It’s been four years since we’ve had the chance to watch a World Indoor Championship. The last time medals were handed out was in 2018 in Birmingham (UK) but that will all change this weekend in Belgrade, Serbia. Multiple Olympic champions from Tokyo will be in action, and there will also be a slew of athletes looking to make their mark as stars to watch ahead of this summer’s World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
THE DISTANCE EVENTS
Men’s 800 Meters: Watch For Bryce Hoppel’s Revenge
Final on Saturday at 2:10 p.m. ET
There was something about the disappointment expressed on Bryce Hoppel’s face when he was upset by Mariano Garcia at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Feb. 6. Garcia ran 1:45.12 for a world-leading time and Spanish national record. He hasn’t been untouchable, however – he finished second at the Spanish national championships – which suggests this will be a fairly even rematch.
Hoppel rebounded by winning the U.S. Indoor Championships in a season’s best of 1:45.30 – No. 3 in the world. Hoppel was injured heading into the Tokyo Olympics so we didn’t get to see him advance beyond the semifinals. He was fourth at the 2019 World Championships so he’s still looking for his first career global championship medal.
British record holder Elliot Giles beat Garcia at the World Indoor Tour meet in Madrid and is just a year removed from his 1:43.63 personal best so we know what he’s capable of indoors. He was beaten by Kenya’s Collins Kipruto at the Müller Grand Prix.
All four men are entered with seasons’ bests within 0.3 seconds of one another. No one is heading into this one as a favorite.
Women’s 800 Meters: Keely Hodgkinson’s Time To Shine
Final on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET
2021 was a year to remember for Keely Hodgkinson. She won the European indoor title, broke the British outdoor 800m record, earned an Olympic silver medal and won the Diamond League title. 2022 has been off to just as strong of a start for the 20-year-old. At the Müller Indoor Grand Prix on Feb. 19, she ran 1:57.20 for the fastest indoor 800m performance in 20 years and the sixth-fastest all-time. She tuned up for Worlds with a runner-up finish in the 400m at the British indoor championships in a personal best of 52.42.
U.S. indoor champion Ajee’ Wilson is still seeking her gold. She has two silver medals from the last two World Indoor Championships. She has not lost this season against mostly U.S.-based competition. Her season’s best time is only 2:01.38 from mostly-tactical races where she’s been in control from the front.
Wilson’s biggest competitor so far this year has been Jamaica’s Natoya Goule at the Millrose Games. Goule went on to run 1:58.46 at the World Indoor Tour stop in Lievin for the No. 2 time in the world. In that race, she beat 2019 world champion Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda. Goule wants to be the first Jamaican woman to win a medal in the indoor 800 since Kenia Sinclair in 2006.
Tactics are going to be fascinating in this race. Goule likes to break her competition with a blistering opening 400m. Wilson likes to get to the front early and wind the pace down slowly. Hodgkinson… is going to be tough to beat with either strategy. Wilson’s usual strategy can run the wheels off most competitors, but Hodgkinson closed in 28.87 in her 1:57 performance, suggesting that she’ll be more than fine kicking off any pace. However it plays out, it’ll be a race to watch for sure.
Men’s 1500 Meters: Jakob Ingebrigtsen Takes Centerstage
Final on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET
Jakob Ingebrigtsen is the Olympic champion, European indoor champion, world record holder and now looks to add “World Indoor champion” to his extensive list of accolades at just 21 years old. He ran 3:30.60 to break the World Indoor 1500m world record in Lievin. Former world record holder Samuel Tefera of Ethiopia was in that race but was a non-factor by the time Ingebrigtsen made his crushing blow in the final lap. World Indoors will be a rematch and Tefera’s season’s best is a more-than-respectable 3:33.70. However, he just happens to be up against one of the best middle distance runners in the world at the moment.
The U.S. medal hopes will be U.S. championship runner-up Josh Thompson and fourth-place finisher Sam Prakel after U.S. Olympic Trials champion Cole Hocker withdrew and third-placer Henry Wynne didn’t have the standard. Thompson in particular will be hoping for a tactical race.
Kenya’s Abel Kipsang took fourth at the Tokyo Olympics and holds a season’s best/personal best of 3:34.57 from his win in Birmingham. And look for Olli Hoare of Australia to keep the second half of the race honest, as he’s more of a strength-based miler than a kicker. They’ll both be medal contenders, but it’s hard to imagine anyone taking down Ingebrigtsen without something crazy happening.
Women’s 1500 Meters: Gudaf Tsegay Wants Golden Hardware
Final on Saturday at 3:35 p.m. ET
Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay is just 24 years old and has three career global championship bronze medals. She took bronze in the 1500m at the 2016 World Indoor Championships and then bronze in the 1,500 meters at the 2019 world outdoor championships. Last year, she elected to race the 5000m in Tokyo and came away with a bronze medal. The indoor 1500m is the event she owns. She ran the world record of 3:53.09 in Feb. 2021 and won both her races to start the 2022 campaign. She was planning to go after the indoor mile world record in Lievin on Feb. 17 but fell in the early stages of the race. She’s the heavy favorite for this one since she’s been undefeated in the event since 2019.
Her compatriot Axumawit Embaye is No. 2 on the world list with a 4:02.12 in Karlsruhe. She was the 2014 World Indoor Championship silver medalist. On paper, the next best duo in the race is Jessica Hull and Linden Hall of Australia, both finalists in the 1500m in Tokyo. Both women have run under 4 minutes outdoors but don’t have a lot of hardware yet, so they’ll be hungry for the podium.
If this becomes a kicker’s race, the U.S. duo of Heather MacLean and Josette Norris could become the first American women to medal since Regina Jacobs’s gold in 2003.
Men’s 3000 Meters: An Ethiopian Sweep?
Final on Sunday at 7:05 a.m. ET
There’s a good likelihood that Ethiopia can sweep the medals here because they own four of the top five times of 2022, with Berihu Aregawi leading the charge with a 7:26.20 for the fifth-fastest time in history on Jan. 28. That was his only race of the season, good enough to make the Ethiopian team while still keeping his cards close before the world championships.
Lemecha Girma and Selemon Barega are the other two Ethiopian studs who have battled twice this indoor season, and both men have seasons’ bests of 7:30. Girma came away victorious both times in Lievin and Torun.
Spain’s Adel Mechaal, who ran a European record of 7:30.82 to win the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, would be the best bet to try and break up any podium sweep but he’s also entered in the 1500m, so he’ll be on his third race of the weekend by the time the 3000m final comes around.
If the race is tactical, keep an eye on two U.S.-based internationals: Geordie Beamish, who won the 3000m at Millrose, and Marc Scott, the U.K. indoor champion.
Women’s 3000 Meters: Dawit Seyaum Wants To Make It Nine Golds For Ethiopia In The Last 20 Years
Final on Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET
Ethiopia’s rich history in the 3000 meters is even better on the women’s side with eight of the last nine gold medals being won by Berhane Adere (2003), Meseret Defar (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010) and Genzebe Dibaba (2014, 2016 and 2018). Dawit Seyaum wants to start her own streak and enters with the fastest time in the world with a 8:23.24 from Lievin. Her compatriot, Ejgayehu Taye, was just three seconds behind her and could be her biggest challenger.
One runner to watch will certainly be Canadian sensation Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, who ran a national record of 8:33.92 to win the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix but then closed the final 3000m of her 14:31.38 indoor 5000m in around 8:30. After her 5th place finish in the 1500m at the Olympics, she is fully capable of hanging with Seyaum and Taye in a fast race or a kick.
Team USA’s Alicia Monson and Elle Purrier St. Pierre enter with the World No. 3 and 12 times. Monson’s 8:31.62 came in a commanding Millrose Games victory from the front where she just pressed on from the last 2000m of the race. Purrier St. Pierre’s season’s best is “only” 8:41.53 from U.S. Indoors, but she closed her final lap of that race in 28.88.
Even if the duo fail to medal, if the Ethiopians want a fast race in the final, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see Karissa Schweitzer’s American record of 8:25.70 threatened.