strength because of an undetermined physical condition.

Otherwise, it will take a marked improvement on season bests for the remaining jumpers to crack into the elite trio.

Shot Put

Vita Pavlysh unleashed a 20.73 a week ago to win yet another national title with the season’s best throw, and unless something goes terribly awry, the Ukrainian should win her second world indoor title, the first coming seven years ago in Paris.

Defending champion Irina Korzhanenko of Russia (20.13) has an uphill fight to hold her title, it would appear. She and compatriot Svetlana Krivelyova (19.68) occupy the next echelon of competitors, which possibly also includes Trinidad’s Cleopatra Borel, who surprisingly improved her PB by more than a metre to 19.48 two weeks ago.

US champion Laura Gerraughty had a splendid February and also improved her PB from last season more than a metre to 19.14 in three competitions. Recent performances also bring Germany’s Nadine Kleinert (18.70) and Krystyna Zabawska of Poland (18.50) into a somewhat murky picture for the subordinate medals.

Ed Gordon for the IAAF