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Gold medal favourite Keely Hodgkinson pulls out
Big sports events draw fans for various reasons. Some come to be “in the know,” others to see the top competition and great performances are anticipated. Some take in the event for the human drama.
Certainly, gold medal favourite, Keely Hodgkinson, withdrawing from the Belgrade World Indoor Championships at the last minute due to a thigh injury provides an opportunity for the likes of Ajee Wilson. It has been nearly five years since the 27-year-old has run her personal best of 1:55.61. She is, however, a veteran who has medalled several times including earning silver at two different World indoors. She may be a bride’s maid once again. Two Ethiopians Habitam Alemu and Freweyni Hailu could make things interesting. All eyes will be on Wilson as the American seeks to move up from silver to gold.
For Great Britain, it is too bad that Jemma Reekie is unable to take Hodkinson’s place. She would have been able to make things interesting in the final. The 24-year-old has run indoors as fast as 1:57.91 and finished fourth in Tokyo at the Olympic Games.
Unfortunately for Canadian John Gay, falling in the physical, first heat meant that getting back into the mix took out any closing speed that he had. He fell, got back up, and chased hard finishing in 7:57.56 for eighth place. The winner was Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia in 7:46.21. Would Gay have stood a chance of moving on? Yes, as he owns a best of 7:45.34, which he set two months ago at the Armory in New York. The good news is, there will be plenty of top-level racing opportunities for Gay this spring and summer with the Canadian Track Tour, Diamond League, Commonwealth Games, and World Championships in Eugene, OR. Additionally, there are many good one-off meets in the Western US.
Expect Ethiopian Selemon Barega to be the favourite in the final. He owns a 7:26.10 best and is the Olympic Games defending 10,000m champion. New Zealand’s George Beamish may medal, especially in a kick and sprint race. However, if it is a fast, all-out burner from the gun, it’s Baregao’s to lose.
What were the organisers thinking? Putting 20 athletes in a race at an indoor meet is asking for roller derby-like conditions and that is almost what happened.
Ethiopia’s Lemlem Hailu ran a terrific race and deserves the win running a season-best 8:41.82. The 20-year-old entered the race with a best of 8:29.28. Elle Purrier St. Pierre surprised a few people with her silver-medal performance clocking an 8:42.03. It was the 27-year-old’s first global medal. Her best indoors is 8:36.41 from 2021.
Ethiopia’s Ejgayehu Taye the Athletics Illustrated pre-race favourite finished third. Resume’s aside in a tactical and physical race as the 22-year-old stood on the start line with a sparkling best of 8:26.77 set earlier this winter.
For Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford is was once again a near-medal performance. She finished fourth in 8:42.49. She was boxed in at points during the race, but ran well and put herself in position to race for a medal, but was outkicked to the line. The seven-time national record holder will have to test her ability against the world’s best in Eugene this summer. It could be argued that peaking for World Indoors in March, with the Diamond League, Canadian Tour, Commonwealth Games and World Championships all happening in a five-month span, priority may be leant more towards the latter portion of the season.
For her Nike Bowerman Track Club, several athletes are not competing in these indoor championships for various reasons. Her teammates have already been racing since the turn of the new year.