Russian Yelena Soboleva began her Olympic 1.500m gold meal quest in excellent fashion today in Moscow, setting a national record in a mile race at the Russian Winter IAAF indoor meet on Sunday.
Soboleva won in 4 minutes, 20,21 seconds, eclipsing 3.50 seconds off of Elena Zadorozhnaya's previous indoor record of 4.24,11 -- a time she set in 2001.
Soboleva, who set an outdoor personal best (4.15,63) in the mile in 2007, became the third-fastest female (with the fourth-fastest performance) ever at the indoor distance, trailing only Romanians Doine Melinte (4.17,14 and 4.18,86) and Paula Ivan (4.18,99), the 1988 Olympic 1.500m champion.
Soboleva took control of the race and took over the lead at the 1.000m mark (2.46,39) never to relinquish her position as she used part of her 1.57,28 800m speed to close out her historic run with a very respectable 2.07 finaly 880-yard split.
Teammate Olga Komyagina had a breakthrough race in finishing second in 4.23,49, a time which ranks 13th on the world all-time indoor mile list. Komyagina has a lifetime 1.500m best of 4.02,32 set eight years ago in Leverkusen, but has spent a greater part of her past three seasons acting as a pace maker for high profile races around Europe.
Russia's Svetlana Masterkova holds the outdoor mile record of 4.12,56 set in 1996 at the Weltklasse meet in Zürich, Switzerland. Ivan, at 4.15,61, is second on the all-time list and 0,02 seconds faster than Soboleva's outdoor best - the third-fastest ever recorded.
Soboleva, who set the world indoor 1.500m record (3.58,28) in 2006, is seeking redemption in Beijing as she challenges for the gold medal -- something which eluded her at the 2007 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Osaka, Japan.
Soboleva contested the 1.500m - the official Olympic distance - only three times in 2007 following a 2006 successful 2006 campaign in which she won a silver medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, but was able to run under four minutes in each of her competitions - a feat which garnered her favourite status as she lined up for the final in Osaka.
Soboleva ran tough and brave against her fierce competitors over much of the 3,75-lap race, but was unable to match strides or kicks with her nemesis Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain during the remaining segments of the final lap. Jamal took home the global title ahead of Ukraine's Iryna Lishchynska, and Soboleva finished third.
The women's mile was not the only event at the Russian Winter Meeting featuring likely Olympic finalists, as the men's 800m run was won by reigning Olympic champion Yuri Borzakovskiy, who is making a good early-season march toward defending that crown in August.
Borzakovskiy, who skipped the 2007 indoor season, broke away from Kenyan Wilfred Bungei, the IAAF World Indoor champion, with a lap to go to win the four lap race in a seasons-best time of 1 minute, 46.78 seconds. Borzakovskiy, running his second 800m race this season, utilised a 26,08-second final lap to send Bungei away.
Yuri Koldin finished third.
Other notable performances were turned in by 2006 European Outdoor Champion André Silnov, who won the high jump (2,36m) ahead of teammate Jaroslav Rybakov (2,30m); Olga Simagina in the women's long jump (6,92m); and Olusoji Fasuba in the men's 60m (6,54).