We highlight five events you won’t want to miss at this weekend’s European Athletics Indoor Championships in Gothenburg
Although many of the continent’s finest have chosen not to compete this winter, the 32nd edition of the European Athletics Indoor Championships is still set to be an exciting affair and could easily throw up its fair share of surprises.
The Brits may be without the services of their three Olympic champions, but the GB & NI team nevertheless arrives in Sweden with medal chances throughout the three-day programme which takes place from March 1-3.
With coverage on the BBC, Eurosport and European Athletics Live TV, as well as your dedicated Athletics Weekly team tweeting throughout the event, you’d do well to miss a moment. But just in case you’re not sure which events to really hone in on, we’ve picked our five to follow, which should also help to get you nicely warmed up.
First, (thanks to Sport On The Box) here’s a teaser to get you in the mood…
Not since 1987 has a British sprinter failed to make the podium in the 60m and UK indoor champion James Dasaolu and Dwain Chambers will be keen to continue this remarkable trend.
Both of them have demonstrated sharp form with 6.58 season’s bests but the latter has been hampered by a back injury which still appeared to bother the 2009 champion in Birmingham a fortnight ago as he failed to progress from his heat. Even if Chambers was at full fitness, the outcome would not be a certainty.
The field is headed by Italy’s Michael Tumi and Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut, who have posted times Chambers has not matched since 2010. Tumi leads the rankings with a national record of 6.51 from world finalist Vicaut, who has run between 6.53 and 6.57 in his six races this year.
The fact that Gothenburg has twice hosted these championships and on both occasions British athletes have come away with medals in the 60m – through Andrea Lynch in 1974 and Bev Kinch in 1984, meant we couldn’t not mention the women’s 60m in this preview too.
Surely this is a good omen for Asha Philip, who is ranked second in Europe this year with a PB of 7.15. Unlike in some events, most of Europe’s best in the 60m are giving these championships their due regard and this should ensure a high-quality final.
The non-selection of any British representatives in the men’s 1500m has been a big talking point, but a full quota of athletes have been chosen for the 800m.
Indoor rookie Michael Rimmer leads the rankings from Mukhtar Mohammed and, along with UK indoor champion Joe Thomas, they all have reasonable medal chances if they run tactically well.
Despite the paucity of fast times, sub-1:44 outdoor performer Kevin Lopez of Spain will be a danger based on his victory over a strong field in Karlsruhe containing, among others, defending champion Adam Kszczot from Poland.
The women’s event will see team captain Jenny Meadows (pictured above) in action. The 31-year-old made an auspicious comeback after 18 months out and her 2:02.86 performance a fortnight ago in Birmingham convinced her to defend the title she was retroactively handed after Evgeniya Zinurova’s disqualification due to a doping violation.
Russian athletes hold the 10 fastest times in Europe, but their selectors have adopted an approach of prioritising quality rather than quantity, with Yelena Kotulskaya (nee Kofanova) their sole representative.
Britain’s Robbie Grabarz faces three athletes who have jumped higher than he has in 2013, including world outdoor silver medallist, Aleksey Dmitrik of Russia. The 28-year-old has defeated Grabarz twice and his season’s best of 2.36m is five centimetres superior to Grabarz’s best mark this winter. However, Grabarz has deliberately competed sparingly in a ploy to be as fresh as possible for Gothenburg and the Olympic bronze medallist showed convincing form with two good attempts at 2.39m at the UK Indoor Championships.
Other threats come from Russia’s Sergey Mudrov and Italy’s Silvano Chesani, who cleared 2.34m and 2.33m respectively to win their domestic indoor titles.
Holly Bleasdale has a great chance of claiming her first major title as she is the holder of the two best vaults in Europe this year with 4.75m and 4.77m. She had a setback in Stockholm, finishing fourth with 4.45m, but she said the run-up was her best ever, which bodes well for Gothenburg.
She will need to be back on her 4.70m-plus form to fend off the threat of Russia’s Anastasiya Savchenko, who has improved vastly since going out in Olympic qualifying last year. Savchenko has upped her PB from 4.60m to 4.71m and beaten Bleasdale in their last two encounters.
Again, we’re possibly cheating by combining the multi-events as just one of our five to follow, but we couldn’t resist.
The stunning form Eelco Sintnicolaas displayed at the Dutch Championships makes him the sizeable favourite in the heptathlon. The 2010 European decathlon silver medallist improved the Dutch record to 6341 and his score moves him into the European all-time top 10.
The pentathlon lacks some lustre with Jessica Ennis, Tatyana Chernova and Nataliya Dobrynska all absent, but the competition should be intriguing nonetheless. Antoinette Nana Djimou Ida of France will defend her title against a line-up including world No.1 Yekaterina Bolshova, Kristina Savitskaya, Laura Ikauniece and 18-year-old Nafissatou Thiam from Belgium, who recently broke Carolina Kluft’s world junior record.
On announcing the British team for Gothenburg, UK Athletics head coach Peter Eriksson declined to give a medal target, but revealed he wanted to improve on Paris 2011.
That aim was made a little harder earlier this week, with the news that Marilyn Okoro has been elevated to bronze medal position, following the retrospective disqualification of Russian Yuliya Rusanova, who has been found guilty of a drug violation.
Okoro’s bronze takes the GB Paris 2011 tally to beat from eight medals to nine.
» Find a full three-page preview in this week’s AW, out Thursday Feb 28 (and available online here), which includes a timetable and a complete list of the GB & NI team. Next week’s edition, out March 7, will include in-depth coverage from Gothenburg.