2024 World Indoor Track & Field Championships

For Athletes, World Indoors Plays Important Role In Olympic Year

For Athletes, World Indoors Plays Important Role In Olympic Year

Athletes take a step in the right direction toward their Olympic dreams by competing at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

Feb 29, 2024 by David Monti
For Athletes, World Indoors Plays Important Role In Olympic Year

GLASGOW (29-Feb) -- The athletics program for the Paris 2024 Olympics doesn't commence for another 154 days, but for athletes competing at the 19th World Athletics Indoor Championships here at the Emirates Arena this weekend's competition will inject some much-needed excitement into their training programs and provide valuable feedback on their Olympic preparations.  The stakes aren't as high as they will be in Paris, but competing at a global championships always gets their juices flowing.

"Training has gone pretty well," said Dutchwoman Femke Bol who just set a World Athletics short track 400-meter record of 49.24 seconds only 11 days ago.  Last year's 400m hurdles world champion continued: "Every year you work on something else.  This year we tried to work on the speed a bit; I could see now indoors, already, that this is working."

Bol, 24, who is the second-fastest 400m hurdles woman of all time, is a versatile athlete who enjoys competing in a variety of events.  This indoor season she has competed in both the 200m and 400m, and last year she ran 500m indoors (setting a world best), and competed in both the women's and mixed-sex 4 x 400m relays.  In Glasgow she'll be doing both the 400m and the 4 x 400m relay and she is clearly ready to get going on her hurdles training in the spring.  She won bronze in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and hopes to upgrade that medal in Paris.

"I'm starting to miss my hurdles a bit, because I'm not doing them indoors too much," she told reporters here this morning.  She continued: "It's my favorite event.  I will say I love to do 400, I love to do relay races, but my hurdles are what I like to do the most and focus on outdoors."

While some athletes skip the indoor season, others like Bol embrace the chance to compete in a more intimate setting where the crowds are so close to the track.

"I'm just looking forward to racing indoors," Bol said.  "You never know what happens."

Britain's Josh Kerr, the reigning world 1500m champion, nearly skipped these championships.  He grew up in Edinburgh just an hour's drive from here, and many fans assumed after his world title last summer that he would compete here.  But the 26 year-old had been transparent about how running at these championships might not be his best option with so much at stake in Paris.  Working with his Brooks Beasts Track Club coach Danny Mackey, Kerr took it one day at a time, and after setting a world indoor best for two miles at the Millrose Games in New York earlier this month he finally opened the door to competing here.

"I think I need a couple of days to make that decision," he told reporters in New York. "I've shown I'm in great shape. I'm in great shape. If my legs hold up, then why not?"

Kerr only committed to these championships ten days ago, and it was clear from his comments today that he's very excited to compete in front of the home crowd where he will run the 3000m on Saturday night.  He selected the 3000m over the 1500m because it meshes better with the current endurance phase of his training (he even ran a half-marathon last December).

"I grew up racing here," Kerr said at this morning's press conference.  "I raced in the Emirates or in Glasgow overall 50 or 60 times coming through from Edinburgh.  I mean, this place is going to be absolutely electric.  It has an amazing balance between getting enough people in here and also feeling like it's a small stadium where everyone feels like they're on top of you.  I think it's going to be so loud and amazing.  I don't think anyone puts on a running event like the U.K. does."

Kerr dismissed speculation that there had been an argument between him and Mackey on whether these championships would interfere with his training for Paris.  Instead, he said, the two had an active dialog and came to the decision mutually.

"No, there is no arguments," he said, responding to a reporter's question.  "The conversation had to be the training had to come more easily than it usually does indoors.  For me it normally takes a little more time to build up to these events.  The short track sometimes isn't the most beneficial to my knees, my hips and everything.  So, I was just making sure the body wasn't fighting the training.  I didn't want to give up the opportunity to go out and win another Olympic medal because I was forcing my hand to be here at home championships.  That was his point of view.  For me, I wanted to be here so that meant that I had to be extremely regimented about what I did to show I was in a great position."

Sadly, fans here won't get to see Kerr compete against reigning Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen (the Norwegian is recovering from an Achilles injury).  Ingebrigtsen, who holds the world best time for two miles outdoors (7:54.10), was dismissive of Kerr's indoor best of 8:00.67 at the Millrose Games saying that he could have beaten the Scotsman "blindfolded."  When a Norwegian reporter asked Kerr today about Ingebrigtsen's comment, Kerr smiled, took a brief pause, then said in his deep baritone: "No comment."

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe likes how these championships provide a showcase for the world's best athletes ahead of the Olympics, noting that over 600 athletes were set to compete here.  Just one day after he announced that the 2027 World Athletics Championships would be in Beijing, Coe told reporters that Glasgow played an important role in this Olympic year.

"I don't know about you but I'm very excited to be in Glasgow again," said the two-time Olympic 1500m gold medalist.  He added: "Indoors has a great role to play.  It brings the crowds, especially younger spectators, up and close to the athletes."