Bernard Lagat holds America’s best hope for a win.
Written by: Sean McKeon
The 2010 World Indoor Track and Field Championships kick off Friday in Doha, Qatar. Although smaller than the outdoor championship, the distance races are still packed with top talent across the board.
2009 outdoor world champion Mbulaeni Malaudzi of South Africa has decided to pass on the indoor season, leaving the race in the hands of defending world indoor champion Abubaker Kaki of Sudan. The Sudanese wunderkind captured the indoor title in 2008, at the age of 18, and has won two decisive races over top competition this year, one of them in a season-best 1:46.29. Kenya is only sending one representative in the event, but that spot is represented by a strong contender in Boaz Lalang. Lalang won the 800m at the Milrose Games earlier in the season and has a season best of 1:46.37. However, it may be Kaki’s own teammate, Ismail Ahmed Ismail, who will be his top competition. Ismail is the reigning Olympic silver medalist and has run 1:45.99 for a season best. The American hope comes from former world indoor finalist Nick Symmonds. Symmonds has run 1:47.59 this season and could be a dark horse in the final.
Competitor.com says: 1. Abubaker Kaki, 2. Boaz Lalang, 3. Ismail Ahmed Ismail
The absence of Kenyans Asbel Kiprop and Augustine Choge and American Bernard Lagat has left this race open. Reigning 1500m world silver medalist Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia has had an impressive season thus far and proved last summer he is a big-race runner. He has the fastest time this year, 3:33.10, and defeated a stacked field in Birmingham earlier this season. The Kenyan contingent is led by Haron Keitany and Gideon Gathimba. Keitany had a disappointing world championships in 2009 and will look to rebound in Doha. Not to be counted out is French steeplechase specialist Mahiedine Benabbab, a silver medalist over the barriers in Beijing. Morocco sends Olympic finalist Abdalaati Iquider into the fray, and could play a part in a tactical final.
Competitor.com says: 1. Deresse Mekonnen, 2. Haron Keitany, 3. Mahiedine Benabbab
US title hopes lie with former indoor world champion Bernard Lagat. The former Kenyan set the American indoor 5000m record with his 13:11.50 win in Boston. He will face off against defending world indoor champion Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia. The brother of the incomparable Kenenisa Bekele has not raced much indoors this year, but his 7:31.78 3000m season best is a good sign for the defending champion. World leader Augustine Choge (7:31.75) may have the upper hand on both men. Choge is a fast closer and can match the 1500m speed of Lagat. Probably the biggest surprise this indoor season has come from Spain in the form of Sergio Sanchez. The Spaniard set a European record 7:32.41 earlier in the season and will not be afraid to push the pace early.
Competitor.com says: 1. Augustine Choge, 2. Tariku Bekele, 3. Bernard Lagat
The European nations have dominated the 800m this season, posting the top-10 times this season. Russia is poised for a medal, led by world leader Yevgeniya Zinurova. The only woman under 1:59 this season, Zinurova ran an impressive 1:58.64 in February. Teammate Mariya Savinova is the European indoor champion and Russian champion, having defeated Zinurova in both races. Her season best 1:59.23 is the third fastest in 2010. The main challenge to a Russian 1-2 sweep comes in the form of British 800m specialist Jenny Meadows. The reigning world outdoor bronze medalist set a national record 1:59.11 this season and will run from the front in Doha. Looking to stop the European train is the American hope, Anna Pierce. The US champion was ranked second in the world in the event in 2009 and has an outdoor personal best of 1:58.80.
Competitor.com says: 1. Mariya Savinova, 2. Anna Pierce, 3. Jenny Meadows
The tension that will be felt in this race will certainly surpass all other events. The 2009 outdoor 1500m world championship final was marred by an untimely collision between Spaniard Natalia Rodriguez and Ethiopian Gelete Burka, resulting in a disqualification for Rodriguez and a last-place finish for race favorite Burka. Eventual champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain reaped the benefits of the collision and will join the two other women here in this field. Burka has looked impressive all season with major wins in Stuttgart (1500m, 4:03.44) and Birmingham (mile, 4:23.33). Jamal looked decent in her one race, although it was a third-place finish behind Burka in Birmingham. Rodriguez has run 4:06.35 this season and captured the Spanish title. Looking to challenge the three premier women will be Ethiopian Kalkidan Gezahegne and Russian Anna Alminova. The 18-year-old Gezahenge holds the fastest time this season with her 4:03.28 junior world best. Alminova has lost close races to Gezahenge and Burka this season and will ensure a quick opening pace.
Competitor.com says: 1. Gelete Burka, 2. Natalia Rodriguez, 3. Kalkidan Gezahegne
Indoor 3000m and 5000m world record holder Meseret Defar of Ethiopia will hit the track as the overwhelming favorite. Defar holds the world season bests at both distances including the third fastest performance all-time over 3000m with her 8:24.46 win in Stuttgart. Fellow Ethiopian Setayehu Ejigu will be Defar’s biggest competition. Ejigu ran an impressive 8:25.27, placing second to Defar in Stuttgart. However, don’t assume an Ethiopian 1-2 finish is a foregone conclusion, as rival Kenya sends reigning world 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot to Doha. Cheruiyot has run a modest 8:41.00 over the distance this season, but her recent road win at the World’s Best 10k in Puerto Rico shows she is in fine form.
Competitor.com says: 1. Meseret Defar, 2. Vivian Cheruiyot, 3. Setayehu Ejigu