Monaco, Feb 25, 2012: World Indoor Championship Istanbul, In just two weeks time, the focus of the athletics world will fall firmly on Istanbul as the 14th edition of the IAAF World Indoor Championships gets underway on 9 March. And much of that focus will fall squarely on the vertical jumps, thanks largely to Yelena Isinbayeva’s 5.01m World record clearance at the XL Galan Meeting in Stockholm on Thursday (23).
With her 13th World record indoors – and 28th overall – the 29-year-old Russian showed that she’ll very much be the woman to beat when competition in the event kicks off the final day’s action at Ataköy Athletics Arena on Sunday, 11 March. Her most recent record notwithstanding, Isinbayeva will nonetheless have to be at her best in Istanbul.
Indeed, the gap Isinbayeva spent much of the past decade creating continues to narrow as her challengers continue to soar higher. The first to make waves this season was Holly Bleasdale, barely 20, who scaled 4.87m in late January to move all the way up to the No. 2 spot all-time. But the precocious Briton was soon surpassed by an established star, Olympic silver medallist Jenn Suhr, who topped 4.88m earlier this month to reclaim history’s No. 2 position behind Isinbayeva. Can the pair, along with Isinbayeva, who’ll be chasing a fourth World indoor title, push each other even higher?
Another 29-year-old Russian who’s flying high on the road to Istanbul is Anna Chicherova who’ll start as one of the weekend’s strongest gold medal favourites. Last summer Chicherova scaled a 2.07m Russian national record in the lead-in to the World championships in Daegu where she would unseat reigning champion Blanka Vlasic. Last month Chicherova claimed the national indoor record as well with a 2.06m leap to equal the third highest clearance ever. Will her momentum take her even higher in Istanbul?
While Chicherova is head and shoulders above her nearest rivals, the men’s contest is shaping into a battle between established Russian stars Andrey Silnov and Aleksey Dmitrik and the event’s youngest rising star, Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar. At the Asian Indoor Championships last weekend Barshim, just 20, eclipsed the continental indoor mark with a sensation 2.37m clearance, the highest in the world this season.
And in the men’s Pole Vault, Renaud Lavillenie of France is illustrating that nothing apparently can keep a good vaulter down for long. After suffering a badly broken hand late last year, an injury that was at first considered career-threatening, the 25-year-old has already soared 5.93m this season to pace the world.
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