Freweyni Hailu wins the mile at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Ostrava (© Sona Maleterova)
Freweyni Hailu stormed to sixth on the women’s indoor mile all-time list while Lieke Klaver and Ewa Swoboda were among the meeting record-breakers at the Czech Indoor Gala – this season’s second World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold event – in Ostrava on Tuesday (30).
Following the World Indoor Tour Gold season opener in Astana on Saturday, Ostrava hosted its first meeting as part of the tour’s top tier and a series of strong performances ensured that it lived up to that billing.
Ethiopia’s world indoor 800m silver medallist Hailu made a statement in her first ever short track mile, running the sixth-fastest time in history with a dominant 4:17.36 performance.
The 22-year-old claimed silver in the mile at the World Athletics Road Running Championships Riga 23 in October and proved that another medal is within reach at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow 24, where she will target the 1500m.
The race in Ostrava didn't get off to the smoothest of starts as Portugal's Salome Afonso suffered an early fall. Despite having to leap over Afonso, Hailu managed to stay on her feet and she moved towards the front of the field. With 90 seconds on the clock, Hailu formed part of a four-strong breakaway group behind the two pacemakers and she waited until there were four laps remaining to take control. She eased to the fore as the remaining pacemaker stepped aside and only her compatriot Hirut Meshesha, the world indoor 1500m bronze medallist, could stick with her.
As they left their compatriots Saron Berhe and Netsanet Desta behind, Hailu and Meshesha reached 1500m in respective times of 4:01.03 and 4:01.68 - the top two marks in the world so far this year. Hailu continued to push ahead and sprinted away from Meshesha off the final bend to cross the finish line in 4:17.36, two seconds ahead of Meshesha who clocked 4:19.53 to move to 10th on the all-time list. Berhe was third in 4:24.23 and Desta fourth in 4:24.80.
A series of national records followed, Agathe Guillemot of France running 4:29.02, Belgium’s Elise Vanderelst running 4:29.31 and Denmark’s 18-year-old Sofia Thogersen matching that time in joint sixth place to also improve the European U20 record by almost 10 seconds.
“I’m very happy with my performance today,” said Hailu. “I won a medal at the last World Indoor Championships. This time I plan to run the 1500m and I am ready for it.”
While a very strong meeting record was set by default as the women’s mile was held at the Czech Indoor Gala for the first time, multiple other records fell – in the women’s 400m, 60m and 60m hurdles, plus the men’s 1500m.
In the 1500m, Portugal’s Isaac Nader improved his short track PB by more than two seconds to win in a world-leading national record of 3:34.23.
Isaac Nader celebrates his 1500m win in Ostrava (© Sona Maleterova)
Two weeks after running 29:07 to win at the Portuguese 10km Road Running Championships, Nader continued his track campaign to claim the final victory of the day ahead of Samuel Pihlstrom with a Swedish record of 3:35.47 and Romain Mornet of France with 3:37.22. An Austrian record of 3:37.36 was also set by Raphael Pallitsch in fourth.
Klaver and Swoboda with strong sprints
After achieving a 400m meeting record of 51.00 on her season opener in Ostrava last year, world 4x400m gold medallist Klaver intended to go even faster this time around. She did so, and then some, clocking a world lead of 50.54 for the second-fastest time of her career behind the 50.34 she set when finishing behind her Dutch compatriot Femke Bol in her 49.26 world record run in Apeldoorn last year.
Norway’s Henriette Jaeger was second in the A race in a national record of 51.57, while Czechia’s Lada Vondrova was third in 52.05. Vit Muller went quickest in the men’s two 400m races, winning the B race on home soil in 46.26.
“I felt great,” said Klaver. “Of course, it’s the first race of the season, so you have no idea. It was funny because I called my brother this morning and I said I could run 50.70 and he was like, ‘woah, that would be crazy’. But I did 50.54, I’m happy with that. It’s a good start, but I want more.”
After a season of four more races, she will then target a medal in Glasgow. “I would like to have a medal, yes, but I have no idea what the rest of the world will do,” she added. “I am just going to go faster and faster and we’ll see what I end up with.”
Another athlete warming up nicely for the global competition in Glasgow is Poland’s Swoboda, who won the 60m in 7.07, three days after setting a world lead of 7.04 in Lodz.
The 2019 European indoor champion kept her composure when local favourite Karolina Manasova, the joint Czech record-holder, stumbled out of the blocks, and she powered away to win by a tenth of a second ahead of Patrizia van der Weken of Luxembourg. Belgium’s Rani Rosius was third in 7.23.
Ewa Swoboda wins the 60m in Ostrava (© Sona Maleterova)
Swoboda’s compatriot Pia Skrzyszowska also maintained a win streak in Ostrava, going quickest in the 60m hurdles heats with 7.88 and then returning to win the final in 7.82 to improve the meeting record of 7.86 held by Nadine Visser of the Netherlands. Visser was second on this occasion, clocking 7.93 to narrowly claim the runner-up spot ahead of Ireland’s Sarah Lavin, who ran the same time.
A national record-breaking performance by Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu gained him victory in the men’s 60m as he ran 6.53 to hold off Germany’s Joshua Hartmann (6.57) and Sweden’s Henrik Larsson (6.59).
That was a second PB of the day for Kiryu, who finished second in his heat with 6.55 behind Hartmann's 6.54.
Czechia’s Eduard Kubelik was fastest overall in the men’s 200m, winning the second of the two races in 20.66 ahead of Poland’s Albert Komanski (20.93) and Israel’s world U20 champion Blessing Afrifah in a national record of 20.94.
It might have been his first ever short track race, but Botswana’s world sixth-place finisher Tshepiso Masalela controlled the men’s 800m and marked his debut with victory. The 24-year-old followed the pacemaker and looked comfortable as he took over at the front, cruising over the finish line in 1:46.41.
He was followed by Italy’s Catalin Tecuceanu (1:46.90) and Poland’s Mateusz Borkowski (1:47.33). Czechia’s European U20 champion Jakub Dudycha achieved a national U20 record in front of home fans, running 1:47.42.
Sutej, Steen and Tentoglou triumph
The women’s pole vault got the main programme under way and it ended with Slovenia’s Tina Sutej clearing 4.73m on her season debut for her fourth Czech Indoor Gala victory.
After opening at 4.33m, the world indoor bronze medallist needed all three attempts to remain in the competition at 4.53m but from there she soared clear on her first try at every height up to her winning mark. With the competition won, she then had three attempts at 4.83m.
Czechia’s Amalie Svabikova was second on 4.63m and Italy’s Roberta Bruni third on 4.53m.
USA’s 2022 NACAC champion Roger Steen, who finished second in Astana, gained victory in the men's shot put this time with a dramatic last round effort. Throwing 21.38m with his final attempt, he surpassed the leading mark set by home favourite Tomas Stanek in the third round by 5cm, while New Zealand’s two-time world indoor champion Tom Walsh placed third with 21.17m on his season debut.
Miltiadis Tentoglou had gone into the men's long jump competition targeting the meeting record of 8.21m and although the Greek Olympic, world and world indoor champion couldn’t manage it this time, he still secured victory on his season debut with a leap of 8.09m.
That mark came in the third round and while Czech record-holder Radek Juska improved to 8.03m in the fourth, it wasn’t enough to knock Tentoglou from the top spot.
“I felt good today, but the first competition of the year is always difficult for me,” said the winner. “I was making technical mistakes, but that’s normal in my case. I like to jump indoors, I feel it’s my territory.”
Jess Whittington for World Athletics
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