Maria Mutola ()Maria Mutola () © Copyright

I Am (Indoor) Legend

The Portland World Indoor Championships will give athletes a chance to make a name as a hero. We remember eight indoor specialists whose legend status is already assured.

Eamonn Coghlan

Eamonn Coghlan ()

Dubbed 'The Chairman of the Boards', perhaps no athlete in history is better known for their indoor prowess than Irish middle-distance star Eamonn Coghlan. A seven-time winner of the prestigious Wanamaker Mile and 1979 European indoor champion, Coghlan also set four world indoor records during his career including three for the mile, the distance for which he is synonymous.

Now a Senator in the Irish Parliament, his indoor mile best of 3:49.78 was quicker than his outdoor best and still stands second on the all-time indoor lists. Coghlan also became the first man in history to run a sub-four-minute mile as a 40-something (he was actually 41 at the time) when he ran 3:58.15. He did it, you’ve guessed it, indoors.

Marcus O’Sullivan

Marcus O’Sullivan ()

Hot on the heals of Coghlan came Marcus O’Sullivan, another Irisman who carved out an reputation as an indoor middle-distance specialist. The four-time Olympian won three world indoor 1500m titles ('87, '89 and '93) and also posted a world record indoor 1500m time of 3:35.6 in 1989.

The Irishman further bolstered his considerable indoor CV by winning six Wanamaker Mile events at the iconic Millrose Games. O’Sullivan now works as men’s head track and field coach at Villanova University in the US.

Nelli Cooman

Nelli Cooman ()

Possessing a bullet-like start, Dutch dynamo Nelli Cooman proved a master of the indoor 60m distance. In a glittering career on the boards, she was crowned European indoor champion six times – setting a world record time of 7.00 in 1986 – and was a two-time world indoor champion for the distance.

Unfortunately, she could not quite convert her 60m brilliance into similar success over 100m: her sole major international championship medal for the distance was a bronze at the 1986 European Championships. 

Alleyne Francique

Alleyne Francique ()

BKJ (Before Kirani James) the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada boasted another 400m gem in Alleyne Francique – an athlete who always looked most comfortable on the indoor circuit.

In 2002, while attending Louisiana State University, Francique was crowned NCAA indoor 400m champion. He cemented his reputation on the 200m oval by winning back-to-back world indoor titles in 2004 and 2006.

Fourth place at the Athens Olympics was Francique's best finish at a global outdoor championships. He now coaches US 800m junior sensation Donavan Brazier at Texas A&M.

Maria Mutola 

Maria Mutola Birmingham 1996 ()

The 800m maestro from Mozambique was, of course, more than an indoor specialist, as three outdoor world titles and the Olympic crown in 2000 attest. Yet Maria Mutola's indoor record is virtually unsurpassed.

During an unprecedented reign of indoor dominance, the The Maputo Express powered to seven world indoor titles between 1993-2006, triumphing in 33 successive 800m races between 1992-99. To add further lustre to her outstanding indoor credentials, Mutola also set three world indoor 1000m records.

Post-athletics she turned to football, her first sport. She went on to skipper Mozambique, scoring her team's only goal in a 7-1 defeat to Algeria at the 2011 All African Games.

Elly van Hulst

Elly van Hulst ()

For some reason, lanky Dutchwoman Elly van Hulst invariably saved her best for the indoor arena. From 1988-90 she claimed a hat-trick of European indoor 3000m titles and in 1989 – two weeks after taking the second of her European crowns – she plundered the world 3000m title in a world record 8.33.82.

Van Hulst could never quite translate that form outdoors; a sixth place finish in the 3000m at the 1987 world champs and ninth over 3000m at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul among her best global outdoor performances. After retiring from athletics she moved to the Algarve in Portugal where she now runs her own real estate company.

Susanna Kallur

Susanna Kallur ()

Sanna was captivating through the mid-noughties, her rhythmic running style igniting the 60m hurdles. The super Swede proved her outstanding indoor credentials by taking back-to-back European indoor crowns in 2005 and 2007, and also secured world indoor bronze behind Ireland’s shock winner Derval O’Rourke in 2006.

Yet Kallur's crowning glory indoors came in 2008 when at the annual Karlsruhe meet she shaved 0.01 from Ludmila Engquist’s mark to run a world record 7.68. Mystifyingly, Kallur never managed to translate her indoor form outdoors, although she did memorably win the European 100m hurdles crown in front of her adoring home fans in Gothenburg. Post-2008 injuries have ravaged her career, but her status as an indoor legend is assured. We're still hoping for a comeback.

Carlo Thranhardt

Carlo Thranhardt ()

Complete with trademark long, blond hair, gifted German high jumper Carlo Thranhardt always seemed to find his mojo indoors. During a lengthy international career, Thranhardt set three world indoor records and captured five European indoor medals (one gold, four silver) between 1981-1987. His stunning 2.42m mark achieved in Berlin 28 years ago still stands number two on the all-time indoor rankings.

With an outdoor PB five centimetres inferior to his indoor best, his one major international outdoor medal was a bronze at the 1986 Euro champs. As a masters athlete he jumped a world record 1.90m for the M55 age-group and has also appeared in the German version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.