Meseret Defar of Ethiopia and Svitlana Shmidt of Ukraine compete in the Women's 3000 Metres first round during day one - WIC Istanbul (© Getty Images)
Istanbul, TurkeyAn exhilarating denouement to the 14th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul is guaranteed with 36 medals up for grabs in a little over three-and-a-half hours of action in the Atakoy Athletics Arena today.
With the third day of competition squeezed into one lip-smacking afternoon session it is difficult to know where to start. Yet after World records set on each of the first two days of the championships – courtesy of Natalya Dobrynska in the Pentathlon and Ashton Eaton in the Heptathlon – could we be set to maintain that sequence on the third and final day?
Isinbayeva in the spotlight
If so, it is hard to look beyond Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia as the women who could just achieve that feat in the women’s Pole Vault Final. Last month in Stockholm she cleared 5.01m for a staggering 28th World record of her career. It was a welcome return to her very best for the 29-year-old who has taken an enforced break from the sport and has struggled to find top form for the past couple of years prior to this indoor season.
Of course, it is always dangerous to assume World records can be set at will and Isinbayeva will not have matters all her own way in the pursuit for gold. Among her main rivals when the final kick starts today’s programme at 14:00 is Great Britain’s rapidly improving European Under-23 champion Holly Bleasdale and German record holder Silke Spiegelburg, although World No.2 Jenn Suhr will not start after withdrawing on the eve of the championships with an Achilles problem.
Defar’s drive for five
A World record may not be on the mind of Meseret Defar but she too will hope to carve out her own slice of history on Day 3 of the championships. The Ethiopian distance star is seeking to become the first woman in history to win five successive World Indoor titles in the same event so anticipate a high level of expectation when the starting pistol is fired at 15:50 for the women’s 3000m final. Defar began her winning streak in Budapest in 2004 and with the two fastest times in the world this year she will take all the beating. Her team-mate Gelete Burka and the Kenyan duo Hellen Obiri and Sylvia Kibet will present her main opposition.
If the perception at the start of these championships was the USA had sent a relatively weak looking team by their own incredibly high standards then it has taken them just two days to dismiss such thoughts. They already sit top of the medal table with five golds and three bronze medals and they will be optimistic they can better their best ever gold medal haul of eight at a World Indoor Championships (achieved in Toronto 1993, Birmingham 2003 and Doha 2010) here in Istanbul.
Can Lagat defend?
Their hopes in the Men’s 3000m lie with the defending champion Bernard Lagat, although this event is arguably one of the most competitive on the schedule. Lying in opposition are the World 5000m champion Mo Farah of Great Britain, the Kenyan duo Edwin Soi and Augustine Choge and a revitalised Craig Mottram of Australia.
The US have traditionally had more success in the sprints and world leader Tianna Madison will be among the favourites in the Women’s 60m with semi-finals at 14:15 and final at 17:05. Madison, the 2005 World Long Jump champion, has transformed herself into a world-class sprinter this winter although the defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica will present formidable opposition.
Merritt vs Liu Xiang
US hopes in the Men’s 60m Hurdles rest with Aries Merritt who set a blistering personal best of 7.43 when taking his national title last month. He will face a mighty challenge, though, in the shape of the 2008 World Indoor champion Liu Xiang of China appears back to his very best after several years of injury frustration. The Semi-finals are scheduled for 14:45 and final at 17:20.
US have even stronger claims in the two horizontal jumps finals. In the Men’s Triple Jump (16:10) World outdoor champion Christian Taylor and world leader Will Claye are expected to battle for gold. Meanwhile, in the Women’s Long Jump (14:05) defending champion Brittney Reese and the top qualifier Janay DeLoach of the USA look a strong threat.
Also the US will be hopeful of more success the men’s and women’s 4x400m Relay finals. The men will be seeking a fourth successive gold medal in this event and while their women face a big hurdle in Russia they will be bolstered by the fact Sanya Richards-Ross, who won the individual 400m title on Day Two of the championships, is part of their squad.
Battle of giants in the men’s High Jump
The Men’s High Jump final also features a strong US athlete in World outdoor champion Jesse Williams but this 10-man final is awash with class and also includes the Russian duo Ivan Ukhov and Andrey Silnov, the defending champion and the 2008 Olympic gold medallist, respectively.
Both Men’s and Women’s 800m finals also take place on Day Three. In the former event expect world leader Adam Kszczot of Poland to be prominent as well as 18-year-old Ethiopian talent Mohammed Aman.
In the women’s four lap race due off at 15:50 watch out for Russian duo Elena Kofanova and Yuliya Rusanova and Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya.
Steve Landells for the IAAF