The indoor season has just ended, and before I could have my first hot cup of Coffee, Deji Ogeyingbo had sent us this piece! I love Deji’s love of the sport, enthusiasm, and love of stirring up opinions! Surely a few emails will come my way on this one!
The Winners and Losers from the 2023 Indoor Athletics season
The 2023 indoor season didn’t disappoint. The almost three months of non-stop action, athletes sizing themselves against each other and, most importantly, using it to gauge themselves ahead of the outdoor season.
For the first time, we witness multiple records fall in various meets. From the NCAA Division one championship to the European Indoor Championships, we weren’t short of drama, fun, and razzmatazz. In the end, some athletes came out of it better as they look to use it as a springboard to bigger performances in the outdoor season, while others ended up crocked or unstuck. Here are some of the biggest winners and losers from this indoor season.
1. Femke Bol: Where do we start with this Dutch specimen of an athlete? Bol is poetry in motion, and she brought us some smiles in the last two months. Snagged two records in the 400m and 500m and running an indoor personal best in the 200m, the Olympic Bronze medalist was arguably the standout athlete of the indoor season.
After so many years of no athlete coming close to the great Jarmila Kratochvilova’s record of 49.59s in the 400m, Bol broke the world record and became the first woman to run sub-50s three times over the distance in a single year. At the Dutch indoor championships, she set a new mark of 49.26s. She went on to win her sixth European title in Istanbul, too.
The world championships silver medallists set the 500m indoor world record at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix with her time of 1:05.63.
2. Mondo Duplantis: At this point, it is safe to say Mondo Duplantis is on another planet, but we are privileged to watch him on earth. It feels like a broken record just writing that he broke another record, but we just have to. He keeps rewriting history. At the All-Star Perche in Clermont-Ferrand, the Swede cleared 6.22m to add one centimeter to his own world pole vault record.
At what point do his opponents give up and battle for second place? These were heights that were once thought unimaginable, but Duplantis is making it look like a cakewalk. Even a reincarnation of the great Sergey Bubka would not have been able to steal a match from him. With this sort of confidence, it won’t be long before we see him attempt 6.25m outdoors this season. After all, he isn’t used to surprising us anymore.
3. Julien Alfred: Not many people had heard of the name of the country St. Lucia until this year. All that became possible because of the University of Texas’ Julien Alfred. For the small Caribbean nation, this Young 21-year-old is the jewel in their crown. After a series of breathtaking races in January and February, Alfred capped it up with near-perfection races at the New Mexico NCAA Division 1 Indoor championship.
6.94s for 60m and 22.01s for 200m, both times Alfred clocked came within whiskers of breaking the world records. Still, she will take the progress and finetune her races heading into the outdoor season.
4. Noah Lyles: Very rarely will you find a slow starter compete in the men’s 60m indoors. The more reason it felt strange seeing US sprinter Noah Lyles take it on. He did, and he came out unscathed. In fact, there is a strong argument that he had more positives from the few 60m races he had than negatives.
Lyles won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. He ran several more indoor races, one of which helped fine-tune his start.
This new version of Lyles is a beauty to see, and as he progresses into the outdoor season, there is a strong indication he might finally be a strong favorite over the 100/200m for the first time in a world championship year.
5. Lamecha Girma: The last year has seen Soufiane El Bakkali dominate proceedings in the men’s 3000m steeplechase, with Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma playing second-fiddle. But all that could potentially change this year.
Girma produced one of the most outstanding results this indoor season as he lowered Daniel Komen’s longstanding 3000m indoor world record, clocking a time of 7:23.81. It was a very fast race against an incredible line up too. Surely, the Ethiopian will use this to spur himself when he takes on El Bakkali outdoors later in the year.
1. Marcell Jacobs: One athlete that will rue participating in this year’s indoor season is Olympic 100m Champion Marcell Jacobs. Not mainly because of the injury he suffered in the final of the men’s 60m final at the European indoors, but primarily because it seems he has lost his invincibility status.
The Italian hasn’t raced much since his Olympic gold in Tokyo, but the few times he has competed, it has been one problem or the other. And his latest display in Istanbul further accentuates that stance.
Jacobs suffered a surprise defeat to his unheralded Italian teammate Samuele Ceccarelli in the final as it looked like he copped another injury. For an injury-prone athlete, common knowledge indicates he should have opted not to run the final. Surely this injury and loss of aura will hunt him for the rest of the season.
2. Christian Coleman: There is no doubt that US Sprinter Christian Coleman is the greatest 60m runner of all time. He holds the world record at 6.34s and is a former world indoor champion. This year, however, saw what he holds dear to him fall apart. Not necessarily in the sense that he didn’t run fast, but his usual domineering style indoors didn’t come to the fore.
6.47s was his best this indoor season. Maybe he’s still feeling the effect of his after-ban comeback. The likes of Bromell and Lyles, both of whom had a very good season so far, will feel they have one less threat to deal with outdoors.
3. Abby Steiner: When Abby Steiner turned Professional last summer, there was great optimism that she will become the next big star of Track and field. Those thoughts are still very much active in people’s minds. However, after the former University of Kentucky’s performance this indoor season, there might be fleeting doubts about her prowess.
Steiner competed at the Millrose Games over the 300m and the 400m at the Razorback Invitational. Although she won both races, a closer look at her time, especially in the 400m, doesn’t speak much of the athlete who could dominate proceedings outdoors. It is worth noting that it’s early days and a lot more could change, but for now, Steiner still has a lot of work to do.
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