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A stunning world indoor 1500m record by Samuel Tefera of Ethiopia was backed up by an emphatic smashing of the British record by Laura Muir (coach: Andy Young, club: Dundee Hawkhill) on a world-class day of athletics at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix Birmingham at Arena Birmingham.
Lowering the great Hicham El Guerrouj’s (MAR) world indoor 1500m record, Tefera produced the performance of the day at the world’s top ranked one-day indoor meeting.
The mark – which is still to be ratified – of 3:31.04, took 0.14 seconds off the previous best and he did it in brilliant fashion, powering away from Yomif Kejelcha (ETH) to seal another fine victory in Arena Birmingham, having won the World Indoor title over the distance in 2018.
In fact, eyes were initially on Kejelcha to produce the world best after he narrowly missed the indoor mile world record last week at the Millrose Games, but his compatriot produced the goods on the day.
“I can’t believe that,” said Tefera post-race, “I’m delighted with the outcome and to have the world record is a special feeling.”
The fast nature of the race saw a string of personal bests across the field including British athletes Josh Kerr (3:35.72 – fourth) (Edinburgh, Danny Mackey) was also a Scottish record and the third quickest ever by a Brit indoors. Neil Gourley (3:38.32 – eighth) (Giffnock North, Mark Rowland), Charlie Da’Vall Grice (3:39.04 – ninth) (Brighton Phoenix, Jon Bigg), Elliot Giles (3:39.53 – tenth) (Birchfield, Jon Bigg), Jake Heyward (3:41.30 -13th) (James Thie, Cardiff) and Piers Copeland (3:44.21 -14th) (Wimbourne, Bob Smith).
Tasked with closing the show, the roof lifted off in Arena Birmingham as Muir crossed the line at the end of her mile race, shattering Kirsty Wade’s 31-year-old national record with a mark of 4:18.75, and also revised her own 1500m British mark which was recorded at 4:01.83.
Moving ahead early on, it was a simple case of Muir against the clock and she sliced five seconds off the previous best which means she now holds six national records indoor and outdoor.
She said afterwards: “I am really, really happy to have got another British record. The reception was amazing and I am so happy I could deliver that today.
“To get the British record was fantastic, but, for me, it was just about having a solid run today, coming away with the win and with a good time and I have done that with the world lead and the joint third fastest time ever behind the current world and European record – I will take third. When you run by yourself, it is tough, but I felt good.”
Muir added: “I just wanted to run a similar distance to 1500m because I have not raced over 1500m since the end of last season. It was the perfect way to prepare for Glasgow, to run one of the fastest times ever, a British record and get the win in the last race for a Championships is perfect. So, I am really happy and confident going into Glasgow.”
SU Bingtian (CHN) continued his solid indoor form as he sealed victory in the men’s 60m race, winning from Britain’s European 100m silver medallist Reece Prescod (Enfield & Haringey, Jonas Dodoo).
Prescod equalled his PB of 6.53 but could not catch the world indoor silver medallist who produced a technically superb performance, crossing the line in 6.47. Further back in the field, Japan’s Takuya Kawakami set a national record of 6.54, and Great Britain’s Richard Kilty (Middlesbrough Mandale, Benke Blomkvist) was fifth in 6.64.
“I think this will silence the people who are trying to put me down about my start. I have had a good winter, I have put the hard work in on the track, and I have put a better series together. I would still like to take another tenth off and get into the 0.4s, but I will go back and work on that with my team. I am really happy with that, to be honest.
“When you are going under the radar, people obviously don’t know you, but when people do know you, they start putting expectations on you, and that does add a different dynamic to racing. I have just got to keep blocking everything out, and just focus on getting better and better,” Prescod added.
It was difficult to distinguish the top three in the women’s 60 metres in real time with just 0.02 seconds separating Elaine Thompson, Asha Philip (Newham & Essex Beagles, Steve Fudge) and Marie-Josee Ta-Lou.
Double Olympic champion Thompson edged it in 7.13, with reigning European Indoor champion Philip preparing well for her title defence in second in 7.14. Ivorian Ta-Lou crossed the line in 7.15 to follow-up her heat victory.
Philip – who will be one of the favourites for European Indoor gold in two weeks’ time – commented:
“I am grateful for that. It was a great run from me I think, I have still got a little bit more to work on, but I definitely improved from my heat”, which she won, “Now on to the Indoor Championships.
“This was definitely good preparation for Glasgow. I faced some of the world’s best here, and now I have got to do it in Europe. Doing three rounds at the trials last week and two more today, it’s tiring, but I feel like I am in a great position ahead of the Europeans.”
An unsurprisingly popular victor on home soil and seemingly in the form of her life, Holly Bradshaw (Scott Simpson, Blackburn Harriers) took a wholly impressive victory on countback in the women’s pole vault with 4.81m.
The joint-second best mark of her career indoors or out, Bradshaw needed a clutch clearance at 4.71m to stay in the competition alongside Katie Nageotte (USA) and Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou (GRE) and battle for top spot.
From there, a move up in pole size brought a crowd-pleasing first-time clearance at 4.81m to match that of Nageotte and Kiriakopoulou, with a clearer scorecard at 4.81m sealing the win for Bradshaw following all three athletes being unable to go over 4.88m – a clearance that would have served as a British record – on the day.
Reflecting on one of her best-ever competitions, Bradshaw said:
“It was amazing being out there. I thought last week at the British Champs was amazing but this was just another notch above. It’s a full crowd, they really got behind me and to come away with a 4.80m plus jump and another season’s best is amazing.
“I had no expectations coming into the indoor season, it was more just having fun with it and now I know that I’m in good shape and I know I can maybe go a little higher and win a medal based on how I’m performing.”
Having asked for the pace to be set at 57 seconds for the opening 400m, and on the back of retaining her British title last weekend, there was clearly a confident mood to Shelayna Oskan-Clarke’s (Jon Bigg, Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) approach to racing as she spearheaded a field containing a host of Brits and Latvia’s in-form Liga Velvere in the women’s 800m.
Leading out behind the pacer and keeping it that way, Oskan-Clarke took the bell fronting the field but with compatriot Adelle Tracey (Craing Windrow, Guildford & Godalming) hot on her heels and pushing for a quick time with a view to cementing her spot on the British team come Glasgow 2019.
While not as quick as intended from the off, reigning world and European indoor medallist Oskan-Clarke took the win in a season’s best of 2:01.16, with Tracey one place behind in a lifetime best 2:01.95 ahead of Velvere’s 2:02.00.
“I would have liked it to have been a little bit quicker and commit a bit more from 400m, but I wasn’t that sure about the pacemaker because she didn’t seem all that confident,” said Oskan-Clarke.
“I hope I’ll be battling it out like I was in Serbia a few years ago at the Europeans. I feel different and I’ve been doing different training and I’m feeling good from it.”
Of further British interest behind the top three, Mari Smith (Bud Baldaro, Birchfield Harriers) backed up her British indoor silver medal by going inside the qualifying mark of 2:03.00 to secure her spot on the plane to Glasgow thanks to a magnificent lifetime best run of 2:02.34 for fifth, with Lynsey Sharp (Terrance Mahon, Edinburgh) one place in front in 2:02.28, a season’s best.
Returning to the scene of his world silver medal from the IAAF World Indoor Championships 2018, Jarret Eaton (USA) came out on top in both of his heat and final to claim victory and maximum World Indoor Tour points in the men’s 60m hurdles in a swift time of 7.51 come the deciding race.
Chasing him down for the line, fellow American Freddie Crittenden took second overall in 7.74, with Cryprus’s 2016 Olympic finalist Milan Trajkovic taking third courtesy of 7.54.
Fresh from a British indoor title win last weekend at the same venue, and one of several home interest athletes in the discipline, David King (James Hillier, City of Plymouth) won his heat in 7.64 before going on to finish sixth in the final with the same mark. The Brit now moves his attention to the European Indoor Championships.
Having earmarked himself as one to watch with a Japanese record of 2.35m in Karlsruhe just a few weeks ago, Naoto Tobe (JPN) notched up another victory on the circuit with a near perfect score-card through to his winning height of 2.29m in the men’s high jump.
Joined through to 2.26m by eventual second-placer Jeron Robinson of the USA, a first time clearance 3cm further left Tobe in command, with one failure at 2.32m seeing him then go for broke with two failures at a new Japanese record height of 2.36m.
After a cautious opening series of laps in which it looked like the field was heading towards a finish dead on 9 minutes, the women’s 3000m concluded with an Ethiopian 1-2-3-4 as a frantic final 400m saw the pace wind up and Alemaz Samuel strike for victory by less than half a second ahead of Axumawit Embaye who clocked 8:54.97.
Just 0.06 behind came Meskerem Mamo, with the quartet’s blanket finish completed by Eigayehy Taye. Returning from the illness that kept her from racing at last weekend’s British Championships, Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall, Dundee Hawkhill) toed the start-line with a point to prove and fared well as she finished ahead of compatriot Amy Eloise-Neal (Wakefield) by 8:57.19 to 9:01.27 in something of a head-to-head for the final British team spot ahead of Glasgow.
After an early collision scuppered the chances of three athletes – including Britain’s Guy Learmonth (Lasswade, Henry Gray) – from completing the men’s 800m race, it opened the door for the remaining contenders to produce their best, and they certainly delivered.
Joseph Deng broke the indoor Australian record with a time of 1:47:27 and just further back, Joseph Reid (Cardiff, Matt Elias) confirmed his place in the British team for the European Indoor Championships after hitting the qualifying standard with a time of 1:47:83. Reid won at the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships last week but required a time under 1:48:00 to seal his spot. Fighting to the line, he achieved that time for third place, behind Jamie Webb (Liverpool, Adrian Webb) in 1:47:51.
Another athlete clearly happy to be back competing at Arena Birmingham, last year’s world indoor champion Ivana Spanovic (SER) claimed another win in the second city, a 6.78m season’s seeing the Serbian go from strength to strength in 2019 following an injury lay-off at the back end of 2018.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the victory however, as Britain’s Abigail Irozuru (Tom Cullen, Sale Harriers) sailed out to a season’s best 6.59m to trump Spanovic’s previous best of 6.56m, with the mark serving as her best of the day and good for second ahead of Jazmin Sawyers (Lance Brauman, City of Stoke) who registered a best of 6.36m in third.
In the men’s equivalent, event-favourite Juan Miguel Echevarria (CUB) lived up to his billing as the one to watch in the field, with a sixth-round best of 8.21m sealing a competition he had already claimed victory in based on an opening round 8.15m leap.
Showing great speed on the runway but falling foul of three consecutive red flags, Echevarria’s final mark saw his margin of victory increase from 5cm to 11cm and claim all 10 tour points, with Tajay Gayle (JAM) setting a lifetime best of 8.10m to take second and score 7 World Indoor tour points of his own. Reynold Banigo (Lukasz Zawita, Sale Harriers) finished as the top Brit with a personal best of 7.77m.
In the women’s 400m, the focus was very much on the British pair Laviai Nielsen (Enfield & Haringey; Christine Bowmaker) and Eilidh Doyle (Pitreavie; Brian Doyle), who were third and fourth respectively at the SPAR British Athletics Indoor Championships last week, as they locked horns again. However, it was the Scottish athlete who turned the tables this week, placing second to Nielsen’s fourth.
Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson took the overall victory in 52.24 with Doyle quick on her heels in 52.43; Nielsen in a season best of 52.79.
Another scoring event on the tour, the men’s 400m saw another American join hurdler Eaton with victory, Nathan Strother took a commanding and comfortable win over two laps of the track with 46.45, the margin of victory being over half a second ahead of Luka Janezic (SLO) who clocked 47.04.
The women’s sprint hurdles saw Evonne Britton (USA) find personal best form at just the right time, with a swift 7.91 clocking seeing her drip for the finish line first. Further back, Cindy Ofili (Jeff Porter, Woodford Green Essex Ladies) was third in 8.12, just 0.02 outside the European Indoor qualifying mark, though the time does serve as her quickest of 2019.
The full list of results from the Muller Indoor Grand Prix Birmingham can be found via: http://www.uka.org.uk/results/20190216_Birmingham/timetable/index/
Results from solely the IAAF World Indoor Tour programme can be found via https://www.iaaf.org/competitions/iaaf-world-indoor-tour/muller-indoor-grand-prix-birmingham-6525/timetable/byday