Dina Asher-Smith in action in the 60m at the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Karlsruhe (© Getty Images)
The set-up and atmosphere may have felt slightly unusual at the Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe, but the action and excitement didn’t suffer at the first World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting of 2021 on Friday (29).
World 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith was the first athlete to arrive in Karlsruhe earlier this week, and she was first to finish in the 60m. Having sped to a controlled 7.11 to win her heat earlier in the programme, she returned to the track one hour later and went even faster.
Her winning time of 7.08 equalled the PB she first set in 2015 and tied in 2018. The Briton plans on having a full indoor season, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect her to continue to chip away at that time and perhaps break the national record of 7.06.
France’s Orlann Ombissa-Dzangue was second in 7.16, just 0.01 of Switzerland’s Ajla del Ponte, who equalled her PB.
“Obviously it has been a strange year and a long time since I’ve competed on the international stage, so I didn’t know what to expect,” said the triple European champion. “But to open with my fastest opener ever and equal my PB was really good.
“I’ve been working hard in training and I’m happy to see some of those elements coming through. The indoor season is really important this year, more than ever, because we’ve missed a whole year of high-level competitions. I’m excited for what my next races bring.”
Meeting records for Lavillenie and Dongmo
Buoyed by his promising 5.92m season opener from two weeks ago, former world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie continued that momentum in Karlsruhe and put together one of his best indoor series for a long time.
He went straight into the lead with his opening height of 5.62m and consolidated it at 5.80m, also getting over on his first attempt. Germany’s Torsten Blech and USA’s Cole Walsh exited the competition at that stage, while USA’s Matt Ludwig got over it on his second try.
Ludwig was unable to go any higher, but Lavillenie popped over 5.88m and 5.95m with his first attempts, breaking his own meeting record from 2016. After two unsuccessful tries at 6.00m, the 2012 Olympic champion called it a night; a highly satisfying one at that. The last time the 34-year-old vaulted higher than 5.95m was in the 2016 Olympic final.
“It was a long competition but a good one,” he said. “Honestly I didn’t expect to jump that high today. I was going to jump off a shortened approach of 16 steps and couldn’t find my rhythm, so in my warm-up I moved to 20 steps and found that my rhythm returned, so I went with that.”
Portugal’s Auriol Dongmo picked up in 2021 where she left off last year – as the world leader in the shot put.
The 30-year-old opened her series with an indoor PB and meeting record of 18.81m, which would have ultimately been sufficient to win, but she went on to unleash an outright lifetime best of 19.65m in round two. Since the 2016 World Indoor Championships, only one athlete – two-time world champion Gong Lijiao – has thrown farther indoors.
Dongmo followed it with two more throws beyond 19 metres and could not be caught. Sweden’s Fanny Roos produced a national record of 18.64m in the final round to finish second, overtaking Britain’s world finalist Sophie McKinna. Germany’s 2015 world champion finished down in fifth with 18.27m.
“This is what we had been waiting for,” said Dongmo. “My coach and I have been working a lot on my technique because in the past it wasn’t very good. But each day I try to improve it and this is the result.”
Birgen and Chepkoech triumph over 3000m
Kenya’s Bethwell Birgen and Beatrice Chepkoech were both victorious over 3000m, but they went about it in different ways.
Birgen took off in the final kilometre, having been paced through 2000m in 5:06.44. His lead looked insurmountable with a couple of laps to go, but Spain’s Mohamed Katir started to make up significant ground in the closing stages.
Birgen held on, though, and won in 7:34.12, moving him into the top 10 on the Kenyan indoor all-time list. Katir was rewarded with a huge PB of 7:35.29, nine seconds faster than his outdoor best.
While Birgen ran solo for last kilometre, Chepkoech had company over the final few laps. The steeplechase world champion and world record-holder controlled the pace in the second half and maintained a consistent tempo.
With one lap to go, Britain’s Melissa Courtney-Bryant tried to make a move, as did Fantu Worku, the 3000m winner in Karlsruhe last year. But Chepkoech managed to hold off both challenges and crossed the line in 8:41.98. Worku was second (8:42.22), just ahead of Courtney-Bryant (8:42.41).
Elliot Giles timed his run to perfection in the men’s 800m. Once the pacemaker stepped to one side, Sweden’s Andreas Kramer – a known front-runner – led the strung-out field through 600m in 1:18.04. With about half a lap left, Giles kicked into the lead and opened up a significant gap on Kramer, striding all the way to the finish in a world-leading 1:45.5. Due to a fault in the timing system, performances in this race were hand-timed.
“What happened during the race was kind of funny,” said Giles. “It was like the daily traffic in Paris and I was the scooter trying to pass through the cars.”
France’s Benjamin Robert came through to take second in a PB of 1:46.3 while 2017 world champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse finished third in 1:46.4, just 0.15 shy of his indoor PB.
Belocian and Neziri take top honours in hurdles
France’s Wilhem Belocian was a class apart in the men’s 60m hurdles. The 2016 European bronze medallist sped to a lifetime best of 7.48 to win his heat and then almost matched that time to win the final in 7.49.
He finished a metre clear of USA’s Aaron Mallett (7.59) with world indoor bronze medallist Aurel Manga taking third in 7.64.
Belocian’s victory in the final wasn’t completely unexpected after the heats, but the same can’t be said of Finland’s Nooralotta Neziri in the women’s event.
Neziri had progressed to the final as a non-automatic qualifier after finishing third in her heat in 8.01. But the 28-year-old, drawn in lane eight, put together the race of her life to win the final in 7.92, taking 0.05 off her own national record.
African champion Tobi Amusan was second in 7.94, just ahead of Nadine Visser (7.96) and Elvira Herman (7.99).
Cuban duo Liadagmis Povea and Juan-Miguel Echevarria secured a horizontal jumps double. Povea bounded out to a world-leading PB of 14.54m in the second round of the women’s triple jump to take a comfortable victory ahead of Finland’s Kristiina Makela (14.13m).
Echevarria, meanwhile, landed just three valid jumps but his opening effort of 8.18m was enough to win by 10 centimetres from compatriot Maykel Masso.
Elsewhere, Germany’s Marvin Schlegel finished strongly to win the 400m in a PB of 46.61, beating France's Thomas Jordier by 0.07.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics