The World Comes to Boston for the Reebok Boston Indoor Games
If it’s true that the mood of New England rises and falls by the tides of its sports success – think Boston Marathon tradition, New England Patriots dominance and the at-long-last -rewarded devotion of Red Sox Nation – then elation will abound from Presque Isle to Pawtucket over the 2005 Reebok Boston Indoor Games.
Posted Monday, 17 January, 2005
Set for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 29, at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, the Olympic-style track-and-field event enters its 10th year as one of the best indoor meets in the world, with its sights set even higher thanks to Reebok, its new title sponsor. With a lineup of athletes headlined by 2004 Olympic gold medalists Kenenisa Bekele and Carolina Kluft, the 2005 Reebok Boston Indoor Games can certainly claim a spot among the biggest sporting events to be found anywhere in the Northeast, and that’s no small achievement.
With many big names still to be announced, other top athletes expected to compete so far include Jonathon Riley (USA), Tim Broe (USA), Alistair Cragg (Ireland), Kevin Sullivan (Canada), Dee Dee Trotter (USA), Melissa Morrison (USA), Jolanda Ceplak (Slovenia) and Meseret Defar (Ethiopia). All are 2004 Olympians, with Morrison taking home a bronze medal in the 100-meter hurdles; Trotter earning gold in the 4x400-meter relay; Ceplak garnering bronze at 800 meters, and Defar winning a gold medal at 5000 meters – an event she won here last year in a riveting race against fellow Athens medalists Tirunesh Dibaba and Derartu Tulu.
In fact, nine athletes who began their 2004 seasons in Boston went on to win medals in the Olympic Games last summer, and the event has hosted more than 70 Olympic and World Championship medalists since it began in 1996. The 2005 version is shaping up to be no different, with those six medalists from Athens already committed and more sure to come.
Tickets are available at www.BostonIndoorGames.com, or by calling 1-866-GOBIG05. This year, fans will be able to purchase Platinum-level or Gold-level reserved seats along the finish line and home stretch, with Platinum seats including a meet program and a T-shirt autographed by one of the top athletes. Silver-level, general-admission seats are available along the back stretch. The 2005 Reebok Boston Indoor Games is the first stop of the Visa Championship Series, and will be televised on ESPN on Jan. 30,
The coup of luring Kenenisa Bekele, who has never before competed in the United States, cannot be overstated. Unquestionably the top track-and-field athlete in the world for 2004, the young Ethiopian is widely seen as the runner most likely to surpass the legendary Haile Gebrselassie for the title as “best ever,” so it is fitting that Gebrselassie’s wildly popular appearance at the 2004 Boston meet encouraged Bekele to follow on his heels. “Haile told me what great fans the Reebok Boston Indoor Games have,” said Bekele upon announcing his plans.
Just 22, Bekele’s 2004 season, in which he broke three world records, was among the best in history for any track athlete. Already the reigning World Champion at 10,000 meters, Bekele began his assault on the record books by breaking Gebrselassie’s world indoor record for 5000 meters (12:49.60). In March, he earned his third consecutive double victory, at both 4 kilometers and 12 kilometers, at the World Cross Country Championships, making him the most-decorated cross-country runner in history. Within nine days last summer, he broke two more of the venerable Gebrselassie’s world marks, 5000 meters (12:37.35) and 10,000 meters (26:20.31) outdoors before taking gold in Athens at 10,000 and silver at 5000. His 27:05.10 at 10,000 is an Olympic record.
Kluft, the 21-year-old from Sweden who earned the title of world’s Greatest All-Around Female Athlete by winning Olympic gold in the heptathlon, promises to be just as exciting for the Boston fans as she competes in the long jump, her best event. Like heptathlon legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee before her, Kluft is among the top long jumpers in the world, earning a bronze medal at the 2004 World Indoor Championships and qualifying for the Olympic long-jump final just four days after winning heptathlon gold in Athens.
With an exuberance that’s always a crowd pleaser, Kluft is a rising superstar who leaped to the forefront of the sport when she won the 2003 World Championship, and has not lost a heptathlon in three years. In Athens, her seven-event score of 6,952 ranks her second all-time in the Olympics to only Joyner-Kersee. She is one of the marquee track-and-field athletes sponsored by Reebok.
That his event would someday attract the likes of first Gebrselassie and now Bekele and Kluft was only a dream back in 1996 to meet director Mark Wetmore. That year, Wetmore – the president of Global Athletics & Marketing, Inc., a Boston-based athlete-representation firm – founded the event primarily so his own athletes would have one more place to compete. So on January 26, 1996, the Boston Indoor Games was born, immediately entering the history books as the first open meet to be held at the new Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. “People said there were 500 (fans), and I think they were being kind. I think they counted the athletes,” Wetmore said in a Boston Globe interview last year headlined “Elite come to Boston: Meet a key stop for the in crowd.” Kathy Franey of Boston was the track’s first open winner when she captured the 3000-meter crown in 9:01.31.
The next two years brought local hero Calvin Davis, fresh off his 1996 Olympic bronze medal in the 400-meter hurdles, back to Boston. In 1997, the devoted crowd spurred him on to run his fastest indoor 400 meters ever, while in 1998 he was nipped at the line in a dramatic photo finish that had his many fans in a frenzy.
It was in 1999 that the Reggie Lewis track really began to show its potential for speed and attract serious star power, with Suzy Favor Hamilton equaling the 800-meter indoor American record (1:58.92); Maurice Greene, the 1997 World Champion at 100 meters, blistering the 60 meters in 6.45 seconds, the fastest ever run on U.S. soil, and Melissa Mueller breaking her own American pole vault record. The next year, 2000, brought the meet’s first World Record, courtesy of the 4x800-meter relay team of Joey Woody, Paranya, Rich Kenah and David Krummenacker. It would not be Krummenacker’s last triumph in Boston.
As popular as a rock star, Olympic gold medalist Stacy Dragila dazzled the crowd in 2001 when she narrowly missed breaking her own World Record in the pole vault. Then, in 2002, the Games took a giant step onto the international stage when Jolanda Ceplak, then a relative unknown, ran a national record 1:57.79 to win at 800 meters; Regina Jacobs set the 2-mile World Record; Tim Broe notched an American record at 3000 meters, and Krummenacker returned to capture the American record at 1000 meters.
In 2003, the event proved it had become a “must” stop on the indoor circuit for many of the world’s top athletes. Stacy Dragila once again lit up the arena – which, for the first time, featured a sellout crowd. Improving on her own American record, the pole-vault superstar posted a jump of 15-5 ½. Another World Record was set, by Regina Jacobs (3:59.98) at 1500 meters. To top things off, Alistair Cragg set an NCAA record at 3000 meters in an upset over Kenya’s Noah Ngeny, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist at 1500 meters.
Last year, three women at the top of the sport – Gail Devers, Allyson Felix and Derartu Tulu – made their 2004 debuts, but it was the magnetic Haile Gebrselassie who enthralled the crowd. From the moment he flashed his wide smile during warm-ups to his 7:35.24 victory – the fastest 3000 meters ever run on U.S. soil – the Ethiopian legend delighted everyone who witnessed his grace and greatness.
Now comes 2005, and with it the chance to see Bekele, the athlete most likely to succeed Gebrselassie as the best ever, compete for the first time in this country; the chance to applaud Kluft and dozens of other 2004 Olympians as they get their first post-Athens seasons under way; and the chance to welcome a hometown hero, Reebok, as the new title sponsor. Chances like that don’t come along every day, so visit www.BostonIndoorGames for tickets before your chance runs out.