The pursuit of world records is officially on at the World Indoor Tour Final in Birmingham as three of the world’s best athletes set out their expectations for them to fall at the freshly laid track at the Utilita Arena – or at least there to be no stone unturned if they don’t.
Olympic silver medallists Keely Hodgkinson (coach: Trevor Painter; club: Leigh), Laura Muir (Andy Young; Dundee Hawkhill) and Grant Holloway (country: USA) all didn’t shy away from the prospect of giving an always enthusiastic West Midlands crowd something serious to cheer about when they line up in the 800m, 1000m and 60m hurdles respectively.
All have a more than compelling case as well with Hodgkinson having broken the indoor 600m world record in Manchester last month, Muir the second fastest all-time in the indoor 1000m and Holloway undefeated in his life in the 60m hurdles and exactly two years on from setting his global mark in Madrid.
The World Record hunt is on ⏱️@keelyhodgkinson, @lauramuiruns and Grant Holloway are looking to light up the indoor track in Birmingham tomorrow 🤩#WorldIndoorTour #WhereItStarts— British Athletics (@BritAthletics) February 24, 2023
For Hodgkinson, a world and Commonwealth silver medallist and European champion from 2022, there is also an element of fate hanging around Birmingham having stormed to a British indoor 800m record at this very event last year while she is the world leader following her 1:57.71 minutes run in France less than ten days ago.
“I feel I am in pretty good shape and I feel if the perfect smooth race was to happen I could get close to it [the world record],” said Hodgkinson, who is also in with a chance of being crowned the World Indoor Tour champion and will be joined in the women’s 800m by Noelie Yarigo (BEN) – second fastest indoors this year – and compatriots and new UK champions Isabelle Boffey (Luke Gunn; Enfield & Haringey) and Ellie Baker (Jon Bigg; Shaftesbury Barnet).
“I would have to go 57.2 seconds, 57.3 [at halfway]. For me it is just about attacking it and hitting that mark of 57 and trying to get a smooth run. I haven’t raced on the new surface, but it looks really nice.
“It is a very hard record to break but I will do my best and see what happens. For me it is just about attacking it and hitting that mark of 57 and trying to get a smooth run. My aim is to ultimately try and break my own British record.
American Holloway is arguably one of the best track and field athletes around at the moment having won the world 110m hurdles title back-to-back, the world 60m hurdles title last year on top of his Olympic silver medal from Tokyo.
In the middle of all that was his 7.29 second 60m hurdles world record, exactly two years ago at the 2021 World Indoor Tour Final in Madrid, a time he equalled on the way to the World Indoor Championship title a year later in Belgrade.
Unbeaten in his entire 60m hurdles career, Holloway doesn’t lead the World Tour Indoor standings having run just twice – the top spot is occupied by compatriot Daniel Roberts (USA), who he’ll face in a tantalising winner-takes-all in Birmingham – but states that he’s done chasing times and is running free.
However, that doesn’t stop Holloway from anticipating that he might break his own world record, adamant he’ll get an idea if it’s on based the day’s early events, which kick off with men’s and women’s para 60m races from 13:35 before, on the track, the men’s and women’s 60m follow from 13:51.
He said: “My perfect race would be 7.28 indoors and 12.79 outdoors, those are the two perfect races. I am close on both of them. I have been able to produce fast times indoors and outdoors, at championships, at Diamond Leagues. I think I have proven myself on every single level there is and now it is just time to run free.
“There is no more time chasing, I have already solidified myself in history, now is time to run free and believe that it’s possible. My event [in Birmingham] is a little bit later in the programme, so really it is just paying attention to those times, seeing how everyone is running. Hopefully before then we see a couple of world records drop or meet records fall down and that sets the tone for what needs to be done.”
While Hodgkinson can point to last month’s 600m world best to validate her claims in Birmingham and Holloway can point to his enviable record, Muir can point to her own personal history as to why she can become a global lead too.
At the 2017 edition of this event, in none other than Birmingham – albeit on a different track with the current one freshly laid – Muir recorded the second fastest time in history over the 1000m distance, 2:31.93, with only Maria Mutola (MOZ) going faster.
She will line up at the Utilita Arena with the form to give it a real shot – having claimed World Indoor Tour wins in Boston and New York this season – and she also has the benefit of previous experiences running the 1000m, which could prove the difference this time around.
“I’ve had a few shots at the 1000m now, a couple indoors and one outdoors, and I am getting a bit better feel for it. It is a hard one to pace but I feel like I have a good shot at going for it,” said Muir.
“At the time [in 2017] I was just targeting Kelly’s [Holmes] British record, so that’s what I went in for and broke that and got the European record at the same time, which is second all-time. I was delighted. It was an amazing atmosphere.
“I have raced the 1000m a couple of times since then. I did it once outdoors in Monaco, and I ran faster than the world record indoors, so it is good to know that I have physically run faster, just unfortunately in the wrong place. This is the first time running the 1000m having run the time before, every other time I have not run quick enough, I know physically I can do it.”
In addition to world record attempts – there’s another to look out for from Gudaf Tsegay (ETH) in the women’s 3000m – and head-to-head battles for World Indoor Tour titles, there is an abundance of great match ups to look out as the world’s best land in Birmingham.
The women’s 60m sprint always lights up the arena in Birmingham and this time will be no different against with British stars Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie; Blackheath & Bromley) and Daryll Neita (Marco Airale; Cambridge Harriers) set to face off against Jamaican world champion Shericka Jackson (JAM).
Asher-Smith won the World Indoor Tour meeting in Karlsruhe in January and Neita is the newly-crowned UK champion while Jackson is the reigning 200m world champion outdoors and out to perfect her start amid fierce competition in Birmingham.
“I think I have so much in store. It has only been two years since I switched [from the 400m], so I just want to see how fast I can go,” said Jackson. “I have got so much faster than I was before. I was actually not fast; I was so strong so therefore I wasn’t able to produce those times. Now that I am faster, I can see how fast I can go.
“I want to put my first 30m together, once I get my first 30m together, I will definitely run fast. I want to run at least 7-something so therefore I want to put a proper 30m together. My last 30m is OK but my first 30m is very bad. In Boston [World Indoor Tour this month] I had a really bad race, especially over the first 30m, so once I put that together anything is possible.”
Elsewhere the men’s 1500m will be one to watch with Josh Kerr (Danny Mackey; Edinburgh) – the second quickest European in history over the distance indoors – battling freshly crowned UK indoor champion Neil Gourley (Ben Thomas; Giffnock North), who is in with a shot at the World Indoor Tour title.
Reigning world indoor 400m champion Jereem Richards (TTO) takes to the boards aiming to topple Benjamin Lobo Vedel (DEN), who isn’t running, in the World Indoor Tour standings. Fellow leader Hamish Kerr (NZL) headlines the men’s high jump as does Tina Sutej (SLO) in a women’s pole vault including 2016 Olympic champion, Katerina Stefanidi (GRE).
Jeremiah Azu (Airale; Cardiff), fresh from UK indoor silver last weekend, leads the entries for the domestic 60m sprint, while Paralympic 100m champion Thomas Young (Joseph McDonnell; Loughborough Students) heads the field in the men’s para 60m which also includes UK champion Kevin Santos (Michael Utting; City of Norwich) as well as Zac Shaw (Leon Baptiste; Cleethorpes).
Last few tickets remaining, don’t miss out! Ticket prices start from just £25 for adults, £20 for seniors/students and only £10 for juniors.
The Birmingham World Indoor Tour Final will be available live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website/app and Red Button from 13:30 Saturday 25 February.
Start lists are available HERE.