Previews06 Feb 2023

Tsegay targets world record, top talent to tussle in Torun


Gudaf Tsegay on her way to 1500m victory in Torun (© Marta Gorczynska)

A world record attempt by Gudaf Tsegay and some high-quality clashes between major medallists are set to highlight the ORLEN Copernicus Cup, this season’s third World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting, in Torun, Poland, on Wednesday (8).

Polish sprint star Ewa Swoboda takes on Switzerland’s world indoor champion Mujinga Kambundji in the 60m, while another local favourite, the in-form Pia Skrzyszowska, lines up along with Jamaica’s world 100m hurdles silver medallist Britany Anderson in the 60m hurdles. Olympic and world indoor champion Miltiadis Tentoglou competes against Thobias Montler in the long jump, while Keely Hodgkinson, Mary Moraa and Diribe Welteji star in a three-way 800m clash.

After breaking the world indoor 1500m record with a 3:53.09 run at the World Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Lievin in 2021, Ethiopia’s Tsegay targeted the world indoor mile record of 4:13.31, set by Genzebe Dibaba in 2016, when she returned to the French town in 2022. A fall put paid to those plans and although she still won in 4:21.72, she was never on pace to threaten the global mark.

Now, making her season debut as the world 5000m champion and world indoor 1500m gold medallist, the 26-year-old is ready to give it another go.

Dibaba clocked 3:56.46 for 1500m en route to her 4:13.31 world mile record and as well as her 3:53.09 from Lievin two years ago, Tsegay ran 3:54.77 when winning the 1500m in Torun last year and has gone sub-3:55 for the distance on four occasions outdoors, one of those being at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, where she ran 3:54.52 for silver five days before winning her 5000m title.

Joining her on the start line in the women’s mile in Torun will be Jamaica’s Adelle Tracey and Polish indoor 3000m champion Eliza Megger.

While Tsegay looks to race the clock, strong competition is set for the women’s 800m as Hodgkinson, Moraa and Welteji take to the track for their first indoor three-way battle. Britain’s world and Olympic silver medallist Hodgkinson secured a strong start to her season at the end of last month, breaking the world indoor 600m best with a 1:23.41 run in Manchester, and now she makes her season 800m debut.

The 20-year-old won European indoor gold in Torun in 2021 and only has one loss over 800m indoors on her CV so far, but Kenya’s Moraa – who makes her indoor debut in Torun – beat Hodgkinson at the Commonwealth Games and Diamond League Final last year. Like Hodgkinson, Ethiopia’s world fourth-place finisher Welteji started her season with a win, the 20-year-old clocking 8:33.44 for 3000m in Meeting de l'Eure on Saturday despite stopping a lap too soon, sitting on the track and then getting back up to complete the race.

It might not only be a three-way fight to the finish, however, as the entry list also includes Uganda’s 2019 world champion Halimah Nakaayi, world leader Noelie Yarigo of Benin and Slovenia’s Anita Horvat, who won at this season’s opening World Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Karlsruhe in a 2:00.44 indoor PB.

"I have very good memories from Torun, from two years ago, and I’m happy to come here for my first 800m of the season. I have heard the track is really fast so I’m looking forward to putting down a good marker, hopefully something like I did last year in my season opener," said Hodgkinson, who set a national record of 1:57.20 – a mark that puts her sixth on the world indoor all-time list – in her first race of 2022 in Birmingham.

"The 600m (in Manchester) went really well, but the 600m and 800m are very different, there’s a whole extra 200m, which I’d argue is the hardest 200m. I’m just looking forward to opening up my season with some good competition. Mary Moraa and Diribe Welteji are racing, so it’s not going to be easy, but hopefully I can put down a strong marker and build on that for the European Indoor Championships."

The men’s 800m features Kenya’s Collins Kipruto and Sweden’s Andreas Kramer, who opened their seasons with times just 0.01 apart - 1:45.89 for Kipruto in Luxembourg and 1:45.90 for world indoor fifth-place finisher Kramer in Stockholm. Poland’s Olympic bronze medallist Patryk Dobek, who also won the European indoor title in 2021, will be hoping to build on his season opener when he races in front of a home crowd, while Britain’s Guy Learmonth and Jamie Webb also compete.

In the men’s 1500m, Britain’s George Mills seeks more success after his win in Karlsruhe in a 3:35.88 indoor PB as he goes up against athletes including Spain’s European indoor 1500m bronze medallist Jesus Gomez and Poland’s Olympic finalist Michal Rozmys.

George Mills win the 1500m at the World Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Karlsruhe

George Mills win the 1500m at the World Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Karlsruhe (© Dan Vernon)

Ethiopia’s world indoor champion Lemlem Hailu is among the headliners in a deep women’s 3000m field. The 21-year-old, who won in Karlsruhe in 8:37.55, is again taking on her compatriot Ejgayehu Taye, the world 5km record-holder who claimed world indoor 3000m bronze behind Hailu in Belgrade and moved to fifth on the world 5000m all-time list with her world-leading 14:12.98 outdoors last year.

Ethiopia’s world 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Werkuha Getachew and world indoor 800m silver medallist Freweyni Hailu, who was second in the 800m in Karlsruhe and will be stepping up to contest her farthest ever race, add further strength to the field and are joined by athletes including Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo, Maureen Koster of the Netherlands and Poland’s Martyna Galant and Alicja Konieczek.

Sprint spotlight on Swoboda, Kambundji and Skrzyszowska

Poland’s world indoor fourth-place finisher Swoboda returns to defend her Copernicus Cup 60m title, back in the city where she stormed under seven seconds with a 6.99 PB to win another national title last March. The 25-year-old has had a strong start to 2023, winning two of her three finals and setting her season’s best of 7.09 when finishing second to Dina Asher-Smith in Karlsruhe.

Swoboda finished 0.02 ahead of Kambundji on that occasion, while Britain’s Daryll Neita was fourth, and the trio clash again, this time joined by athletes including USA’s Kayla White, who was fourth at this season’s second World Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Boston on Saturday, plus Switzerland’s Geraldine Frey and Spain’s Maria Isabel Perez.

Swoboda and Kambundji are evenly matched when it comes to their head-to-head record in 60m finals, which stands at 4-4. The competition in Karlsruhe was Kambundji’s season opener.

Ewa Swoboda runs 6.99 for 60m at the Polish Indoor Championships

Ewa Swoboda runs 6.99 for 60m at the Polish Indoor Championships (© Marta Gorczynska)

Another exciting head-to-head is expected in the women’s 60m hurdles. Again, the home crowd will have a leading contender to cheer for, 21-year-old Skrzyszowska having built on her 2022 breakthrough with another series of PBs already this season. Her 7.78 achieved in Lodz on Saturday threatened the almost 43-year-old Polish record of 7.77 and put her within the top 20 on the world all-time list.

The European 100m hurdles champion also won in Dusseldorf in a then PB of 7.84 and this time she faces Anderson for the first time indoors. The Jamaican was fourth in the world indoor final last year and makes her season debut in Torun.

Netherlands’ two-time European indoor champion Nadine Visser has a PB that matches the Polish record and will be looking to build on her best so far this year of 7.86. They will be joined by Visser’s compatriot Zoe Sedney, Switzerland’s 100m hurdles bronze medallist Ditaji Kambundji, Finland’s Reetta Hurske and Poland’s world indoor pentathlon silver medallist Adrianna Sulek, who achieved a 4702-point pentathlon win in Tallinn at the weekend.

"The field is very strong and there will be some very fast running," said Skrzyszowska. "This can help me to start well, because in Lodz I lost a lot (at the start of the race)."

A home star will also be on show in the men’s event as world 110m hurdles fourth-place finisher Damian Czykier goes up against USA’s Daniel Roberts, who ran his second-fastest ever time – 7.46 – to finish second behind Grant Holloway in Boston over the weekend. France’s Olympic and world indoor medallist Dimitri Bascou is also among the entries, along with Spain’s Karlsruhe winner Enrique Llopis, Czech Republic’s Petr Svoboda and Britain’s David King.

Netherlands' world indoor and outdoor relay medallist Lieke Klaver, who opened her season with a 51.00 PB win in Ostrava, goes in the 400m against multiple Czech champion Lada Vondrova, the European U23 champion, who improved her indoor PB to 51.57 behind Klaver at the Czech Indoor Gala.

In the men’s 400m, Denmark’s world indoor fourth-place finisher Benjamin Lobo Vedel and Spain’s European indoor champion Oscar Husillos will clash again after their 1-2 in Karlsruhe. Sweden’s world indoor bronze medallist Carl Bengtstrom has run 46.26 this season and is back in action.

Global medallists collide

World and Olympic medallists feature in each of the three field events. The men’s long jump is led by Tentoglou, who claimed his Olympic gold in 2021 and the world indoor title last year. The 24-year-old also secured world silver in Oregon last year before taking the Wanda Diamond League trophy at the end of the season and in 2023 he has picked up from where he left off, opening his year with a leap of 8.12m to win in Gothenburg.

Miltiadis Tentoglou in action at the World Indoor Tour meeting in Madrid

Miltiadis Tentoglou in action at the World Indoor Tour meeting in Madrid (© Jean-Pierre Durand)

Sweden’s world indoor silver medallist Montler has so far gone seven centimetres farther than that this year, and that pair will line up alongside USA’s three-time world medallist Marquis Dendy, Cuba’s Olympic bronze medallist Maykel Masso and Spain’s Eusebio Caceres.

"I have been here in Poland for three weeks now, as I was on a training camp in Spala," said Tentoglou, who won the second of his two European indoor titles in Torun in 2021. "The stadium in Torun is one of my favourite indoor stadiums because the track is amazing. Two years ago we jumped fantastic here and I think tomorrow will also be nice. I feel very strong, so I hope we can do a great job, me and the other jumpers."

In the men’s pole vault, Philippines’ world bronze medallist Ernest John Obiena will hope to make another statement after matching his national indoor record with 5.91m in Uppsala last week. The 27-year-old has already competed five times in 2023, finishing in the top three in each of those contests, and this time he takes on Brazil’s 2016 Olympic gold medallist Thiago Braz and home favourite Piotr Lisek, the five-time world medallist.

New Zealand’s world indoor high jump bronze medallist Hamish Kerr is back in action, fresh from his win in Hustopece with a 2.30m clearance, just a single centimetre off his PB. Australia’s Brandon Starc improved his indoor PB to 2.27m in that competition and multiple Polish indoor champion Norbert Kobielski will be among the athletes looking to challenge that duo in Torun.

Jess Whittington for World Athletics