Isinbayeva top draw at World Indoors

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ISTANBUL — With one vault last month, Yelena Isinbayeva gave the indoor season all the spice it needed.

This weekend in Istanbul, the Russian pole vaulter will be looking to add the world title to her latest world record and establish herself as one of the most bankable stars of the London Olympics.

Beyond Isinbayeva, the three-day championships starting tomorrow will also have in-form hurdlers Sally Pearson and Liu Xiang and plenty of outdoor champions to prove that a competition without Usain Bolt is still worth following.

Isinbayeva saw her string of three indoor gold medals snapped two years ago, highlighting a fall from grace from which she is only emerging from this winter.

After showing hesitant signs of recovery, she set a world record of 5,01m almost out of the blue in her last preparatory meeting in Stockholm two weeks ago.

At the 7 450-capacity Atakoy Arena, she will be facing her two closest challengers this year, Jenny Suhr of the United States and Holly Bleasdale of Britain.

It will be tough to bet against Isinbayeva now that she’s found her groove again.

Perhaps the closest to match Isinbayeva’s form is Pearson, the reigning outdoor 100m hurdles champion and the IAAF’s female athlete of the year.

The Australian won the national Olympic trials in 12,49secs on a wet and miserable weekend in Melbourne, the fastest time ever for a 100m hurdles on Australian soil. No woman has ever run a faster hurdles race this early in the year.

On the men’s side, there long was hope for another duel with both Liu and Dayron Robles eager to compete against each other. Late Monday, however, Robles decided to cut short his winter season because of a small, unspecified leg problem. Instead of competing in Istanbul, Robles returned to Cuba to prepare for the London Games.

With the exit of the defending champion, Liu looks poised to reclaim the title he first won four years ago in Valencia, Spain, and set himself up for another Olympic gold, after his victory at the 2004 Athens Games.
— Reuters