If three is the magic number, so it proved on a sumptuous night of athletics action on Day 1 of the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018. Three champions crowned, the third with a treble – it’s time for the Birmingham wrap.
Running, jumping and throwing in a spring wonderland
The meteorologists among us call 1st March the first day of spring. Someone tell Khione.
The Greek Goddess of snow has been busy over the last few days, merrily covering Birmingham in an inch or two of the fluffy white slip hazard. Even the canals began to freeze over.
Fortunately, the World Indoor Championships take place, well, indoors, and more fortunately still, the first day of the champs delivered hot action to warm the cockles of all the hardy souls who battled their way to the Arena Birmingham.
Beside that, the blizzard also allows the international community to reply without hesitation to the “Y’alright?” greeting that is the Brits’ staple. No longer baffled, they answer confidently: “Cold”.
The high jump party
Just like in Portland two years ago, the opening day of the world indoors saw field events take centre stage, this time with the men’s and women’s high jump finals enjoying the undivided attention of the stadium.
There were wobbles for British faves Morgan Lake and Robbie Grabarz, who both needed three attempts to get over the opening heights before falling just short of the medals podiums. But those disappointments didn't diminish the entertainment.
Characters such as Bahamas’ Jamal Wilson (pictured, upsidedown), who shushed the crowd to a deadly silence for his jumps, came to the fore in an environment where they might otherwise drift into the background. The evening was all the better for it.
As Vashti Cunningham proved in the women’s event in 2014, youth is no barrier to causing a stir. Authorised Neutral Athlete Danil Lysenko (main image), just 20-years-old, clinched gold in a jump off with Mutaz Barshim, who went the whole of 2017 unbeaten and was overwhelming fave for the title here.
“Honestly, I did not expect to win this event … I just tried to do my best,” said the outdoor world silver medallist. His best was a 2.36m for the biggest win of his career and one of the biggest shocks of the champs we’re likely to see.
You got to see her
Unlike on the men’s side, the women’s contest was won by the event’s most dominant performer. Coming into these champs, Mariya Lasitskene hadn’t lost in 37 contests, a run that included outdoor world gold in London last year. That streak now stands at 38 and includes the world indoor crown.
Not that you’d know from her facial expression. As is her way, the Authorised Neutral Athlete remained unruffled throughout; a nerveless, norarsed performer who continues to prove herself as one of the world’s most dominant athletes.
Land of the 3k
Since 2003, when the world indoors were last held in Brum, the women’s 3000m title has returned to a country not called Ethiopia on just one occasion.
Genzebe Dibaba has been the woman upholding the east African nation’s proud record in recent years, and she did it again here, securing her third-straight title after prevailing in a tactical race (won in 8:45 with a 4:03 closing 1500m).
Such a hat-trick is normally the stuff of legend but, typically, she’s not even the most prolific winner from her country. That accolade belongs to Meseret Defar, who snared four consecutively between 2004-10.
Still, Dibaba could yet become legendary if she wins 1500m gold on Saturday. No athlete has achieved such a feet since 1999, when Haile Gebrselassie did the double. He is Ethiopian as well, in case you never knew already.
Words: Thomas Byrne