Defending champions Germany face a Russian team on home soil at the European Team Championships in Cheboksary this weekend
Russia were forced to release their grip on the European Team Championships trophy to the Germans in Braunschweig last year but the former three-time winners will be hoping home advantage will play to their favour at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Cheboksary this weekend (June 20-21).
Some of the top continental athletes have opted to give this event a miss but the hosts will be fielding a full strength team which head coach Yuriy Borzakovskiy describes as “ready to take revenge”.
The participating nations in Cheboksary are: Belarus, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain & NI, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine.
Can Asher-Smith create history?
Individual GB victories might be more about quality than quantity in Cheboksary but the in-form Dina Asher-Smith, who ran stride-for-stride with Allyson Felix in Birmingham a fortnight ago (pictured below), could create a first this weekend.
Including the European Cup, which ran from 1965 to 2008, a Briton has never won the women’s 200m but this looks set to change when Asher-Smith takes to the starting blocks.
Fresh from a 22.30 PB in Birmingham – the fastest time by a Brit since 1984 – she is expected to dominate, with the Netherlands and Dafne Schippers absent from the Super League. The only other athlete with a season’s best under the 23-second barrier is Ukraine’s Nataliya Pohrebnyak.
Fellow sprinters Richard Kilty, Danny Talbot and Asha Philip join Asher-Smith on the GB team in Russia, while Robbie Grabarz, Andy Vernon, Lawrence Clarke, Lily Partridge, Eilidh Child, Isobel Pooley and Sophie Hitchon are among the other British athletes in action. Margaret Adeoye was this week named as the GB team captain.
How high will Lavillenie go?
Renaud Lavillenie cleared six metres for the first time at the European Team Championships in 2009. Six years later and with the world record to his name, the French team will be banking on the Olympic champion to deliver maximum points for a fifth time.
Lavillenie improved his outdoor lifetime best to 6.05m at the Pre Classic in Eugene last month at what was his first competition of the year with a full run-up.
The French squad also includes the likes of Pierre-Ambroise Bosse in the 800m, Floria Guei in the 400m and European indoor champion Pascal Martinot-Lagard in the 110m hurdles.
Russia set to dominate the jumps
Home favourite Sergey Shubenkov might be racing in the sprint hurdles, but it is on the in-field where the hosts are expected to garner their lion’s share of the points. European indoor champion Anzhelika Sidorova should claim maximum points in the pole vault, while after her European indoor high jump title in March, Mariya Kuchina will be looking for her second continental accolade of the year.
Yekaterina Koneva has recently surpassed the 15m mark in the triple jump and should dominate proceedings, while Darya Klishina is favoured in the long jump.
In the men’s equivalent, world champion Aleksandr Menkov is tipped to win with Greg Rutherford absent. Aleksey Fyodorov is unlikely to be challenged if he can reproduce his 17.42m form from last month’s Russian Team Championships.
The Germans will be looking to upset the Russians for the second year in succession, and also on the in-field but over in the throws they will be counting on shot-putters David Storl and Christina Schwanitz to deliver maximum points.
» The event begins at 3pm in Cheboksary (1pm in the UK) on Saturday June 20 and Sunday June 21. Action will be shown on the BBC, while the event will be covered on athleticsweekly.com and in next week’s issue of the magazine