The 32nd edition might not go down as a classic with many of the continent’s finest choosing not to compete this winter and while the Brits will be without the services of our three Olympic champions, the team still arrives with medal chances throughout the entirety of the programme. Meanwhile, a knowledgeable and passionate Gothenburg crowd will be pinning their hopes on Michel Torneus in the long jump and world-leader Abeba Aregawi over 1500m.
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 still wouldn’t be a certainty. The field is headed by Italy’s Michael Tumi and Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut who have posted times Chambers hasn’t 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 British triumvirate of Nigel Levine, Richard Strachan and Michael Bingham are all ranked inside the top-seven in Europe and while this depth stands the quartet in good stead for the relay, the individual 400m will be a much tougher assignment. Brian Gregan could emulate former two-time champion David Gillick as the Irishman leads the rankings with a 46.07 PB from January which he followed up with victory in Gent over two Olympic finalists (Jonathan Borlee and Luguelin Santos).
The powerfully-built Russian Pavel Trenikhin, who won the Glasgow International in January, is always a danger indoors while European outdoor champion Pavel Maslak arrives fresh from a win over Strachan at the XL Galan in Stockholm last week.
Sergey Shubenkov, whose mother Natalya was a 6800-plus heptathlete in the 1980s, looks set to add the 60m hurdles title to his European outdoor and under-23 crowns. He won the Russian indoor title in a 7.50 PB before finishing second in Birmingham. First and second at the French Championships, Pascal Lagarde Martinot and Dmitri Bascou are ranked second and third in Europe with 7.53 and 7.56 respectively and lead the hunt for the minor medals.
The non-selection of any British representatives in the 1500m has been the selection 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 will be a danger based on his victory over a strong field in Karlsruhe containing, among others, defending champion Adam Kszczot from Poland.
World indoor 1500m silver medallist Ilham Tanui Ozbilen ran a solo 3:37.49 at the Balkan Championships and the Kenyan import could give the Turks something to cheer about although steeplechase specialists Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad and Bouabdellah Tahri (also entered into the 3000m) will feature prominently in their secondary event. In a slower race though, the balance of power might shift to the Spanish trio including Arturo Casado and Poland’s half-miler Marcin Lewandowski.
Hayle Ibrahimov almost outsprinted Mo Farah for the title two years ago and suffice to say, the Azerbaijani will benefit from the double Olympic champion’s absence this year. It will be interesting to see how the continent’s fastest 1500m runner Ciaran O’Lionaird fares as he steps up in distance. Florian Carvalho, the runner-up to Farah in Birmingham a fortnight ago, is another of the medal threats along with Spanish veteran Juan Carlos Higuero although at 34, his sprint finish probably isn’t as good as it once was.
Robbie Grabarz faces three athletes who have jumped higher than he has in 2013, including world outdoor silver medallist Aleksey Dmitrik. The 28-year-old has defeated Grabarz twice in 2013 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.
The standard of the pole-vault would grace any major global championship but Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie won’t be too daunted by the opposition as he goes for a three-peat. The 2009 and 2011 champion is unbeaten this year and comes into the competition on the back of a world-leading 5.94m vault. Bjorn Otto is only ranked four centimetres behind Lavillenie but German had to settle for silver behind the reigning champion at three major championships last year.
Expectations will be high for Olympic fourth-placer Michel Torneus as he improved the Swedish long jump record to 8.20m for victory in Stockholm last week. Russian Aleksandr Menkov and Christian Reif from Germany could deny a home victory though.
Marian Oprea is reaching the tail-end of his career but the Romanian could claim his first major senior title as the perennial minor-medallist leads the fledging triple jump rankings with 17.17m. Fabrizio Donato, who jumped 17.73m for the silver medal in 2011, is also on the entry-list but the Italian hasn’t competed this year. What form will he show in his first competition in 2013?
A rare gold medal could be won for Serbia by Asmir Kolasinac in the shot put as he comes fresh from victory at the Balkan Championships in a 20.54m season’s best.
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-ten. Only Adam Helcelet and 2009 champion Mikk Pahapill with 6040 and 6024 respectively, have also broken the 6000-barrier in 2013.
Published in Athletics Weekly on February 28