Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, USAs Grant Holloway and Team GB stars Keely Hodgkinson, Neil Gourley and Dina Asher-Smith were all on record-breaking form as Birmingham hosted a World Indoor Tour Final to remember with seven athletes walking away with overall victory at the Utilita Arena.
Hodgkinson in the women’s 800m, Gourley in the men’s 1500m and Asher-Smith in the women’s 60m all set impressive new British records on their way to wins in World Indoor Tour events as the series concluded. Hodgkinson and Gourley would also win the overall World Indoor Tour titles - Asher-Smith tied on overall points in her 60m but missing out having run just hundredths of a second slower than American, Aleia Hobbs - while unbeaten Holloway set a new meeting record, stadium record and world lead in the 60m hurdles to guarantee himself a crown as well.
Gudaf Tsegay was perhaps the closest to setting a world record but fell 0.09 seconds short in setting a meeting record in the women’s 3000m with victory for Hamish Kerr of New Zealand in the men’s high jump, Canadian, Alysha Newman, in the women’s pole vault and Jereem Richards of Teinidad & Tobago in the 400m ensuring they won their respective World Indoor Tour titles. Eccentrically dressed Marquis Dendy of the USA won the men’s long jump but Swede, Thobias Montler, who was sixth, had already done enough earlier this season to win World Indoor Tour title while special mention goes to British athlete Faye Olszowka, who set a personal best 8.09 on the way to victory in the women’s para 60m event that helped open the day’s action.
“I’m happy to come away with another British record. When you set your goals high, you want to achieve them”, Dina said. “It was a tough record to get the world record, but I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep coming back to give it a go”. newly crowned UK champion Daryll Neita was second.
Gourley’s win was right up there as he waited patiently in the men’s 1500m before powering around the final lap to clock that British record of 3:32.48. He said: “That race was something else, I knew it was going to be quick, it was a case of hanging on and using my pace in the last 150m and thankfully I managed to do that.
Moments after Asher-Smith’s 7.03 British record in the heats of the women’s 60m, Tsegay’s own record attempt began. In what was essentially a race against the clock in the women’s 3000m, she was comfortably inside world record pace after five laps and then cut loose from the pacemaker with six to go.
Tsegay was an agonising 0.09 short as she clocked a huge meeting record 8:16.69 for the win. She said: “I’m so happy, it was so close. My body is more tired from the travelling, but I am sure that I will get the world record next time.”
Muir followed the lead of Gourley and Asher-Smith in claiming victory against international opposition as she comfortably won the women’s 1000m, before saying: “I was going to go for it, and I think when you are running at that pace it’s going to hit at some point and it’s at what point it’s going to hit. Unfortunately, it hit a bit too soon, but I had to go for it, and I had to run those times at the start.”
It wasn’t a world record, but Holloway ensured his career unbeaten run in the men’s 60m hurdles comfortably continued as he clocked a world lead, a meeting record and a stadium record 7.35 - the fourth quickest time all-time - for the win.
It was billed as a head-to-head with American Daniel Roberts, with his compatriot going into the race ahead in the World Indoor Tour standings. Second for Roberts in 7.47 saw him relinquish the lead and hand the World Indoor Tour title to Holloway.
Newly-crowned UK champion David King was sixth in 7.70 and Andrew Pozzi was eighth in 7.80 and Holloway said: “It was a great race, the stadium record makes it that much better. To come out here and execute feels great and I’m looking forward to the outdoor season. In the women’s pole vault, Canadian Alysha Newman won the World Indoor Tour title as she went through 4.41m to 4.71m completely clean.
A bucket-hat donned; mask-wearing Marquis Dendy lit up the men’s long jump at the death as he took the win with his final attempt. He leapt out to 8.28m moments after Jamaican, Tajay Gayle, had set the challenge with an 8.13m leap with his final effort.
Victory pushed Dendy to 20 points in the World Indoor Tour standings but sixth-placed Montler, who pulled out after three rounds, arrived in Birmingham with 22. Brit Reynold Banigo was fifth with a best of 7.81m while Jack Roach was seventh with 7.60m.
Dendy said: “This is what I have been practising for. I knew it was going to be a long tour. I had a few hamstring problems, but I’ve kept going and this is where I wanted to be. I’m a hat guy and now, after this, it has become my lucky hat so it will be following me to the outdoor season for sure.”
Meanwhile World Indoor Tour champion Montler, who leapt 7.63m before withdrawing, said: “I already knew that I had won the Tour, so it was all about practice and Europeans. I have a great trophy to take home with me even if I would have liked to have jumped better. I have two European indoor silver medals in the backpack, so I am really going to try and make that a gold. My body and mind are ready for it.”
Reigning world indoor champion Richards ran a controlled race to add the World Indoor Tour men’s 400m crown to his collection as the action gathered pace in Birmingham. A strong start saw him hit the front and despite the best efforts of Vernon Norwood of the USA wouldn’t be passed as he clocked 45.74 for the win and overall World Indoor Tour title.
British pair Ben Higgins and Samuel Reardon were fourth and sixth respectively and Richards said: “It’s been a competitive series and has really driven me forwards. Every time I step out on the track I try and improve and every race I have done every race so far this season. I'm grateful and very happy with it.”
Commonwealth champion from Birmingham last summer, New Zealander, Hamish Kerr, completed his perfect record in this season’s World Indoor Tour with a second victory in the men’s high jump on his return to the West Midlands, that seeing him crowned the overall winner. After victory in Poland with 2.27m, he went one better to seal the World Indoor Tour title with a best leap of 2.28m. He tried once at 2.32m but would fall short with the win coming on countback after Erik Portillo of Mexico also jumped 2.28m but had one failure at it while he couldn’t clear 2.30m. Will Grimsey, the only Brit in the field, was eighth with 2.14m.
Kerr said: “Warming up I didn’t feel amazing, I was trying to get my head into the competition, and I was able to do that. I’m in the form of my life at the moment so it’s time to go home and get ready for the outdoor season. Indoors to outdoors is a little bit of a change but we are used to it, you start a little bit lower than you are used to but it’s a challenge and I’m really looking forward to it.”
A women’s para 60m was second on the programme and history repeated itself as Olszowka stormed to her second victory in Birmingham in the space of a week, smashing her best personal in the process as she recorded 8.09. Esme O’Connell and Ali Smith were with her through the first 20m but Olszowka would power away to lower her personal best by 0.07. O’Connell and Smith remained neck and neck with the former taking second in her own personal best of 8.38.
Olszowka said: “It’s really good to have got the win for the second time. I’m happy to have got the win again and lots of people are here watching. I like the track here. It’s onto outdoors for me, that’s my focus now.”
An action-packed day kicked off in style with the men’s para 60m and Zac Shaw claimed a fine victory a week after having to settle for second on the same track at the UK Athletics Indoor Championships. Last weekend’s winner Kevin Santos got the better start but Shaw battled back and powered through the final 30m to take the win in 7.01. Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker was second in 7.08 while Santos was third on this occasion in 7.12.
Shaw said: “Last week I didn’t want to make excuses, I had some injuries and only ran two days before the event. I put a bit of confidence back in myself because last week it did not feel like me. I am happy with this, not necessarily with the win, but the race.”
In an all-British 60m Charlie Dobson came out on top in a race that saw three athletes disqualified for false starts on two separate occasions. Dobson kept his head as first Jeremiah Azu and Ojie Edoborun went early before Richard Akinyebo took off before the gun himself as the field lined back up.
The now field of five were all in a line through the first 30m as the race officially got underway but Dobson pulled away superbly as he clocked 6.64 to win by 0.04. The battle for second was extremely tight with 2017 world 4x100m relay champion Adam Gemili awarded second in 6.68, just 0.03 separating him from the other three athletes.
Dobson said: “It [the false starts] was very stressful at the time when you are trying to get prepared and then you have to come back twice in the end. You just have to deal with it and move on. This is my final indoor race of the season, so it is nice to end it on a good one. For me indoors is a chance to sharpen up for outdoors and getting ready for that, and that's what I feel like I have done.”
As is tradition when Birmingham hosts the World Indoor Tour, the event kicks off with the best up-and-coming young talent getting the chance to step first on this newly-laid track in the form of four ClubConnect relays for under 13 and under 15 girls and boys.
If the opportunity wasn’t already special enough, Amber Valley & Erewash and Rugby & Northampton made it even more memorable as they both took victory in a national record in the boys under 13 and girls under 15 races respectively.
Amber Valley & Erewash clocked 1:51.19 for their win while Rugby & Northampton crossed in 1:46.03. There was a home victory in the boys under-15 race as Birmingham-based Birchfield Harriers came out on top while in the remaining event there was another West Midlands winner as Tamworth won the girls under 13 event.