Star athletes to shine in Istanbul
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily NewsTurkey is ready to host some of the biggest stars in athletics as the 2012 World Indoor Championships start today in Istanbul.
Some great names and upcoming starlets will try to win big over the three-day events at the Ataköy Athletics Hall, which is the first athletics-only venue in Turkey.
“It is really important that Turkey has built its first venue completely devoted to the athletics,” Lamine Diack, the chairman of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said at a press conference yesterday. “Turkey is a great country, not only a great country in Europe but in the whole world. It is an important country in international competitions. We believe it will be a great organization with a record number of participations – 172 countries with six of them being first-time participants.”
Defending champion Jessica Ennis faces off against Tatyana Chernova in the pentathlon today in arguably the biggest clash of the opening day.
Ennis won the world heptathlon title in 2009 and added the indoor pentathlon a year later, making her a star for the London Games. Chernova reached the pinnacle of the discipline in Daegu, South Korea.
The world record has been at 4,991 points for 20 years and many feel the rivalry may be enough for one of the two to break the 5,000-point barrier.
“This is a dream for all sportsmen to break a world record,” Chernova said.
Chernova also said she has been in Istanbul three times before on holiday, adding it is “fantastic that Istanbul is hosting” the events this year.
Former Olympic champion Liu Xiang will be the heavy favorite in 60m hurdles after his archrival Dayron Robles of Cuba pulled out due to injury. “I am sorry Robles and [David] Oliver are not here, they are very good athletes, it would have been a better challenge for me since indoor is not my main strength,” Liu said through a translator yesterday. “This is the first time I changed my style: I take seven steps instead of eight before the first hurdle. I have to make sure I make it to the final and see what happens in the final.”
In the heats of the 3,000, Ethiopian great Meseret Defar sets off on her quest to become the first female athlete to win five world indoor gold medals in a row.
“This world championship is very special to me,” Defar said Thursday. “I expect to win again.”
Defar, too, sees her race her as a vital preparation for the Olympics, where she will be trying to win back the gold medal she took at the 2004 Athens Games before finishing with bronze in Beijing four years later.
In a gold medal event, Reese Hoffa will be seeking a second gold medal in the shot put after winning in 2006, and to extend the U.S. domination of the event.
Sally Pearson, the in-form hurdler who added a sterling early season to a world title and election as woman athlete of the year in 2011, will also be one to watch at the competition.
“My body is just ready to run fast,” said Pearson, who rarely races indoors. “I have no idea what I am going to run out there.”
When asked if she feels the pressure after the IAAF honor, she said she does not worry as long as she is “in good shape and confident.”
Karin Melis Mey, who will be representing Turkey in triple jump, also said she feels no pressure, especially when she is performing in front of the home crowd.
“I don’t feel the pressure coming from outside,” Mey said. “I don’t feel the pressure from people, but from myself, to do the best I can.”