Men’s sprints: History beckons for Europe’s sprint kings
BERLIN - The men’s 100m is poised to take star billing at the Berlin 2018 European Championships, which is appropriate in the stadium where Jesse OWENS (USA) won quadruple gold at the 1936 Olympic Games and Usain BOLT (JAM) obliterated the 100m and 200m world records at the 2009 World Championships.
With such a rich sprinting heritage, the spotlight at the Berlin Olympic Stadium is likely to fall on the four European men who have dipped under the 10-second barrier this season - Zharnel HUGHES (GBR), Jimmy VICAUT (FRA), Filippo TORTU (ITA) and Jak Ali HARVEY (TUR).
HUGHES and VICAUT are joint top of the European rankings with 9.91 seconds, while TORTU set an Italian record of 9.99 in June.
TORTU is the European under 20 champion and heads to Berlin knowing it is 40 years since Pietro MENNEA provided Italy with its last gold in the senior championships. HARVEY also has 9.99 to his name this year and took silver at the 2016 European Championships in Amsterdam.
Ramil GULIYEV (TUR) is the only man under 20 seconds in the 200m, a mark he has beaten three times this year following his unexpected victory at last year’s world championships in London.
Defending champion Bruno HORTELANO (ESP) is also in form with a national record 20.04 after battling back from injuries sustained in a car accident in 2016.
Alex WILSON broke the Swiss record this year and lies third in the rankings with 20.14, while reigning 100m champion Churandy MARTINA (NED) cannot be discounted from either event.
MARTINA won 100m gold in front of his own fans in Amsterdam and celebrated victory in the 200m before being disqualified.
He will also be part of the Dutch 4x100m relay team, an event won by Great Britain two years ago before they went on to win the world title in London last year.
Britain have a rich pedigree in the 400m, too, with 10 victories from the 23 previous editions of the championships. Martyn ROONEY (GBR) has won the last two titles in this event and will be going for a hat-trick alongside his team-mate Matthew HUDSON-SMITH, the 2014 silver medallist who is Europe’s number one this year with 44.63.
Czech Republic’s three-time world indoor champion Pavel MASLAK, the 2016 silver medallist, could be a threat to the Britons again, while world 400m hurdles champion, Karsten WARHOLM (NOR) might surprise them all as he goes for the one-lap flat and hurdles double.
WARHOLM is ranked sixth in Europe over 400m but will be an outstanding favourite in the hurdles, having set the Norwegian record with 47.65 at the London Diamond League meeting.
Turkey’s Yasmani COPELLO will not give up his title without a fight. At 32, Dai GREENE is back after struggling with injuries and will captain the British team eight years on from winning European gold in Barcelona.
Defending 4x400m relay champions Belgium will again have the BORLEE brothers - Jonathan, Dylan and Kevin - in their squad, plus Julien WATRIN from their winning Amsterdam quartet.
Sergey SHUBENKOV (ANA) is the man to beat in the 110m hurdles. After setting the Russian national record of 12.92 in July, the two-time champion has his sights on Colin JACKSON’s (GBR) 25-year-old European record of 12.91.
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