Ewa Swoboda, Dina Asher-Smith, Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Mujinga Kambundji (© Getty Images / AFP)
It seems like just yesterday the 2022 outdoor track and field season drew to a close, but already the first Gold meeting in the 2023 World Athletics Indoor Tour is set to get going with the Init Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe on Friday (27).
As would be expected of one of the world’s premier indoor competitions, the fields include numerous global medallists looking to kick-start a year that will be highlighted by the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 in eight months’ time.
Their more immediate target, though, is to be competitive at this stage of the season and get an early edge over their rivals.
Given the quality of the women’s 60m field, there will be no room for error for anyone looking to reach the finish line first. Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji will be lining up for her first 60m race since winning the world indoor title in Belgrade last year in 6.96.
Only one other woman in the field – Poland’s Ewa Swoboda – has broken seven seconds for 60m (6.99), and no doubt the 25-year-old will still be fired up after missing out on a medal in Belgrade last year. But 2019 world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith is also in the field and has already started the season in good form, clocking 7.09 – just 0.01 outside her PB – last weekend in Jablonec.
Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou possesses the fastest outdoor 100m PB of the field with the 10.72 African record she set last year. The 2018 world indoor silver medallist hasn’t raced indoors since 2019, but she can never be discounted. Nor can Britain’s Olympic finalist Daryll Neita, the European and Commonwealth 100m bronze medallist.
Most fans in the arena, though, will be cheering for Germany’s world and Olympic long jump champion Malaika Mihambo, who is using this competition to test her speed. Compatriots Alexandra Burghardt and Lisa Mayer are also in the line-up.
The women’s shot put is of an even higher standard and it features the top six throwers in the world rankings, four of whom won major titles in 2022.
World champion Chase Ealey will go up against world indoor champion Auriol Dongmo, as well as European champion Jessica Schilder and Canada’s Commonwealth champion Sarah Mitton, who recently threw an early world lead of 19.80m.
Jamaica’s 2019 world silver medallist Danniel Thomas-Dodd is also one to watch, as is Sweden’s Fanny Roos.
Given the quality of the field, Dongmo’s meeting record of 19.65m could well be under threat.
Showdowns on the track
It’s not just the explosive events where fireworks can be expected. Karlsruhe has produced many fast times and thrilling clashes in distance events over the years, and more could be in store on Friday, especially in the women’s 3000m.
World indoor champion Lemlem Hailu, still only 21 years of age, will take on world 5000m bronze medallist Dawit Seyaum, the third-fastest woman in history for 3000m indoors.
The Ethiopian duo aren’t the only contenders in Karlsruhe, though. World steeplechase silver medallist Werkuha Getachew, two-time world indoor silver medallist Axumawit Embaye, European steeplechase champion Luiza Gega of Albania and 2021 world U20 5000m champion Mizan Alem should also be competitive.
Spain’s European indoor 3000m record-holder Adel Mechaal will test the shorter end of his range by lining up for the 1500m in Karlsruhe. Mechaal has the fastest outdoor PB of the field, but Ethiopia’s world indoor and outdoor finalist Taddese Lemi has the quickest indoor PB with his 3:33.59 best.
Two-time European indoor bronze medallist Jesus Gomez and fellow Spaniard Ignacio Fontes, a world and Olympic finalist, are also in the line-up.
Britain’s Jemma Reekie, unbeaten over 800m on the World Indoor Tour, will look to keep that streak alive on Friday when she makes her indoor season debut. But she won’t have it easy as she’ll take on Ethiopia’s world indoor silver medallist Freweyni Hailu and Slovenia’s world finalist Anita Horvat.
Diriba Girma was the fastest U20 athlete in the world for the men’s indoor 3000m last year. The Ethiopian, who will turn 20 later this week, will line up over that same distance in Karlsruhe for his first race as a senior athlete, looking to improve upon his 7:38.79 indoor PB.
Ethiopia's Abdisa Fayisa, the fastest U18 athlete in the world last year over 3000m and 5km, could be one to watch in the men's 3000m. Compatriot Adisu Girma, usually an 800m and 1500m specialist, won over 5km in Barcelona on New Year's Eve and continues his venture into longer distances here. Serbia’s Elzan Bibic and Germany's European U23 5000m champion Mohamed Abdilaahi are also contenders.
Multiple world and European medallist Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, embarking on his 15th consecutive indoor season, will get his 2023 campaign under way in the men’s 60m hurdles. But the likes of European champion and world bronze medallist Asier Martinez, USA’s Aaron Mallett, and 2018 world indoor bronze medallist Aurel Manga won’t make it easy for the French hurdler.
Elsewhere on the track, Dutch duo Liemarvin Bonevacia and Tony van Diepen – who have shared a podium many times as both relay teammates and 400m opponents – will line up against one another in the men’s 400m. Multiple world indoor champion Pavel Maslak, Spain’s European indoor champion Oscar Husillos, and Denmark’s world indoor finalist Benjamin Lobo Vedel are all in with a shot, too. All five men have PBs faster than the long-standing meeting record of 46.11.
Global medallists in all jumps
European champion and world indoor silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk of Ukraine will start as favourite in the women’s triple jump. USA’s world bronze medallist Tori Franklin and Cuban duo Leyanis Perez-Hernandez and Liadagmis Povea could all challenge for the victory, as could Finland’s Kristiina Makela.
Brazil’s 2016 Olympic pole vault champion Thiago Braz is another athlete who will be opening his season in Karlsruhe. Fellow six-metre vaulter KC Lightfoot, who holds the current world lead at 5.82m, and Germany’s European silver medallist Bo Kanda Lita Baehre will ensure the event is highly competitive.
Two-time world indoor champion Ivana Vuleta will start as favourite in the women’s long jump. Fellow Serbian Milica Gardasevic, who jumped 6.83m last year, and rising star Agate De Sousa of Sao Tome and Principe should be Vuleta’s main rivals.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics