Five head-to-heads at World Indoor Championships

Ferdinand Omanyala

Sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala at the Belgrade Airport in Serbia after arriving for the World Indoor Athletics Championships on March 16, 2022.

Photo credit: Elias Makori | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The championship features a loaded field including 12 gold medallists from the Tokyo Olympics and a host of other world champions.

Belgrade, Serbia

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has described the line-up for this week's World Indoor Championships in Belgrade as one of an "incredibly high standard".

The championship features a loaded field including 12 gold medallists from the Tokyo Olympics and a host of other world champions.

"Wherever you look, we've got some tasty head-to-heads," Coe said, describing the likes of Swedish pole vault star Mondo Duplantis as one of the sport's "rock stars", with the personality to back up stellar performances and better promote athletics.

"The raw competition between two athletes at the top of their game is really what the fans want and they're going to get that."

Belgrade's Stark Arena plays host to the first major championship in a year that also features the world outdoor championships in Eugene, Oregon, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, and the European championships in Munich, Germany.

AFP Sport looks at five of the best head-to-heads:

Coleman v Jacobs - men's 60m

Reigning outdoor 100m champion Christian Coleman will be defending his 60m title in the Serbian capital after making a comeback from an 18-month suspension for breaching anti-doping rules. As Coleman sat out Tokyo, Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs streaked to Olympic gold.

The Italian, who competed in the long jump at the European indoors in Belgrade in 2017 before switching to sprints a year later, is on a four-race winning streak indoors, setting up what should be a memorable 60m final in Belgrade. "I'm very pleased that he's there," Coe said of Jacobs' presence. "There will clearly be a desire to win a title. He'd also feel it's a good opportunity to test himself in a championship in advance of the outdoor season."

Kenya's emerging force Ferdinand Omanyala will also be in the mix.

Duplantis v Nilsen - men's pole vault

In a good omen, Duplantis bettered his own world record to 6.19m last week in Belgrade. "I don’t think this is the highest that I’m ever going to jump. There’s going to be a lot more to come," Duplantis vowed. "This is a really good place to jump for championships and I’m going to try and put something else higher."

There are three other vaulters who have cleared 6.00m or better, with American Chris Nilsen, who took silver behind Duplantis in Tokyo, the most likely to bother the Swede after setting a North American indoor record of 6.05m in Rouen last week. All eyes will be on how high the bar goes.

Miller-Uibo v Bol - women's 400m

"That will be a terrific coupling," predicted Coe of the showdown between Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time Olympic 400m champion from the Bahamas, and Dutch youngster Femke Bol.

The versatile Bahamian is not a regular fixture at indoor meets, but Bol is -- the Dutchwoman, who won Olympic bronze in Tokyo, is undefeated indoors for the past two years.

Ingebrigtsen v Tefera - men's 1500m

The men's 1500m will see Olympic gold medallist Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway looking to depose Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera as the world indoor champion.

"It warms my heart to see that," said Coe, himself a two-time Olympic outdoor 1500m gold medallist for Britain.

Based on their recent clash in Lievin, where Ingebrigtsen broke Tefera's world indoor 1500m record, clocking 3:30.60, the pressure and expectation will rest with the 21-year-old Norwegian.

Vuleta v Ugen - women's long jump

Home supporters at the Stark Arena will be backing Serbian star Ivana Vuleta (nee Spanovic) when she takes to the runway. The 31-year-old is the defending world indoor champion and has the best mark in the field this year – the 6.88m she jumped at the World Indoor Tour Silver meeting in Belgrade last week.

Vuleta also jumped 6.83m three times in that competition, a mark none of her rivals have hit this year. Britain's Lorraine Ugen has jumped 6.75m this season and will no doubt push the Serb all the way on home ground.