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2012 World Indoor Championships Men's Preview

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The 2012 World Indoor Championships will be held in Istanbul, Turkey from March 9-11. The 13 men's event favorites include some defending gold medalists from the 2010 Doha World Indoor Championships, other young talent that emerged at last year's outdoor World Championships - including Kirani James and Christian Taylor - as well as some top performers from the 2012 season.

1. 60 meters

The 60 could come down to another U.S. vs. Jamaica sprint battle. Jamaica’s Lerone Clarke has the year’s best times run at sea level – at 6.47 and 6.50 seconds – with countryman Nesta Carter next at 6.49 and 6.51. American Trell Kimmons has run 6.45 at altitude, with a season’s best of 6.56 at sea level. The Championships offer Justin Gatlin a real chance at his first major medal since the 2005 World Championships, following his 4-year doping ban that ended in 2010. Great Britain’s Dwain Chambers, who served a 2-year ban from 2003-05, gained silver and gold medals, respectively, in the 2008 and 2010 World Indoor Championships and should also be a factor in Istanbul.

2. 400 meters

The 2011 World champion, Kirani James, has this year’s world-leading time of 45.19 seconds and is the solid gold medal favorite. Chris Brown is back to defend his 2010 title, but fellow Bahamian Demetrius Pinder (45.4 this year) is a more likely challenger. But it’s hard to image anyone beating James, who’s still getting better at age 19.

3. 800 meters

Poland’s Adam Kszczot has dominated the indoor season, running a world-leading 1:44.57 at Lievin and 1:45.44 in Dusseldorf. Key challengers should include fellow Pole Marcin Lewandowski, Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman – who’s second in the world at 1:45.40 – and 2010 World Indoor silver medalist Boaz Lalang of Kenya.

4. 1500 meters

Local fans will have a realistic rooting interest, as Turkey’s Ilham Ozbilen finished second at Karlsruhe this year in 3:34.76 and won at Stockholm in 3:34.88. Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider, the Doha runner-up, is the world leader, winning the Lievin race in 3:34.10. Other contenders should include Karlsruhe winner Bethwell Birgen (3:34.65), plus fellow Kenyan Silas Kiplagat, Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin and American Matthew Centrowitz.

5. 3000 meters

Bernard Lagat returns to defend his title and can’t be counted out even though he’s not among the year’s indoor leaders, with a season-best time of 7:47.54 at altitude. The same can be said for last year’s 5000-meter World champion, Mo Farah of Great Britain, who recently placed third at Birmingham in 7:37.4. The season’s top three times were posted at Karlsruhe, where winner Augustine Choge edged fellow Kenyan Edwin Cheruiyot Soi, as both were timed in 7:29.94. Soi won Lievin in 7:32.56, while Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew was third in Karlsruhe in 7:31.23.

6. 60-meter hurdles

The lone indoor hurdles race could be another Liu Xiang vs. Dayron Robles tangle – although let’s hope they don’t actually become tangled, as they did in Daegu, when Robles was disqualified for bumping Liu. Liu is second in the world this season – and No. 1 at sea level – with his 7.41-second performance in Birmingham. Robles, the defending champ, posted a season-best 7.50 at Birmingham. Doha silver medalist Terrance Trammell has the best sea level time among the three Americans at 7.52 this season, but don’t count out his countrymen, Aries Merritt and Kevin Craddock, or Russian Konstantin Shabanov, who was fastest at Karlsruhe (7.52).

7. High jump

Russia’s Andrey Silnov has been the season’s most consistent performer, with three of the world’s top seven jumps, including a 2.36-meter (7 feet, 8¾ inches) clearance in Moscow. Countryman Ivan Ukhov, the Doha gold medalist, has cleared 2.34/7-8, while Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim holds the world lead at 2.37/7-9¼. Keep an eye on Great Britain’s Robert Grabarz, who’s cleared 2.34 this season, and 2011 World champ Jesse Williams of the U.S. (2.32/7-7¼).

8. Pole vault

Two-time World Championship bronze medalist Renaud Lavillenie of France may be ready to break through this year after leaping a world-best 5.93/19-5½ in mid-February. Germany’s Bjorn Otto, however, has been the season’s most consistent vaulter, clearing 5.92/19-5 twice while posting four of the year’s top nine jumps. Russia’s Dmitry Starodubtsev has cleared 5.90/19-4¼, while Germany’s Malte Mohr and American veteran Brad Walker could also battle for podium spots.

9. Long jump

American Will Claye will compete in both the long and triple jump, as he did in Daegu, and will enjoy a solid chance to win both events. Claye and Russia’s Aleksandr Menkov share the season’s long jump lead at 8.24/27-½, with South African veteran and 2010 silver medalist Godfrey Mokoena poised to challenge for another medal after leaping 8.04/26-4½ in Moscow, where he was second to Menkov.

10. Triple jump

Claye has the year’s top two jumps, 17.63/57-10 at altitude and 17.39/57-½ at sea level. He’ll be a top favorite, along with fellow American Christian Taylor, the 2011 World champ. Italy is poised to do well in the triple jump as Daniele Greco and Fabrizio Donato are tied for third on the 2012 world list (17.24/56-6¾), while France’s Benjamin Compaore holds the sixth and seventh spots.

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