By Jonathan Gault
March 4, 2015
The American indoor professional season concluded last weekend in Boston, but there are still a few major indoor meets on the calendar in 2015. The 2015 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships will take place next weekend in Fayetteville, Ark., but before then, this weekend, some of Europe’s best talent will assemble in Prague for the 32nd European Athletics Indoor Championships. Athletes such as Jenny Meadows (800), Sifan Hassan (1500/3000), Renaud Lavillenie (pole vault) and David Storl (shot put) will all be competing to claim continental honors. If you’re looking for something to whet your appetite before NCAAs, you should definitely check out this meet, especially since it will be streamed online for free. Read on for a primer on the weekend’s events.
What: 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championships
When: Thursday, March 5 – Sunday, March 8
Where: O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
How to watch: Live online here (except in France and Germany)
Events to watch
Women’s 800 (prelims Friday 6:15 a.m. ET, semis Saturday 12:00 p.m. ET, final Sunday 9:15 a.m. ET)
This figures to be the most intriguing event of the entire meet. Great Britain’s Jenny Meadows is the strong favorite as she’s the only woman to have broken 2:00 this year (she’s done it twice, with a best of 1:59.21 on January 31). Meadows is undefeated this year and is the 2011 European champion (after initial winner Yevgeniya Zinurova had her gold medal stripped following a doping ban), though she recently told The Independent, “I’ve no affinity with [my gold medal]. I never feel like European champion or like I won that race.”
The Independent piece also revealed that Meadows has won just 500 euros in prize money this year and that she and her husband/coach Trevor Painter were forced to sell their car to fund Meadows’ career after injuries from 2012-2014. Speaking about her competition, Meadows said “I know I’ll always think ‘is this legit?’” when evaluating the performances of Russian athletes. One person Meadows should be very suspicious of is Russia’s Olympic bronze medalist Yekaterina Poistogova, who was recorded admitting to taking banned substances according to German TV network ARD’s December report on doping in Russian athletics. Poistogova is entered in the 800 in Prague.
There are several other notable names in the event:
- 2015 world #2 Joanna Jozwik of Poland (2:00.01). She also took bronze at European outdoors last year
- 2013 400 hurdles world champion Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic, who ran 2:03.60 on February 6 in her first 800 in three years
- 2014 World Indoor silver medalist Angelika Cichocka of Poland (2:02.15 sb)
- 19-year-old Anita Hinriksdottir of Iceland, who has run 2:01.77 (#5 on world list in 2015)
- Defending champ Nataliya Lupu of Ukraine, who has only run 2:03.04 this year
Men’s 1500 (prelims Saturday 5:50 a.m. ET, final Sunday 10:30 a.m. ET)
2015 world leader Homiyu Tesfaye of Germany (born in Ethiopia) is the prohibitive favorite thanks to his big 3:34.13 1500 win over Kenyan studs Bethwell Birgen, Collins Cheboi and Silas Kiplagat in Stockholm on February 19. Turkey’s Ilham Tanui Ozbilen has traditionally run well indoors (2nd World Indoors in ’12, 2nd Euro Indoors in ’13) and is the #2 guy in the field by sb, though his 3:38.03 is almost four seconds back of Tesfaye. 3:31 guy/Olympic 5th-placer Henrik Ingebrigtsen of Norway and European outdoor bronze medalist Chris O’Hare of Tulsa (based in Boston under Terrence Mahon) are other names that should be familiar to U.S. fans.
1500: prelims Saturday 5:30 a.m. ET, final Sunday 10:10 a.m. ET
3000: prelims Friday 7:25 a.m. ET, final Saturday 12:50 p.m. ET
Billing these races as Iona vs. Sifan Hassan is selling the rest of the field short, but that is the main storyline as far as American fans are concerned. Hassan, the 2014 1500 world leader (3:57.00) is the world leader indoors in 2015 at 4:00.46 (she’s also got the #2 time at 4:02.57), will attempt to pull off the 1500/3000 double and she’ll face Iona/Great Britain’s Rosie Clarke (4:31 mile at Millrose) in the 1500 and Kate Avery in the 3000. Victory in the 1500 is all but assured, as long as she isn’t tired from four races in three days (her sb is over six seconds faster than the #2 seed).
Winning the 3000 — and becoming the first woman to win both events since Poland’s Lidia Chojecka in 2007 — may be more difficult, but her 8:29.38 outdoor pb is by far the best in the field. Avery (8:53.12 sb), Great Britain’s Laura Muir (8:49.73 sb) and Russia’s Yelena Korobkina (8:47.61 sb) will all be in the mix for the medals, but can any of them take down Hassan? Hassan is in terrific shape, running 4:00.46 for 1500 on February 19, and even though she’ll have already raced on the day of the 3000 final, she’ll have over seven hours to recover (the 1500 prelims are in the morning, the 3000 final in the evening).
It’s worth noting that Clarke will also compete at NCAAs next week (she’s seeded third in the mile at 4:31.78) while Avery will not: MB: NCAA XC Champ Kate Avery Won’t Run NCAA Indoors; Doing European Indoor Champs Instead
Men’s 3000 (prelims Friday 12:00 p.m. ET, final Saturday 1:45 p.m. ET)
Turkey’s Ali Kaya, who finished third behind British teammates/Twitter combatants Mo Farah and Andy Vernon in the 10,000 at Europeans last summer, leads all entrants with a 7:43.61 sb. He’s followed by Richard Ringer of Germany (7:46.18) and two-time NCAA champ Lee Emanuel (7:46.88), who has run well in his last two races, winning the UK title at 3000 on February 14 and following that up with a 3:35.66 pb in Birmingham on February 21 (which is better than his outdoor pb of 3:36.55).
Men’s 400 (prelims Friday 5:35 a.m. ET, semis Friday 10:40 a.m. ET, final Saturday 1:30 p.m. ET)
This event is a big one for the home nation. 2014 World Indoor champion Pavel Maslak is the world leader after his 45.27 at the Czech championships on February 22; he and fellow Czech Jan Tesar (#2 seed at 46.21) have a chance to go 1-2 in front of the home crowd on Saturday night.
Men’s 800 (prelims Friday 6:41 a.m. ET, semis Saturday 12:25 p.m. ET, final Sunday 9:30 a.m. ET)
Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski, one of only four men to have broken 1:46 this year and the fourth-placer at the last two World Championships outdoors, is the favorite in this one. Ireland has a pair of solid young runners in 2014 European outdoor bronze medalist Mark English (21 years old, 1:44.84 pb) and former Loyola runner Declan Murray (23 years old, 1:46.77 pb). Sweden’s World Junior bronze medalist Andreas Almgren, who ran 1:45.65 at age 19 last summer, is also a huge talent.
Men’s pole vault (prelims Friday 4:15 a.m. ET, final Friday 11:00 a.m. ET)
World record holder Renaud Lavillenie has won 15 straight pole vault competitions indoors, dating back to April 2013. Poland’s Piotr Lisek vaulted 5.90m last weekend (#19 all-time) and should provide decent competition, but with a sb of 6.02 — and six vaults above 5.90 this year — the world record holder Lavillenie remains very much the man to beat.
Men’s shot put (prelims Thursday 12:00 p.m. ET, final Friday 11:25 a.m. ET)
Nine of the top 12 on the 2015 world list will be action in Prague (the only ones missing are Americans Ryan Whiting, Ryan Crouser and Christian Cantwell). 2011/2013 World champion David Storl threw 21.25 meters in his season opener two weeks ago, a mark that puts him #2 in the world right now — he’s the favorite. Behind him, the Czech Republic’s Tomas Stanek (20.94) and Serbia’s Asmir Kolasinac (20.91) are the next two furthest on the year.