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Road to Portland

The 2016 indoor season is about to get serious. We preview the meets the make up the IAAF World Indoor Tour.

The 2016 indoor track and field season will be special. Eye-catching results have already come flickering in from indoor meets around the globe (we’re looking at you, pole vault) as athletes dust off from their winter training camps.

In a little over ten days, Germany’s capable drape lifters raise the curtain on the first meet of the inaugural IAAF World Indoor Tour.

Each event on the four-meet mini series will have standardised prize pots for the top six finishers (top eight for middle distance races). The top four in each event will also be awarded points. An athlete’s best three scoring performances in each individual event will count towards an overall ranking. The top ranked athlete in each event will win $20,000 and a wild card entry for the World Indoor Championships in March.

Here’s what to look out for on each stop on the road to Portland.

1. Indoor Meeting, 6th February

Karlsruhe Exhibition Centre, Karlsruhe, Germany

The German town of Karlsruhe has hosted meets for over 30 years. In 2015 the venue moved from the city’s Europahalle – where Genzebe Dibaba and Susanna Kallur had set world records – to its new home, the Karlsruhe Exhibition Centre

The men’s pole vault looks tasty. World champion Shawn Barber (who has already cleared six metres this year), world record holder Renaud Lavillenie and Raphael Holzdeppe, the 2013 world champ who beat both of them with an iPB of 5.84m last weekend, are all set to feature.

The women's 60m will also provide fireworks. 200m world champ Dafne Schippers will face Britain's Dina Asher-Smith, a repeat of the head-to-head that had us on the edge of our seats at last year’s European indoors, where the Dutchwoman edged D’Asher by 0.03 secs for gold.

Dafne Schippers and Dina Asher-Smith ()

Schippers and D'Asher are set to meet twice on this year's indoor tour

2. New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, 14th Feb

Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Centre, Boston, USA

The 2016 edition marks the 20th anniversary of the meet being held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Centre. Famous for its distance races, Boston has seen its fair share of records: Tirunesh Dibaba twice broke the 5000m world record in Massachusetts, while in 2014 the USA All-Stars, led by Erik Sowinski and Duane Solomon, set a 4x800m world record of 7:13.11.

Fresh to the pro circuit, sprint sensation Trayvon Bromell will line up in the 60m. He clocked a PB 6.54 last weekend and will look to go faster as he builds towards what he hopes will be a debut indoor world champs.

Even more anticipated is the return of double Olympic 5000m champion Meseret Defar. The Ethiopian was set to return at last year's edition after giving birth to daughter Gabriella in 2014, but delayed her comeback until this year. Defar, 32, loves the indoors: she set a two miles world best at this event in 2008 and has won the indoor 3k world title on four occasions.

Perfect entertainment for you and your Valentine’s date. Really!!

3. Globen Galan, 17th Feb

Ericsson Globe, Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe has proved a venue for record-breaking performances in the 25 years it has hosted indoor competition, particularly in middle distance events. The men’s 5000m record was chopped in conecutive years here: Haile Gebreselassie clocked 12:59.04 in 1997, only for it to be bettered by Kenyan Daniel Komen’s 12:51.48 a year later.

Genzebe Dibaba has carried the candle more recently. She ran a 3000m indoor record in the Swedish capital in 2014 and last year set a new 5000m best. The Ethiopian will return this year for a crack at the mile in what will be her only warm up before Portland.

Stockholm has seen the women’s pole vault world record fall on three occasions, and a strong field is set to feature this year. Cuba’s world indoor and outdoor champion Yarisley Silva will be up against 2011 world champ Fabiana Murer, Diamond Race winner Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou and local star Angelica Bengtsson.

Genzebe Dibaba ()

Two-time world indoor champ Genzebe Dibaba will return to Stockholm, where she set world record times the last two years

4. Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix, 20th Feb

Emirates Arena, Glasgow, UK

The final leg of the tour takes place on British shores. After hitting up Birmingham last year, action heads north of the border to Glasgow for a sell-out show. Glasgow – home of the 2014 Commonwealth Games – has held an indoor international match for more than 25 years and is bidding to host the Euro indoors in 2019.

There will be a rematch between Schippers and Asher-Smith. A partisan crowd could give the Brit the edge. Elswhere in the sprints, GB’s reigning world indoor champion Richard Kilty will line up against the evergreen Kim Collins and US prospect Trayvon Bromell.

Mo Farah, beaten in his last outing in Scotland, will make his only indoor appearance of the season over 3000m. He is the British record holder in the distance (7:34.47) and has mooted a tilt at the European record.

World long jump champion Greg Rutherford will compete against F44 long jump IPC world champion Markus Rehm of Germany. It will be the first cross-code match up between the pair since the FBK Games in Hengelo last year, while Jessica Ennis-Hill will have go over the 60m hurdles. The world champion heptathlete’s presence means all three of Great Britain’s champions from London 2012 will be in Glasgow as they build toward title defenses in Rio.