Istanbul 2012: Top Seven Performances

Amongst the major international athletics championships, the World Indoors is the most underrated. Big name stars like Usain Bolt usually opt out of the biennial meet, especially in crucial Olympic years. Indoor athletics has a far smaller reach than its outdoor counterpart, with the smaller venues usually found in the frigid countries of the northern hemisphere.

Photo from Wikipedia

Nevertheless, it has that obscure charm. When I first saw the start lists of some events, I thought that the rest of the non-European, non-American world was underrepresented. I thought wrong. As soon as the 60m dash heats came out, a cacophony of athletes from small countries – from Mongolia in the Gobi desert to Fiji in the Pacific – competed amongst their more illustrious counterparts.

Even if I had to rely on live streaming links and my less-than-perfect internet connection to watch the World Indoors, I must say that I had a grand time. Despite the absence of most of the track & field titans, the festivities were certainly not devoid of memorable athletics moments. The three-day event has seen former World Indoor champions like Elena Isinbayeva Елена Гаджиевна Исинбаева, Justin Gatlin, and Valerie Adams re-emerge on the big stage, whilst playing host to bevy of promising talent.

One Gold, Three Silvers (Photo from Zimbio/Getty Images)

The women high jumpers deserve special mention too, as the troika of Antonietta Di Martino, Anna Chicherova Анна Владимировна Чичерова, and Ebba Jungmark shared a the second spot on the podium, behind the champion, the come-backing Chaunté Lowe (1.98m). The three athletes had equally identical sheets, with each clearing 1.95m.

The United States topped the overall standings with a staggering 18 medals, 10 of which were gold. Great Britain had 9, while African distance powerhouses Ethiopia and Kenya won 5 and 4, respectively.

The following list enumerates my favorite performances from Istanbul (aside from the 60m hurdles, of course!):

7.) Men’s 3,000m Run

I don’t usually follow the distances longer than 800m. In an indoor setting, however, things become more tactical in the cramped environs. I had a great time watching the blistering finishing laps of the Men’s 3,000m run.

The ageless Kenyan-born American, Bernard Lagat, turned on the afterburners to edge out the Kenyan duo of Augustine Kiprono Choge (7:41.77) and Edwin Cheruiyot Soi (7:41.78). Britain’s Mohamed Farah  محمد فرح  was a close fourth (7:41.79). Take note: the 2nd to 4th players were separated from each other by a mere hundredth of a second.

6.) Men’s 800m Run

With the absence of the dominant East Africans, the grueling four lap race was reminiscent of a European championship final. Aside from the Ethiopian youngster Mohammed Aman and the American Michael Rutt, the rest of the six-man field came from the old continent.

Aman, who has beaten outdoor world record holder David Rudisha this season, dug deep to take the title – the youngest ever in history at 18 years old! Aman (1:48.36) is Ethiopia’s first 800m champion. Early race leader Adam Kszczot  (1:49.16) of Poland finished in fourth, behind Jakub Holuša (1:48.62 ) and Andrew Osagie (1:48.92).

5.) Women’s Pentathlon

Just when everyone thought that the Pentathlon will be a two-pronged duel between Jessica Ennis and Tatyana Chernova Татьяна Сергеевна Чернова, the defending Olympic champion had other things on her mind. En route to breaking a decades long world record, Natallia Dobrynska Наталя Добринська set a crucial personal best in the long jump (6.57m), when Ennis (6.19m) and Chernova (6.25m) notched lackluster marks.

Despite a scary moment due to the faulty 60m hurdle starters, according to an IAAF article, Dobrynska came out with guns blazing, never falling short of 948 points in each of the five events. With Ennis needing a 6-second gap on Dobrynska to win the title – and break the record – the Ukrainian champion lurked at the Briton’s heels all throughout.

4.) Men’s Heptathlon

This is one of the most dominating performances I’ve ever witnessed, reminiscent of the dominance of Bolt in the sprints and the USA in the men’s 4x400m relay. Ashton Eaton scored 6,645 points to wrest the World Indoor title and break his own world record. Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov Олексій Касьянов was a far second with 6,071 points.

The American had standout performances in the long jump (8.16m) and the 60m hurdles (7.68s), with both marks good enough for the individual event final! Not known for his throwing ability, Eaton heaved the shot in a new personal best of 14.56m.

3.) Women’s Long Jump

Brittney Reese has won the last two outdoor World titles, but has largely gone under the radar in the 2012 indoor season. She led in the 4th round, thanks to her 6.92m leap. Compatriot Janay DeLoach then flew to an impressive 6.98m to edge forward in the next round.

Saving her best for last, the defending champion from Doha became the third best indoor jumper in history with her 7.23m winning mark.

2.) Women’s 4x400m Relay

The British women held off the American ladies in the 4x400m relay. Christine Ohuruogu ran a magnificent third leg to give the lead to the 2012 Olympic hosts. Hurdler Perri Shakes-Drayton fought off the challenge of 400m dash champion Sanya Richards-Ross.

The Victorious British Team (Photo from voice-online.co.uk)

The British quartet of Shana Cox, Nicola Sanders, Ohuruogu and Shakes-Drayton clung fiercely to first place (3:28.76), edging out the American team by 0.03s. This was Britain’s first women’s 4x400m relay medal since the World Indoors was introduced in 1985. The once-dominant Russians won the bronze medal (3:29.55).

1.) Women’s Triple Jump

In a taxing technical event like the triple jump, it is astounding to see someone nearing 40 years of age triumph against much younger opponents. Yamilé Aldama (14.82m) , a Cuban-born British athlete, needed only two valid jumps to unexpectedly snatch the title from defending champion Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan. The erratic Rypakova could only muster a best mark of 14.63m, as she fouled four of her six attempts. Two other Cuban athletes, Mabel Gay (14.29m) and Beijing Olympic Champion Yargeris Savigne (14.28m), ranked third and fourth, respectively.

Ten years since relocating to the United Kingdom from her native Cuba – and competing for Sudan after her failure to get a British passport – Aldama’s World Indoor title is an auspicious sign ahead of the Olympic Games in her adopted country. With her victory in Istanbul, the 39-year old now has a complete collection of World Indoor Championship medals in the triple jump (silver in Budapest 2004 and bronze in Moscow 2006 while representing Sudan).

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