Reebok Boston Indoor Games -- The Nations' Top Indoor Meet
From its inception in 1996, meet director Mark Wetmore knew he wanted his little event at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center to grow. What he didn’t know was that, within a decade, it would become one of the best indoor meets in the world, not to mention one of the hottest tickets in town.
Posted Wednesday, 11 January, 2006
“Who could have guessed that?” asks Wetmore, who is also president of Boston-based Global Athletics & Marketing, Inc. “Of course we wanted it to get bigger and better. But the best athletes in the world, year after year? We’ve been blessed beyond our wildest hopes that so many things came together to make that happen.”
The “little event” is now a world-class extravaganza. Over the past 10 years, the Reebok Boston Indoor Games has been the site of four World Records, eight American Records and 11 National Records while playing host to 80 Olympic and World Championships medalists. Many of the best and brightest athletes on the planet have competed here: in 2005 alone, exuberant fans cheered for 2004 Olympic gold medalists Kenenisa Bekele, Carolina Kluft and Meseret Defar. The year before, it brought to the United States for only the third time in his storied career Haile Gebrselassie, widely considered the best distance runner in history.
This time around, on Jan. 28, the 11th annual Reebok Boston Indoor Games will feature double World Champion Tirunesh Dibaba, the top female track athlete in the world for 2005; and a sizzling 2-mile race that will almost certainly be the fastest ever contested in this country.
Also on tap will be Lauryn Williams, the reigning 100m World Champion and 2004 Olympic silver medalist; plus the return of popular shot putters Adam Nelson, John Godina, Christian Cantwell and Reese Hoffa. Nelson, who won here last year, used the meet as a springboard toward a gold medal at the 2005 World Championships. Other top athletes, including many Olympic medalists and national record-holders, are still to be announced. Tickets are available at www.BostonIndoorGames.com or by calling 1-866-GOBIG06.
Leading the way on Jan. 28 will be the phenomenal Dibaba, who in 2005 smashed the 5000-meter World Record here before going on to have one of the most breathtaking seasons the sport has ever seen. Before it was over, the 20-year-old from Ethiopia would have four new gold medals to hang around her tiny neck, as she became only the second woman in history to win double gold at the World Cross Country Championships and the first to win gold at both 5000m and 10,000m in the World Championships. In between, she would tie the World Record for 5 kilometers on the roads.
A few years ago, when she was new on the international scene, a reporter referred to Dibaba as “the baby-faced destroyer.” Asked recently what she thought of that description, she said it fits her perfectly. “I have to destroy in this business of ours,” she said matter-of-factly.
If there is any destroying to be done in the men’s 2-mile race, it’s likely to be the clock that suffers most. For fans of pure racing – and Boston may have the best -- this event promises to be a rare gem. Wetmore has assembled a field so deep that a six-man fight down the homestretch for victory would surprise no one, and the record for the fastest 2-mile race ever run on American soil (8:16.15, set here in 2000) is likely to go down.
But who will do the honors? Will it be Craig Mottram of Australia, the 2005 World Championships bronze medalist at 5000m? Alistair Cragg of Ireland, the reigning 3000m European Indoor champion? Sileshi Sihine of Ethiopia, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist at 10,000m?
Mottram, the first non-African to win a World Championships medal at 5000m medal since 1987, will be making his Reebok Boston Indoor Games debut. Sihine, who won silver at both 5000m and 10,000m at this summer’s World Championships, will not only be running on this track for the first time, but will be competing for the first time in this country. Cragg, on the other hand, has seen his greatest successes right here in Boston. In 2003 he broke the NCAA 3000m record here in defeating Noah Ngeny, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist; in 2005, he scored a huge upset when he nipped Bekele, the Ethiopian superstar, at the line for victory in what would hold up as the fastest indoor 3000m time of the year.
Or perhaps the victor will come from a stellar roster of Ethiopian challengers: Gebre Gebremariam, the four-time World Cross Country Championships medalist; Markos Geneti, the 2004 World Indoor bronze medalist at 3000m; and Abebe Dinkessa, a 10,000m finalist at the 2005 World Championships. Maybe it will be Kenyan Boaz Cheboiywo, a two-time NCAA champion out of Eastern Michigan University. And don’t count out the Americans: Ryan Hall and Ian Dobson, both members of the 2005 World Championships 5000m team; Jorge Torres, a finalist at 5000m in the 2003 World Championships; Dan Lincoln, a steeplechase finalist in Athens; and local favorite Jonathon Riley, the three-time U.S. 3000m champion who graduated from Brookline High School in 1997 as a seven-time All-American after winning six Massachusetts state titles.
Whoever breaks the tape will join the unparalleled list of previous Reebok Boston Indoor Games winners: Suzy Favor Hamilton, Maurice Greene, Stacy Dragila, Gail Devers and Tonique Darling among them, in addition to Dibaba, Defar, Kluft and Gebrselassie.
It was Hamilton in 1999 who showed the potential of the Reggie Lewis track for world-class speed when she equaled the 800-meter indoor American record (1:58.92) here. That same year, Greene came to Boston as the reigning World Champion at 100 meters and blistered the 60 in 6.45 seconds, the fastest time ever run on U.S. soil; he would go on, of course, to win two gold medals at the 2000 Olympics.
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. Two years later, she returned to one of her favorite venues and wowed the first sell-out crowd in the meet’s history by breaking her own American record. Devers, meanwhile, made her debut here in 2004 (along with Allyson Felix and Derartu Tulu, no less), setting a meet record for the 60-meter hurdles; Darling won at 400m in 2003, the year before she won Olympic gold and took half of a $1 million jackpot for remaining undefeated in Europe’s Golden League meets.
If that reads like a Who’s Who in the track-and-field universe, that’s because it is. More of the same awaits fans at the 2006 version of the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, coming to an arena near you! The 11th-annual Reebok Boston Indoor Games will be held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College, 1350 Tremont St., from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 28, and will be broadcast Jan. 29 on ESPN2 from 3-4:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.BostonIndoorGames.com.