Track and field stars in line for world indoor champs in Poland

Track and field stars in line for world indoor champs in Poland

Track and field stars in line for world indoor champs in Poland

Jamaican sprinting legend Veronica Campbell-Brown will make her first track appearance in 10 months at the World Indoor Championships, just weeks after being cleared of doping. AFP photo

Despite some high-profile absentees, World Indoor Championships will bring many top athletes to Sopot, Poland, starting today.

The likes of Jamaican sprint great Usain Bolt, American Justin Gatlin, current middle-distance king Mo Farah of Britain and the injured French pole vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie will the championships, but there will be some fine athletes on show.

Turkey will be represented with a trio of athletes, Gamze Bulut, the 2012 London Olympic Games women’s 1,500m silver medalist, and middle-distance runners İlham Tanui Özbilen (in men’s 1,500m) and Ali Kaya (men’s 3,000m) will be racing in Sopot.

Turkish national athletics team official Nejat Kök admitted it’s a small squad for the country, which won one silver and one bronze in the 2012 event as a host.

“We are small in numbers but strong in quality,” Kök told Anadolu Agency. “We believe all three of our athletes will advance to the final. And we have medal hopes.”

Özbilen was one of the medalists in 2012 with his runner-up finish in 1,500m, but another one, women’s 1,500m bronze medalist Aslı Çakır Alptekin, will not be running in Sopot. Çakır Alptekin, the gold medalist in London Games in women’s 1,500m, is provisionally out of official competitions after “anomalies found in her blood passport.”


Olympic silver-medalist Gamze
Bulut is leading the Turkish squad.

In the absence of big stars, eyes will be on Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, who has been on fire this season, setting two new world records, will be leading the field.

She scorched to a new best of 3:55.17 in the 1500m in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Feb. 1 and then set 8:16.60 over 3000m in Stockholm a week later. Little more than a week after that, she set a world indoor best for two miles with a storming 9:00.48 run in Birmingham.  

Dibaba hails from good stock, sister of three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba and Olympic silver medalist Ejegayehu Dibaba, and the cousin of former Olympic champion Derartu Tulu.

Genzebe Dibaba has claimed 1500m gold in Istanbul two years ago, but this time around will concentrate on the 3000m.

Veronica comeback

Another top athlete who has faced doping allegations is Jamaican sprinting legend Veronica Campbell-Brown, who will make her first track appearance in 10 months at the World Indoor Championships, just weeks after being cleared of doping.

The two-time Olympic 200m champion has not competed since testing positive for a banned diuretic last May, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled last month that it had upheld the Jamaican’s appeal.
“I lost out on the opportunity to compete for most of 2013 and the chance to defend my world [outdoor] 200m title. However, I press on,” said the 31-year-old, who has won seven Olympic medals and is aiming for a third consecutive world indoor sprint title after victories in both 2010 and 2012.

Campbell-Brown is partnered in the women’s 60m in the Polish Baltic seaside town of Sopot with teammate and indoor rookie Shelly-Annn Fraser-Pryce, who enjoyed a stellar 2013 season in winning the 100 and 200m at the Moscow worlds and collecting a third gold as part of the Jamaican 4x100m quartet.

“I sometimes go ‘How do I top this off?’ But it’s the same thing, the same amount of focus and determination, and being committed to what it is that I want to do this year,” said Fraser-Pryce, who was named as the IAAF’s World Athlete of the Year for 2013, along with compatriot and fellow sprinter Usain Bolt.

“I’ve never been to a World Indoor Championships before, I’ve never been to a Commonwealth Games before, so I want to go to both of those and I want to do exceptionally well.
“I’m just looking forward right now to do the 60m (in Sopot) and see where I get with that, I’m looking forward to a personal best.”

Strong Jamaican team

Campbell-Brown and Fraser-Pryce head up a powerful Jamaican team that also includes the fifth fastest man of all time in Nesta Carter, reigning 60m silver medalist and an integral part of the Jamaican men’s all-conquering 4x100m relay team.

One Kenyan-born athlete due to make another world indoor appearance in his long career is Bernard Lagat of the USA, heading up a strong contingent from Stateside including decathlon/heptathlon icon Ashton Eaton and women’s pole vaulter Jennifer Suhr.

Lagat, 39, will be partnered by Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp in his bid to defend his indoor 3000m world title and claim a fourth gold medal in the event to put himself one victory ahead of Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie in the all-time annals of the world indoors.

“I want to see if I can do it again,” said Lagat, who claimed the first of his three world indoor titles in 2004 when he raced for his native Kenya.

Lagat said he would rely on producing his trademark late kick “to make sure that I get the gold medal in Poland.”

An additional report from AFP was used in this story