Brilliant Brits in Torun, To Run

The World Indoor Tour continues and more jaw-dropping performances got James Rhodes writing about athletics again this week. 

The European Indoor Championships kick off in 15 days in Torun, on the track that hosted tonight’s Copernicus Cup, the fourth stop on the World Indoor Tour. This was touted as the warm up for the Championships; if this was the case, then we are in for a treat come early March. 

A week ago I borrowed a quote from Kimi Raikkonen – “woah, what was that?”. That is applicable again tonight – the indoor season continues to deliver stand out performances. This is what went down in the Polish city.  

Giles to Greatness

The men’s 800m had the potential to be a fast race, and a fast race it was. In a field including reigning World Indoor Champion Adam Kszczot, Amel Tuka (2019 WC Bronze), Andreas Kramer (2018 EC Silver) and Kenya’s Collins Kipruto, there was a keen eye on what Brits Elliot Giles, Jamie Webb and Kyle Langford would be able to do.

Elliot had run close to his PB in his two 800m races this season (1:45.49), alongside two PBs at 1500m (3:36.90), whilst Jamie ran three PBs in as many races. You couldn’t help but feel Sebastian Coe’s British Record of 1:44.91 set in 1983 was on borrowed time. 

In a field of 11 (!), Giles led from the start, going through 600m in 1:17.28, speeding up to run the final lap in 26.35. If you are trying to do the maths, you would be excused for thinking you’ve got it wrong. He crossed the line in 1:43.63, obliterating a British Record that has stood for almost 38 years – nine years before I was born – by over a second. 

Not only that, it is the second fastest 800m indoors of all time, behind only Wilson Kipketer’s 1:42.67 in Paris in 1997. It’s the fastest by a British athlete indoors or out for 31 years. Simply supreme. 

On any other day, Jamie Webb’s performance would be the one making the headlines – he ran a mightily impressive 1:44.54 for second. That is also below Seb Coe’s British Record, and only 0.02 seconds shy of his outdoor PB. Jamie started 2021 with an indoor PB of 1:47.13, and after a torrid 2020 with injury it is great to see him back to his best. 

Kyle Langford pulled off the track approximately 350m into the race, holding his hamstring. 

It Wasn’t Just the Men

Ireland’s Nadia Power has been consistent all indoor season, with four races between 2:02 and 2:03. This was a breakthrough race, running 2:00.98 to improve her own National Record, set in January in Karlsruhe, by almost 1.5 seconds. It puts her sixth on the 2021 European list and bodes well ahead of the European Indoors. Ethiopia’s Habitum Alemu won in a rapid 1:58.19.

Di-bye-bye Dibaba

The lead up to the women’s 3000m was billed as a World Record attempt by Genzebe Dibaba in her first indoor 3000m since the 2018 World Indoor Championships. Up against compatriot Lemlem Hailu and Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech (three days after running a 5k road World Record in Monaco), there was potential for a fast race. 

In the end it was a fast race, but not featuring Dibaba who pulled off less than 1000m in. Lemlem Hailu followed her win in Lievin with a new PB (8:31.24), Chepkoech a close second also in a new PB of 8:31.72.

Gourley is no stranger to fast competition.

Giffnock AC, in Poland!

In the penultimate race of the evening Neil Gourley, running in his Giffnock North AC vest, capped off an excellent evening for the Brits with a third place finish in the 1500m, rewarded with a 3:35.79 PB – almost a three second improvement and faster than his outdoor best. Ahead of him, Selemon Barega ran 3:32.97 to go eighth on the indoor all time list, whilst Marcin Lewandowski improved his PB with a new Polish NR (3:35.71). 

For context, three of the top eight athletes on the alltime list (Barega, Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Oliver Hoare) have joined that list in the past week. Distance racing is on fire!

& Finally…

Femke Bol is known more as a 400m hurdler, but the 21 year old continued her ever-improving season by bettering her PB and Dutch National Record to 50.66. That’s the fastest 400m indoors by a European since Nicola Sanders’ 50.02 in 2007 and is faster than the outdoor National Record (50.77).

For context, the National Record prior to this year was older than me, and Bol’s indoor PB three weeks ago was 52.47.

The World Indoor Tour draw to a close in Madrid next Wednesday, it promises to be another fascinating evening of track and field.

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