Samuel Tefera, Diribe Welteji, and Mondo Duplantis were among the athletes who got their seasons off to a winning start as the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold kicked off in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Saturday (27).
In a season that culminates with the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow 24 in March, two-time world indoor 1500m champion Tefera made his mark in the 3000m, clocking a world-leading PB of 7:33.80 to lead an Ethiopian 1-2 ahead of Getnet Wale at the Astana Indoor Meet for Amin Tuyakov Prizes.
Wale and Tefera had distanced themselves from the rest of the field early on, closely following the pacemaker. As the pacemaker dropped out, Olympic 3000m steeplechase fourth-place finisher Wale, who ran 7:24.98 for 3000m in Lievin in 2021, remained to the fore.
But Tefera felt comfortable, and the former world record-holder made a move with around 500m remaining, easing ahead of his compatriot. It was a lead he wouldn’t relinquish, and he picked up his pace over the final lap to achieve a clear win in 7:33.80. Wale was second in 7:34.36.
Ethiopia’s world mile champion Welteji also looked in control as she made her track mile debut.
The 21-year-old clocked 4:20.98 to improve on the inaugural road mile record when winning her world title in Riga in October, and in Astana, she led a breakaway quartet also featuring her Ethiopian compatriots Axumawit Embaye, Gela Hambese, and Dahdi Dube behind the pacemaker.
Welteji remained at the front when the pacemaker’s job was done, and she ticked off the laps before applying more pressure. The bell had dropped Dube, and as Hambese passed Embaye on the final lap, Welteji couldn’t be caught, and she won unchallenged in 4:23.76. Hambese was second in 4:24.44.
Nigeria’s 2022 world 100m hurdles champion, Tobi Amusan, was another athlete to achieve a personal best in Astana as she won the women’s 60m hurdles final in an area record of 7.77.
After leading the heats with a comfortable-looking 7.91, she returned to win the final after a powerful second half of her race. In the last race of the program, Amusan held off USA’s two-time world indoor 60m hurdles champion Nia Ali, who clocked 7.89, and Ireland’s Sarah Lavin, who set a second PB of the day – 7.91 – after her 7.93 in the heats.
The men’s 60m hurdles final was much closer, and China’s Liu Junxi timed his dip to perfection, narrowly holding off Milan Trajkovic of Cyprus.
Despite knocking the final barrier, Liu held on to clock a PB of 7.58 to beat Trajkovic by 0.02. Britain’s Andrew Pozzi was third in 7.63, while Yaqoub Al-Youha of Kuwait suffered a heavy fall after hitting a hurdle.
Two competitive 60m finals were won by USA’s Demek Kemp and Anthonique Strachan of The Bahamas in respective times of 6.55 and 7.21. Kemp pipped Japan’s Shuhei Tada and Akihiro Higashida, separated by just 0.01 after clocking 6.58 and 6.59. At the same time, Strachan prevailed ahead of Poland’s Magdalena Stefanowicz with 7.22 and Asian indoor champion Farzaneh Fasihi, who equaled her Iranian record of 7.23.
Spain’s Inaki Canal went quickest overall in the men’s 400m, clocking 46.36 to win the first of the two races. Portugal’s Ericsson Tavares was second in 46.95.
Jamaica’s Rusheen McDonald blasted ahead in the second 400m race, and he led clearly at the bell. But he faded dramatically over the final 100m and was passed by the rest of the field. Czechia’s Patrick Sorm won in 47.01 ahead of his compatriot Pavel Maslak, the three-time world indoor champion.
Portugal’s Catia Azevedo won the women’s 400m as she passed early leader Sophie Becker of Ireland and strode to victory in a short track PB of 52.64 as Becker chased her home in 53.19. Jamaica’s world indoor bronze medallist Stephenie Ann McPherson was third in 54.66. Japan’s Nanako Matsumoto narrowly won the first race in 54.79.
World and Olympic champion Duplantis didn’t display his usual dominance in the men’s pole vault. Still, he achieved a vital season debut win, clearing 5.80m in his first competition since improving his world record to 6.23m at the Wanda Diamond League Final in Eugene in September.
Four other athletes remained in the competition as Duplantis entered at 5.60m, and he cleared that height for the first time, as did Belgium’s Ben Broeders. China’s Zhong Tao needed two attempts, while USA’s Cole Walsh required three. Germany’s Oleg Zernikel chose to pass the height after clearing 5.50m on his first try.
Duplantis then passed at 5.70m, a height that proved too much for Walsh, Zernikel, and Zhong. Broeders remained in contention when he cleared the bar on his third try, and then he and Duplantis passed at 5.75m.
Back in the competition at 5.80m, Duplantis needed two tries at that height but was confirmed the winner when Broeders could not make it over.
The Swedish pole vault star decided to try six meters next, but it wasn’t to be, and after three failed attempts, he settled for victory with that 5.80m clearance.
Serbia’s Milica Gardasevic won the women’s long jump with 6.45m – a distance she achieved twice. She had led the competition with 6.42m in the second round, a mark that Hungary’s Diana Lesti matched in the following round after two fouls. But Gardasevic improved with her fourth and fifth jumps to clinch victory 3cm ahead of Lesti, with China’s Asian Games winner Xiong Shiqi third on 6.38m.
Lithuania’s Urte Baikstyte added a centimeter to her PB to win the women’s high jump. She cleared 1.92m on her third attempt to deny world indoor bronze medallist Nadezhda Dubovitskaya a win on home soil.
Baikstyte, who achieved her previous best outdoors in 2022, entered the contest at 1.70m and cleared each height up to 1.84m the first time. She needed two attempts at 1.87m and 1.90m and clinched the win with her third-time clearance of 1.92m.
Dubovitskaya managed all heights from her opener at 1.78m to 1.90m the first time but settled for second when she couldn’t make it over 1.92m. Czechia’s Michaela Hruba was third on 1.87m.
In the men’s shot put, Britain’s Scott Lincoln achieved the best indoor mark of his career, throwing 20.81m to win the contest ahead of USA’s NACAC champion Roger Steen with 20.58m.