Renaud Lavillenie in action at the 2015 Rouen pole vault meeting (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
The 2015 IAAF Indoor Permit meetings get under way on Saturday night (31) when the German city of Karlsruhe plays host to the first of five of the world’s best one-day indoor meetings across a three-week period.
The Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe organisers have signed up possibly the biggest name in the sport at the moment, French pole vaulter and World Athlete of the Year Renaud Lavillenie
Lavillenie, fresh from going over 6.00m in Rouen last Saturday, will take on world champion and local star Raphael Holzdeppe.
It will be the second time the pair have faced each other in Karlsruhe, although they have competed against each other no fewer than 38 times in total since they first met in 2008. Their 2013 clash in Karlsruhe was won by Lavillenie and one month after that competition, Lavillenie won the European indoor title in Gothenburg.
Curiously, the surface from that arena is in the process of being laid in Karlsruhe ahead of Saturday night.
The Europahalle, which had served as the Karlsruhe meeting venue for many years since its inception in 1985, is undergoing a full renovation so the organisers were obliged to find a new location and opted for the Messe-Arena, which is part of the city’s trade fair complex.
To stage the meeting, the city actually purchased the track used at the 2013 European Indoor Championships and had it shipped to Karlsruhe, becoming only the second six-lane indoor track in Germany after the Leipzig Arena.
Inevitably with a new track in a new arena, there is a bit of uncertainty about how quick it will be for the sprinters and putting it to the test will be the Netherlands' European 100m and 200m champion Dafne Schippers, who will contest the 60m.
The Dutch all-rounder competed in the 2014 edition of the meeting but finished fourth in 7.24 behind the German winner Verena Sailer.
However, this time Schippers will probably pose a bigger threat after having placed more of an emphasis on sprinting during her winter preparations.
Sailer, the 2010 European 100m champion, will also line up for the 60m in Karlsruhe and she has the physiological advantage of knowing that she has only lost twice to Schippers in eight encounters.
Another Dutch continental champion, Sifan Hassan, will contest the 1500m, the distance at which she won a European title in Zurich last summer.
The men’s shot put should also grab plenty of headlines, despite the absence of Germany’s two-time world champion David Storl, a late withdrawal owing to a lack of training after surgery in the autumn.
US pair Ryan Whiting and Christian Cantwell, who between them have won five of the past six world indoor shot put titles, will be the top names going into the circle.
Whiting showed that he is in good form when he sent his shot out to a world-leading 20.83m in Dusseldorf on Thursday evening, with Cantwell placing second with 20.53m.
In the absence of Storl, the plaudits for being the top German performer on Saturday could be taken by the talented long jumper Sosthene Moguenara, who jumped an indoor personal best and world-leading 6.84m in Saarbrucken earlier this month.
Like nearly all the European athletes, she is building up to the European Indoor Championships in Prague in March.
Three world indoor records have been set at the Karlsruhe meeting in the past, albeit at the old venue.
Most recently, Genzebe Dibaba sped to a 1500m mark of 3:55.17 12 months ago. Sadly, Dibaba is not returning but one of the other world record-setters of an earlier vintage is Swedish hurdler Susana Kallur.
Kallur ran the still-standing 60m hurdles world record of 7.68 in Karlsruhe in 2008. Now 33, she has been bedevilled by injuries in recent years and there will be considerable interest in how she performs as she has not raced in public over barriers, either outdoors or indoors, since 2010.
However, expectations of a winning return from Kallur should be tempered with the knowledge that there are six other women in the field with personal bests faster than 8.00 for the indoor discipline, including the 2011 European indoor 60m hurdles champion Carolin Dietrich, who herself is trying to get back to her best after missing all of 2014 through injury.
The biggest star in the men’s middle-distance races is arguably Kenya’s well-known steeplechaser Paul Kipsiele Koech, who will race over 3000m, without the barriers on this occasion.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF