As major medallists descend on Ostrava
Following the opening of the World Indoor Tour Gold event in Astana on Saturday, the Czech city’s Atleticka Hala will welcome athletes for its first meeting as part of the tour’s top tier.
They include Tentoglou, who has won Olympic, world, and world indoor titles over the past few years and aims to retain his crown at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow 24 in March. His campaign begins in Ostrava, where he will open his season against a field featuring Czech record-holder Radek Juska and his compatriot Petr Meindlschmid, plus Bulgaria’s world U20 silver medallist Bozhidar Saraboyukov and European bronze medallist Jules Pommery of France.
Tentoglou will have the meeting record of 8.21m in his sights when he returns on the hunt for a Czech Indoor Gala hat-trick following his victories in 2018 and 2020.
Like Tentoglou, New Zealand’s Walsh is a world indoor gold medallist, having claimed his crowns in Portland in 2016 and Birmingham in 2018. Unlike the Greek long jumper, however, Walsh has never competed at the Czech Indoor Gala, and despite having won the first of his four world indoor medals almost a decade ago, the meeting in Ostrava will be the Oceanian record-holder’s first-ever indoor competition outside of the World Indoor Championships.
Walsh will have some intense competition looking to deny him a win on his season opener. The 2017 world champion and two-time Olympic bronze medallist, who threw his area record of 22.90m during the epic world final in Doha in 2019, faces home favorite Tomas Stanek, who won the European indoor title in 2021, plus 2022 European gold medallist Filip Mihaljevic of Croatia.
Another European gold medallist, 2018 outdoor and 2019 indoor champion Michal Haratyk of Poland, plus Jamaican record-holder Rajindra Campbell, Nigeria’s Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, and USA’s 2022 NACAC champion Roger Steen are also in the line-up. Steen finished second in Astana on Saturday with a throw of 20.58m. At the same time, the competition in Ostrava offers a rematch between Enekwechi, Campbell, and Mihaljevic, who respectively finished second, third, and fourth behind world silver medallist Leonardo Fabbri at the World Indoor Tour Bronze meeting in Lodz on Saturday.
Slovenia’s world indoor bronze medallist Tina Sutej leads the women’s pole vault entries. The meeting record-holder, who cleared a national record of 4.82m to win her third title in Ostrava last year, will go up against Switzerland’s 2021 European indoor champion Angelica Moser, Italian record-holder Roberta Bruni and local favorite Amalie Svabikova.
Swoboda in Sprint spotlight
The women’s 60m meeting record will be threatened when Polish record-holder Swoboda returns to the Czech Indoor Gala. The 2019 European indoor champion, who won in Ostrava in 2018 and set her national record of 6.99 in 2022, ran a world lead of 7.04 in Lodz on Saturday, and a similar performance would see the eight-year-old meeting record of 7.10 tumble.
She’s not the only one who could attack the record, however. The in-form Patrizia van der Weken of Luxembourg ran a national record of 7.09 last weekend, and the field also features Jamaica’s Remona Burchell, Belgium’s Rani Rosius, and joint Czech record-holder Karolina Manasova.
Swoboda’s compatriot Pia Skrzyszowska also heads to Ostrava from a win. The 2021 winner in Ostrava clocked 7.85 in the heats and the same in the final to triumph in Lodz, and this time, faces another athlete who will be buoyed by recent results – Ireland’s Sarah Lavin, who set PBs of 7.93 and then 7.91 in Astana.
They are joined in Ostrava by Nadine Visser of the Netherlands, who holds the meeting record of 7.86, plus Finnish record-holder Reetta Hurske and USA’s Alaysha Johnson, who clocked 7.87 to win the Czech Indoor Gala in 2023 and went on to set a PB of 7.82 and win the US indoor title.
Like the women’s 60m hurdles, the men’s 60m features heats before the final. Britain’s European 100m bronze medallist Jeremiah Azu will look to repeat as champion after his victory last year in 6.58, a time just 0.02 off his PB.
Among his competition will be Italy’s Samuele Ceccarelli, who ran 6.47 en route to winning the European indoor title last year and clocked 6.65 in Dortmund last weekend, finishing fourth in a race won by Germany’s Joshua Hartmann, who ran 6.58 in the heats and 6.59 in the final there.
Home favorites Jan Veleba, who won at the Czech Indoor Gala in 2022, and national indoor champion Zdenek Stromsik also line up, as do 2019 European indoor champion Jan Volko and Japan’s Yoshihide Kiryu.
In the men’s 200m, Israel’s Blessing Afrifah will contest his second-ever short track race over the distance, following the national record of 20.95 he ran on his debut in Metz last year. The 20-year-old, who clocked 19.96 to win the world U20 200m title in Cali in 2022, faces a field featuring Czech record-holder Ondrej Macik.
After finishing top two in the second of two 400m races in Astana on Saturday, Czechia’s world mixed relay bronze medallist Patrick Sorm and three-time world indoor champion Pavel Maslak will clash again. Sorm ran 47.01 ahead of Maslak’s 47.70 there, and they will need to build on that if they are to hold off a field featuring national record-holder Matej Krsek and Hungarian record-holder Attila Molnar.
World 4x400m gold medallist Lieke Klaver set a 400m meeting record of 51.00 on her season opener in Ostrava last year and claimed European indoor silver. The program features two 400m races, and also among the entries are Poland’s 2018 European champion Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, Britain’s Jessie Knight, 2020 Czech Indoor Gala winner Lada Vondrova, her fellow world mixed 4x400m bronze medallist Tereza Petrzilkova and European U20 champion Lurdes Gloria Manuel.
Hailu and Meshesha in meeting’s mile debut
Ethiopia’s world indoor 800m silver medallist Freweyni Hailu and her compatriot Hirut Meshesha, the world indoor 1500m bronze medallist, will go head-to-head as the Czech Indoor Gala hosts a women’s mile race for the first time.
Hailu, who claimed silver in the mile at the World Athletics Road Running Championships Riga 23 in October, has a track mile PB of 4:14.79 set outdoors in Monaco last year, while Meshesha clocked 4:20.00 in Oslo in June. Both have racing experience in Ostrava, having previously competed at the city’s outdoor Golden Spike meeting.
Joining them on the start line at the Atleticka hala will be Belgium’s 2021 European indoor 1500m champion Elise Vanderelst, Romania’s Claudia Bobocea, Sofia Thogersen of Denmark and Czech record-holder Simona Vrzalova.
The men’s 1500m meeting record of 3:35.93 was set by Britain’s Elliot Giles in 2022, and that could be a target for a field that features his compatriot Jake Heyward, the 2022 European silver medallist, plus Portugal’s Isaac Nader and Czech record-holder Filip Sasinek.
The men’s 800m entries include Czech athletes Filip Snejdr and Jakub Dudycha, the European U20 champion, as well as Poland’s 2021 European indoor silver medallist Mateusz Borkowski, Italy’s Catalin Tecuceanu, British champion Daniel Rowden and Botswana’s world sixth-place finisher Tshepiso Masalela, making his short track debut.