By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) – Even with outstanding hurdles races at U.S. indoor meetings and talented field event competitions in Europe, international athletics is continuing to be impacted by the long 2019 outdoor season.
Many top sprinters are skipping or limiting their indoor season, often because the 2019 world outdoor championships extended into October, more than a month later than usual, managers and coaches told Reuters.
Even the lure of an indoor world championships in China has not pulled world outdoor champions Noah Lyles (U,S.) and Dina Asher-Smith (Britain) and medalists Justin Gatlin (U.S.), Andre De Grasse (Canada) and Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas) to the winter circuit.
World 100m champion Christian Coleman may also join them.
“Coleman is still deciding if he will compete,” manager Emanuel Hudson said of the 60m world indoor record holder and 2019 world 100m gold medalist.
But it was a definite “no way” from Mark Wetmore, manager for U.S. world 200m champion Lyles, who will sit out the indoor season.
“Athletes were exceptionally tired after Doha as a class. It was so long,” said Wetmore.
Wetmore and Paul Doyle, agent for Canadian Olympic and world double sprint medalist De Grasse, also mentioned the shorter than normal downtime between the world championships and the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held from July 24 to Aug. 9.
That gap of less than 10 months is much shorter than the nearly one year time frame between the 2015 world championships, which concluded in late August, and the 2016 Olympics, which opened in early August.
“The timing doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Lance Brauman, who coaches Lyles and Olympic 400m champion Miller-Uibo.
No matter how short the break, though, Caribbean sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Steven Gardiner will be running at least once indoors.
“She will be doing Glasgow,” said agent Adrian Laidlaw of Jamaican world 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
The Feb. 15 Glasgow event is part of the seven-meeting World Athletics Indoor Tour.
Bahamian Gardiner’s competitions will be even more low key with a couple of 300m races.
“Every year we do this just to see how training is going,” said coach Gary Evans.
There will be nothing low key about U.S. hurdles races, though.
Olympic gold medalist Brianna McNeal and world champion Nia Ali will clash over the 60m hurdles at the Boston Indoor Grand Prix on Jan. 25 to open the World Athletics Indoor Tour and in New York, the Millrose Games hurdles race on Feb. 8 will match Olympic champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica, world gold medalist Grant Holloway and U.S. outdoor winner Daniel Roberts.
The New York meeting also will feature a shot put duel between Olympic gold medalist Ryan Crouser and world champion Joe Kovacs, key races involving world 800m winner Donavan Brazier and women’s 800m medalist Ajee Wilson and a special appearance in the 60m by 13-times world champion sprinter Allyson Felix who will be seeking to make her fifth U.S. Olympic team this summer.
Meanwhile in Europe, the three pole vault medalists from Doha – American Sam Kendricks, Swede Mondo Duplantis and Poland’s Piotr Lisek – will feature in Dusseldorf’s Feb. 4 World Tour meeting..
But the cycle for top sprinters running all out indoors is several years away, coach Brauman believes.
“Some will run next year (2021) because it fits their schedule and you have a bigger break between the Games and the next world championships,” Brauman said. “But to be honest with you, the next big indoor season for pros won’t be until 2022.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)