Andy Butchart, Chris O’Hare and Lynsey Sharp among those in action on Saturday as IAAF World Indoor Tour kicks off
British middle-distance runners Andy Butchart, Chris O’Hare and Andrew Heyes take on a strong 3000m field led by Edward Cheserek of the United States, Adel Mechaal of Spain and Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston on Saturday (January 26).
Butchart is returning from an injury-hit 2018, while O’Hare has a fine record of indoor racing. But they will have to be at their best to challenge Cheserek, who ran a 3:49.44 indoor mile in Boston last year, plus Olympic medallist Gebrhiwet and European indoor champion Mechaal.
It is just one of several power-packed line-ups at an American meeting that kicks off the IAAF World Indoor Tour series for 2019.
2019 IAAF World Indoor Tour
January 26 – Boston
February 2 – Karlsruhe
February 6 – Torun
February 8 – Madrid
February 16 – Birmingham
February 20 – Dusseldorf
An image of Sydney McLaughlin is at the centrepiece of the meeting’s promotional posters and much anticipation surrounds the 19-year-old’s first race since turning professional.
In 2016 McLaughlin became the youngest American track and field Olympian in 36 years when she qualified for the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles in Rio. Then, in 2018, she set a world under-20 400m hurdles record of 52.75, missing the outright world record by just 41 hundredths of a second.
On Saturday in Boston she races in the final event of the programme – the women’s 500m – against fellow Americans Hanna Green and Dallane Zanotelli plus Canada’s Ashley Taylor.
Another US 400m hurdler and NCAA star who is making a pro debut in Boston is Rai Benjamin. He clocked 47.02 in his specialist event last year and tackles the 300m on Saturday.
Plenty of Brits have made the trip to Boston, too. The 3000m runners mentioned above aside, Josh Kerr races in the men’s mile against American Justyn Knight, Kenyan Bethwel Birgen and Olympic medallist Nick Willis of New Zealand.
Hannah England and Ireland’s Ciara Mageean have a difficult test in a women’s mile that includes world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn of the United States and Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum.
Guy Learmonth is due to race in a stacked 800m that includes Americans Donavan Brazier, Clayton Murphy and Boris Berian, plus Spain’s Saúl Ordóñez.
Lynsey Sharp and fellow 800m runner Raevyn Rogers of the United States step down to 600m for an early season sharpener.
In the field, the women’s pole vault sees Katie Nageotte of the United States against Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, while in the shot put top Europeans Christina Schwanitz and Anita Márton take on several leading North American throwers.
Elsewhere, Trinidad’s Michelle-Lee Ahye leads the women’s 60m field, while Jenny Simpson of the United States and Konstanze Klosterhalfen of Germany head the women’s 5000m line-up.
After Boston, the IAAF World Indoor Tour moves on to Karlsruhe, Torun, Madrid, Birmingham and Dusseldorf with a prize of $20,000 for event winners and a guaranteed spot at the 2020 IAAF World Indoor Championships in China.
DISCIPLINES AND SCORING
The tour will feature 11 point-scoring disciplines. Five for men – 400m, 1500m, 60m hurdles, high jump, long jump – and six for women – 60m, 800m, 3000m/5000m, pole vault, triple jump and shot put.
Each athlete’s best three results will count towards their point score and the athlete with the most points in each discipline at the end of the tour will be declared the winner at the finale in Dusseldorf.
NEW COMPETITION ORDER RULE
The series will also introduce a rule change this year in the jumping and throwing events. In addition to the re-order in reverse ranking after the first three rounds, another re-order will be added after the fifth round.