Sports reporter Lucy Parry reviews the World Indoor Tour Final, hosted in Birmingham earlier this year

Images by Lucy Parry

On Saturday 25th February, some of the best British and international athletes lined up in front of a packed crowd in Utilita Arena Birmingham for the World Indoor Tour Final.

Indoor athletics is a slightly different experience for the athletes. Many athletes view the indoor season as an opportunity to test themselves and see how their winter training has gone. Middle distance runners use it to sharpen their tactical racing brains as moves must be decisive on the shorter 200m track. Sprinters improve their starts because 60m races are far less forgiving to a poor start. Field athletes enjoy the lack of wind and rain. 

Indoor events are also different, and perhaps better, for the fans. Everything feels closer and therefore I felt more involved in the action. With the 60m track in the middle, fans all around the arena have a great view of the sprinting stars.

The darling of British Athletics, Dina Asher-Smith, received the warmest welcome from the crowd. She had a hard season last year. She was disappointed to only come away with a bronze medal from the World Championships and a silver from the European Championships. But this season she has come out all guns blazing, ready to win races again. Earlier in 2023 she claimed her third British sprinting record, running 60m in 7.04 seconds. The crowd expected fireworks, and Asher-Smith rarely disappoints a British crowd. She set a new British record of 7.03 seconds in the heat and pulled away from a strong line up in the final.

In the women’s 3000m, Gudaf Tsegay was aiming for a new world record. She was out on her own for half of the race but with the “wavelight” technology indicating the world record pace in green lights on the inside track, the “race against the clock” was brought to life. It seemed like the record was slipping away. The roar from the crowd helped Tsegay get back on terms with the green lights. After an exciting last lap she crossed the line, unfortunately missing the world record by 0.09 seconds.

The roar from the crowd helped Tsegay get back on terms with the green lights

My favourite race of the World Indoor Tour Final was the Men’s 1500m. World Champion, Jake Wightman, was absent due to injury, but the British depth in this event meant that there were two great contenders in Josh Kerr and Neil Gourley. Kerr was the favourite before the race and was aiming to improve his British Record. However, Gourley had other plans and after tracking Kerr for most of the race, he overtook in the last lap. His blistering final 200m gave him a win, a new British Record of 3:32.45 and made him a contender for the European Indoor Championships. 

Laura Muir loves competing indoors, particularly with a home crowd. This time her goal was a World Record over 1000m. She did not get the record but it was a good opportunity to test her legs before the European Indoor Championship. She did a lap of honour after the race, thanking the crowd for their support. She said: “I was going to go for it regardless and I feel like I’m in the shape to run the sort of time, it’s getting that perfect and it’s so hard to get right.”

Having broken the 600m World Record earlier this season, Keely Hodgkinson set her sights on the 800m World Record. After pulling away from the field, it was Hodgkinson against the green lights and, much to the disappointment of her and the crowd, the lights won. Despite missing the record, she still improved her British Record to 1:57.18 seconds, which puts her in a great position to defend her European Indoor title. UoB alumni Issy Boffey also ran a new personal best of 2:00.25, punching her ticket to Istanbul for the European championships, where she could win her first senior medal.

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