By Bob Ramsak
PRAGUE (25-Feb) -– Just eight days after breaking the world record in the 5000m, Meseret Defar is aiming to cap her short indoor season with yet another mark at the inaugural Meeting of World Record Holders here in the Czech capital on Thursday night.
The 25-year-old Ethiopian will be gunning for the 9:10.50 world best she set at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games just over a year ago. Prior to her 14:24.37 world record in Stockholm last week, Defar clocked 8:26.99 for 3000m, indicating that another revision of the two mile standard is well within her capabilities this winter.
"I will try for my record," Defar said at a press conference today, "but it will be a bit difficult since I'm still a little tired from Stockholm. But I felt really good running there."
Defar said she's hoping for a 2:47 to 2:48 pace per kilometer, a tempo on par with that of her 3000m world indoor record run in Stuttgart in February, 2007. Later that year, Defar followed up her 5000m world title in Osaka with an 8:58.58 run over two miles outdoors in Brussels, the first sub-nine minute performance in history.
Along for the ride are Zakia Mrisho of Tanzania and Lidia Chojecka of Poland, who two years ago became the first women to race to both 1500 and 3000m titles at a European Indoor championship.
- Another 1000m WR assault by Kaki
Initially billed as an assault on Wilson Kipketer's nine-year-old 2:14.96 world record by Abubaker Kaki, the world indoor 800m champion, the men's 1000m could very well be a solid race, first and foremost. The 19-year-old Sudanese has notched victories in each of his two outings over the distance this season, with his 2:16.23 from Stuttgart pacing the world. His primary challenge will come from Kenyan Augustine Choge who brings some strong momentum to Prague after he out-kicked and beat Bernard Lagat in the Birmingham 1500m last Saturday. Ugandan record holder Abraham Chepkirwok could also be a factor.
- Another Bungei-Ismail rematch
Olympic 800m champion Wilfred Bungei leads the field in the men's 800m, where he'll once again face Olympic silver medallist Ismail Ahmed Ismail of Sudan. Each has won two of their four races this season, but Ismail, the world leader, holds a narrow 2-1 head-to-head advantage over the Bungei. Most recently, Bungei was the winner in Birmingham and Ismail the runner-up in Stockholm where Bungei was a distant fifth. The field also includes Kenyan Olympian Boaz Lalang and Spaniard Antonio Manuel Reina, the latter looking to bounce back from disappointment at the Spanish championships where he didn't advance to the final.
- Kipsiele Koech ambitious in indoor 5000m debut
In the men’s 5000m, Paul Kipsiele Koech is hoping to make his indoor debut over the distance an auspicious one. A 13:11.26 performer over the distance outdoors, the Kenyan steeplechase standout is aiming to become only the fourth man to dip under the 13-minute barrier indoors.
"This race will be very important for me," said Kipsiele Koech, who has won both of his 3000m races this season and has the world leading time of 7:32.80. "If I can run under 13 minutes, I'll be very happy."
The field also includes Ethiopian teenager Abreham Cherkos, the World Indoor 3000m bronze medallist, and Kenyan 1500m ace Daniel Kipchirchir Komen. Both will also be making their indoor 5000m debuts.
World record bonuses are on offer, but would not be disclosed by organizers.
Held in the recently-built 02 Arena, Thursday night's meet will be the first major international indoor invitational ever held in Prague.
PHOTOS: Meseret Defar and Paul Kipsiele Koech at the pre-meet press conference in Prague today (photos by Bob Ramsak, Race Results Weekly)