"Russian Winter" - Gem in Russian Athletics' Calendar, by Elena Dyachkova
Following World Championships' success the indoor meeting in Moscow, held on February 2, is ready to provide stellar line-ups and a World Record chase.
"Russian Winter" is arguably the best one-day track and field meeting in Russia. The first "Russian Winter" was held on February 7, 1992. Hence this event is of the same age as modern Russia and Russian athletics (as opposed to the USSR one).
Of course, there are older track and field events in Russia: the "Znamensky Memorial" dates back to the 50-ies. But the "Russian Winter" is special. It has a high category (IAAF Indoor Permit) and is pretty much the only ticketed event in track in our country that exists for so many years and never fails to have a "full house". The event is held at the CSKA indoor arena (capacity - 4200 seats) and attracts around 4000 spectators every year (including guests and media).
In 2006 the "Russian Winter" acquired two symbols - the mascot Ruzi (either a dog, or a fox, or a hare, most likely some unique combination of those) and a tangerine. All spectators receive these fruits having entered the foyer. Tangerines are traditional for Russian New Year celebrations, so the atmosphere of real winter and winter festivities is literally in the air.
The international competition program of "Russian Winter" is always dense. There are 13 events and for many years the event lasted for about 2.5 hours, but in 2013 in attempt to be more TV-friendly the organizers tried to fit it into two hours. For judges and event presentation team it was exhausting, but the competition went smoothly and received positive feedback. This year the timing will be the same. However, the meet director, ARAF General Secretary Mikhail Butov, aims to make his event even more dynamic, fitting the main action into 90 minutes.
There were seven World Records set at the Russian Winter. And some of them still stand! Not many of track and field geeks know that there is a World Indoor Best Performance in the 110m hurdles. And it was set at the "Russian Winter" 1995 by Allen Johnson (13.34). Yes, the CSKA Indoor Arena is that big! Can you imagine? Another World Indoor Record set at this meet which stills stands is Mikhail Shchennikov's time in the 5000m race walk - 18:07.08 (1995).
One World Record that keeps escaping the "Russian Winter" is the men's 600m one - 1:15.12. Every year since 2010 organizers invite the best runners, they keep getting incredibly close, but still miss it. Adam Kszczot was the closest, setting the meet record of 1:15.26 in 2012. Last year participants of both A and B races had a good shot at it again: future World champion Mohammed Aman posted 1:15.60 in his first ever indoor race and the "dark horse" Erik Sowinski surprised the whole athletics community with swift 1:15.99. No doubt that on February 2, 2014, both Aman and Sowinski are running in the A-race, along with Kszczot. Even if this rivalry doesn't produce the World Record, it will produce the highlight of the day.
This year, following the success of the World Championships held in the Russian capital, the line-ups in all events are stellar. In the men's 60m hurdles the European champion and World medalist Sergey Shubenkov (SB 7.69) will face the former World Record holder in the 110m hurdles Dayron Robles (SB 7.67) and Moscow 2006 World Indoor champion Terrence Trammel (SB 7.65). Trammel has never lost a single race in Moscow so far! Other contenders are World Junior Champion Yordan O'Farrill and Moscow 2013 finalist Thomas Martinot-Lagarde (SB 7.69).
In the men's long jump the World Champion Aleksandr Menkov will compete with the Daegu 2011 medalist and current World leader (8.10m) Ngoni Makusha, national leader (8.08m) Pavel Shalin, titled Irving Saladino and experienced Chris Tomlinson (SB 7.75m) and Salim Sdiri. Menkov said that his aim for the meet is to jump Sopot 2014 entry standard (8.16m). Men's high jump will provide a local battle between Olympic champions Ivan Ukhov (SB 2.41m) and Andrey Silnov (SB 2.29m), with Aleksandr Shustov (SB 2.26m) and Dusty Jonas (SB 2.30m) adding to the intrigue.
Elsewhere, in the men's 60m one of the most consistent sprinters, 37-year-old Kim Collins will take on the World medalist Mike Rodgers. In the 1500m world medalist Silas Kiplagat will face Bethwell Birgen and Istanbul 2012 runner-up Ilham Ozbilen. In the men's 400m we will see the World relay champion David Verburg (SB 46.94), Jamaican Akheem Gauntlett (SB 46.48) and Israeli Donald Sanford (SB 46.89).
Among women's events the highlight is the 800m race, where the reigning World Indoor champion Pamela Jelimo will compete against the Istanbul 2012 runner-up Natalia Lupu and the Olympic medalist Yekaterina Poistogova.
Another stellar field will be provided in the pole vault. This event appeared in the competition program in 2011, after a long absence, to give Yelena Isinbayeva an opportunity to perform for her compatriots. And it was the first year when there were actual lines to the box office in a blistering cold. The pole vault queen is skipping 2014, but the rivalry will still be intense: 2011 World champion Fabiana Murer, World leader Silke Spiegelburg (4.71m) and the main Russian hopeful Anastasiya Savchenko.
In the women's long jump we will see the crowd's favorite Darya Klishina (SB 6.68), World indoor medalist Shara Proctor (SB 6.59), World leader (6.98m) Svetlana Biryukova and World heptathlon champion Hanna Melnychenko. In the 400m there will be three Moscow 2013 finalists - World leader (51.79) Francena McCorory, Natasha Hastings and Kseniya Ryzhova (SB 52.85), as well as Regina George (SB 52.01) and Denisa Rosolova (SB 52.87). In the 60m hurdles - World leader (7.96) Cindy Billaud, Nia Ali (SB 8.06), Yvette Lewis (SB 8.03) and Olympic medalist Kellie Wells.
One day before the main competition the CSKA arena will be overtaken by young athletes. For those aged 11 and younger there will be a master-class, 60m and 60m hurdles races, presented by renowned athlete and coach Tatyana Zelentsova. For older kids there will be two master-classes and competitions. On Saturday four-time World Champion Dwight Phillips and titled long and triple jumper Tatyana Lebedeva will take care of young long jumpers, on Sunday 2009 World champion Yaroslav Rybakov will host a clinic for high jumpers.
And the main competition program will, as always, start with the Champions' Kids race. It's another good tradition of the meet. Over the years there were children of Irina Privalova, Aleksandr Porkhomovskiy, Dmitry Bogdanov and Tatyana Andrianova and other Russian stars taking part in this heat. It is a symbol of the change in generations. Hopefully, "Russian Winter" will see many new generations of athletes in starting blocks and on runways.