2008 GE Galan Preview
Story written by Eric
The Swedish capital of Stockholm is preparing to add to the wave of incredible momentum created this indoor season when it hosts the GE Galan tomorrow evening, with all 13.000 tickets to the two-hour event sold out in anticipation of watching one of its own national stars, Sanna Kallur, continue her own wave of excellence as she laces up for the second time this winter for a race in her home country.
Kallur, the newly-minted world record-holder at 60m hurdles and defending IAAF World Indoor champion at the distance, is unbeaten in five competitions this this indoor season, running seven of the eight fastest times recorded, as well as two of the top-10 all-time. Teammate Carolina Klüft is also entered in the 60m hurdles as well as the long jump.
Kallur's is one of five world indoor records set during the past three weeks of competition, and GE Galan organisers, who have witnessed several world indoor records set on their track - including the current men's 5.000m standard, have assembled a stellar line-up of action featuring reigning Olympic and IAAF World champions set to compete the 12 disciplines on tap for the evening.
They've also purchased a new, quicker track surface - the same kind which is being used at next month's world championships, and also at the Olympics later this summer in Beijing.
Fast 3.000m Promised
American Bernard Lagat, who won an unprecedented 1.500m/5.000m double at last season's world outdoor championships in Osaka, is entered in the men's 3.000m run - a race which also features the reigning world steeplechase champion, Paul Koech from Kenya.
Lagat and Koech both competed at the weekend in Birmingham, with Lagat winning the 1.500m in the second-fasest time of the season. Koech ran an incredibly strong 2-mile race to place second behind Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, with both men setting new national records - and Bekele breaking the world record.
Lagat, the highest-ranked returning Olympic 1.500m finalist, spoke at the GE Galan press conference yesterday, and stated that his training is going exceptionally well, and he even feels lighter on his feet. Lagat is promising a fast race, and has hopes of running even with Bekele's meet record of 7.30,51 set in last year's meeting.
"It will be a good race," Lagat said. "Everyone knows how well Paul Koech ran in Birmingham on Saturday - a fantastic race! But I am prepared to meet them and I want to really run fast - down toward 7.30 - in my first race in Stockholm."
Another athlete who hasn't put on the brakes thus far this season is reigning 800m Olympic champion, Yuriy Borzakovskiy from Russia, who holds the GE Galan meet record with a 1.44,34 set in 2003.
Borzakovskiy has run the swiftest indoors this season, stopping the clock in 1.45,58 in Stuttgart 18 days ago, and anchored Russia to a new national 4x800m record two weeks ago, splitting 1.44,5 on his anchor leg. He's undefeated this season at 800m, and has won each of his eight races ranging from 400m to 1.000m.
Borzakovskiy will be challenged tomorrow by national teammate Dmitriy Bogdanov, who has the third-fastest time this season (1.46,24) and Kenya's Wilfred Bungei, who won the world indoor championships at this distance in Moscow two seasons ago.
Precocious Kaki Aiming High
One athlete who has begun to make a name for himself over the past three months is 18-year-old Sudanese Abubaker Kaki, a former goalee who, in his first-ever indoor competition on Sunday, ran the year's second-fastest time (1.46,06) in defeating a stellar field including Nils Schumann, the 2000 Olympic 800m champion.
Kaki been competed in athletics for only three years - winning a bronze medal at the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships in Marrakech in his first year in the sport, but made a phenominal breakthrough in November, running a near solo 1.43,90 (the fourth-fastest of 2007) to win in Al-Qâhirah.
Kaki, who is contesting the 1.000m tomorrow, has high ambitions for himself outdoors - including breaking Sammy Koskeis 1.42,28 African record, and winning the Olympic final.
Mutola Aims to Finish Perfect in Globen
African 800m queen Maria Mutola, who set her 800m indoor best - 1.56,36 - 10 years ago in Liévin, is set to contest her final race under the lights at Globen, a venue which saw her set two 1.000m world records (2.31,23 in 1996 and 2.30,94 in 1999) in her previous five contests here.
Mutola is the reigning 800m world indoor champion, and is up against a formidable foe in Russian Olga Kotlyarova, the 600m world record-holder (1.23,44), 2006 European outdoor champion and fifth-place finisher at the 2006 World Indoor Championships. Great Britain's Jenny Meadows may also clash with the titans up front for a chance at victory.
Other Key Matchups
Field events will also offer the partisan crowd an opportunity to cheer for two of its own, as Stefan Holm, the last high jumper to clear 2,40m (2005 European Championships in Madrid), leads a field including teammate Linus Thörnblad and a Russian duo of Andrey Silnov and Ivan Ukhov, who are second and third on the yearly list with 2,37m and 2,36m clearances, respectively.
Holm, who has jumped 2,30m or higher in each of his five competitions this winter, won last year's contest with a 2,33m jump, with Thörnblad finishing second with a 2,30m clearance.
Another fantastic matchup on tap during the two hour 15 minute schedule will be the men's 400m, where Sweden's Johan Wissman takes on Tyler Christopher, who set a new Canadian record in winning last weekend's Birmingham race in what appeared to be particularly easy fashion. Christopher and Wissman finished sixth and seventh at last year's world outdoor championships, separated by 0,01 seconds.
Cuba's Dayron Robles, contesting the 60m hurdles, will be one of the featured athletes of the evening. Robles has been unstoppable by his foes, having collected seven of the 10-fastest 60m hurdles this season - including a list-leading 7,33 seconds - the second-fastest ever, and a mere 0,03 seconds from Colin Jackson's indoor world record.
Other matchups which should spark great competition are the women's long jump and the women's 1.500m.
Klüft, who has overcome an uncomfortable disk problem in her back, will oppose Russians Tatyana Kotova and Irina Simagina as well as Portugal's Naide Gomes in the long jump among others. Samagina holds the world lead with a 6,94m jump - and also has a 6,92m to her credit, with Gomes, the 2006 bronze medallist at the World Indoor Championships, third on the indoor list at 6,90m.
Bahrain's Maryam Jamal, the 2007 IAAF World 1.500m champion, will be making her season's debut in Globen, but has a lifetime best of 4.01,82 - a time which serves as both her national record and the African record. Jamal's strongest competition should be from Great Britain's Lisa Dobriskey and Ethiopia's Gelete Burka, the African Junior record-holder (3.59,60) making her indoor debut.
For the ninth-consecutive year, GE is the main sponsor for this meet, which has at present seen six world records and 22 Swedish records established at the venue. The GE Galan will be shown on television in 35 countries, and will show on TV4 in Sweden.
We've been very fortunate to have such a prestigious event staged in our backyard and play host to a wonderful array of athletes.
The GE Galan will air on RAI Sport (Hotbird 2 13°E 11804 V) between 19.40 and 21.30.
Full start lists here
(Foto credit: GE Galan homepage)