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Ethiopian athletes dominate world indoor competition

Gudaf Tsegay breaks world indoor 1500m record in Lievin with 3:53.09

On an evening of stunning middle-distance performances at the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais, Ethiopia's Gudaf Tsegay produced the highlight by taking two seconds off the world indoor 1500m record, winning at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in 3:53.09.

The world bronze medalist followed the swift early tempo as the pacemaker led the field through 400m (58.97) and exited just before 800m, which Tsegay passed in 2:05.94. With three laps to go, Tsegay had a four-second lead over double European indoor champion Laura Muir but she showed no signs of slowing down, passing through 1000m in 2:37.36.

The clock read 2:52.9 with two laps to go and Tsegay maintained her pace with another lap just outside 30 seconds. She dug in for the final circuit and crossed the line in 3:53.09, taking more than two seconds off the world indoor record set by compatriot Genzebe Dibaba in Karlsruhe in 2014.

Muir finished second in a British indoor record of 3:59.58 with teammate Melissa Courtney-Bryant taking third in 4:04.79.

“I’m very happy to set a world indoor record,” said Tsegay. “I have been training really hard and I set myself a target to break the world indoor record.”

Gudaf’s record-breaking performance was book-ended by two other athletes who very nearly broke world records.

Ethiopian steeplechase specialist Getnet Wale won the men's 3000m in 7:24.98, the second-fastest indoor performance in history, while USA's Grant Holloway won the men's 60m hurdles in 7.32, just 0.02 shy of the world indoor record.

Getnet, still only 20 years old, led an Ethiopian 1-2-3-4 finish in the men’s 3000m as Daniel Komen’s long-standing world record of 7:24.90 was put under serious threat. The pace was fast and even as Vincent Keter led the field through the opening 1000m in 2:31.05 with the second kilometre covered in 2:30.

World 5000m silver medalist Solomon Barega hit the front with three-and-a-half laps to go with fellow Ethiopians Wale and world steeplechase silver medalist Lamecha Girma close behind. Wale took a turn at the front with two laps to go, then Lemecha kicked hard with 300 meters to go. Having seemingly misjudged his finish, Girma eased off the gas slightly with one lap remaining, allowing Wale and Solomon to pass him.

Lemecha tried to pick up the momentum again, but Wale was away and gone, charging ahead to the finish line in an Ethiopian indoor record of 7:24.98. Solomon was second in 7:26.10 with Lemecha taking third in 7:27.98. Teenager Berihu Aregawi was fourth in 7:29.24.

Before today, just six men had bettered 7:30 for 3000m indoors. The indoor sub-7:30 club now has four more members – all aged between 19 and 21, two of whom are steeplechase specialists.

Holloway had hinted that the world indoor 60m hurdles record was living on borrowed time when he opened his 2021 campaign at the American Track League meeting in Fayetteville at the end of January.

The world 110m hurdles champion clocked 7.35 on that occasion, equaling his own North American indoor record. Tonight in Lievin, in what was his first indoor race in Europe, he was up against a stronger field and he duly rose to the occasion.

Following a comfortable-looking 7.38 victory in the heats, the 23-year-old powered his way over the five hurdles in the final to stop the clock at a North American indoor record of 7.32 – agonizingly close to Colin Jackson’s 7.30 world indoor record set back in 1994. Holloway, 23, now owns three of the six fastest times in history.

France’s Wilhem Belocian was second in 7.52, just 0.03 ahead of Italy’s Paolo Dal Molin. USA’s Aaron Mallett was fourth in 7.57.

Middle-distance meeting records for Lemlem Hailu

Lemlem Hailu seized her opportunity in the closing stages of the 3000m to leave behind a high-quality field and take victory in a world-leading 8:32.55, breaking a meeting record that was set two years before the Ethiopian was born.

After being paced through half way in 4:19, steeplechase world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech took up the running and started to gradually increase the pace. A lead pack of five – comprising Lemlem, Chepkoech, world 1500m and 10,000m champion Sifan Hassan, Fantu Worku and Tsigie Gebreselama – broke away and exchanged the lead over the final few laps.

Lemlem kicked hard and charged past Chepkoech as the bell sounded and soon opened up a significant gap on the rest of the field. Hassan gave chase and overtook Chepkoech to move into second, but there was no catching Lemlem, who crossed the line in 8:32.55, breaking the meeting record of 8:34.09 set by Gabriella Szabo in 1999.

Hassan was second in 8:33.62 with Chepkoech placing third in 8:34.

Meanwhile Reekie, last year’s world indoor leader for 800m, won in Lievin for the second year in succession. After a swift opening circuit of 27 seconds, the pace settled down and the field went through half way in 58.15. Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu led through 600m in 1:29.98, but Reekie kicked past in the closing stages and crossed the line in 2:00.64.

Habitam finished second in 2:00.86 with Hedda Hynne clocking a Norwegian indoor record of 2:00.92 in third. Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, who set a world U20 indoor record of 1:59.03 last month, was fourth in 2:01.71.