It’s almost time…the Istanbul 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships gets underway on this evening (Thursday) at the Atakoy Arena at 7.00pm local time (5.00pm CET)
We’ve already previewed every event in-depth (find links to previews along with everything you need to know about following the action here), but to whet your appetite that little bit more, here are five interesting stories to look out for on the opening two days of action in Istanbul.
Can anyone challenge the pentathlon world record?
Interestingly, the world record for the indoor pentathlon was set in the very same arena at the 2012 World Athletics Indoor Championships, when Ukraine’s Nataliya Dobrynska scored 5013 to become the first woman ever to score over 5000 points.
Eleven years later, back in Istanbul and with a strong field assembled, could the intense competition push the winner to a score close to Dobrynska’s mark? Dobrynska will be in the stadium tomorrow to watch events unfold.
Nafi Thiam has won three medals in these championships and is the reigning Olympic, world and European outdoor champion, so she certainly has the pedigree. Usually, such a resume would make her a shoo-in for gold, but it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion.
Thiam has not competed at all yet this year, but Poland's Adrianna Sulek has and she is the European number one in 2023. The world and European silver medallist took victory in Tallinn in February with a world leading 4702 points, and afterwards, she laid down the gauntlet, saying she hopes to improve the world record.
But Thiam's Belgian teammate Noor Vidts has the strongest personal best in the field with the 4929 points she scored in Belgrade last year to win the World Athletics Indoor Championships.
Will Bertemes bring home Luxembourg’s first ever gold medal?
Luxembourg’s Bob Bertemes is the European number one this year after his national record of 21.93m, and if he were to back that up with victory in Friday’s shot put final, it would be his country’s first ever European indoor medal in any event.
The nation’s best finish is fifth by Bertemes himself in 2015 and 2019, but he comes into this year's competition in the shape of his life.
However, he will face stiff competition in the first medal event of the championships from the likes of Czech Republic’s Tomáš Staněk, who has thrown the second furthest in Europe this year and will be looking to retain his title from 2021.
Will there be a home gold in the first track final?
The home crowd in Istanbul could be in for an early treat as soon as the first track final, as the women’s 3000m – which gets underway with the heats this evening followed by the final 24 hours later – features one of the host nation’s best medal chances courtesy of Yasemin Can.
Can won 10,000m gold at the European Athletics Championships in Munich last year, but Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen – who will also race the 3000m in Istanbul – got her own taste of success in front of a home crowd when she won the 5000m later in the week.
Can has not competed since dropping out of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Turin in December, while Klosterhalfen proved her form recently when she won the German indoor title in 8:34.89 ahead of Hanna Klein who clocked 8:36.42 and will also be in contention.
Twenty-two-year-old Italian Nadia Battocletti and her teammate Ludovica Cavalli, along with Britain’s Melissa Courtney-Bryant and Spain’s Marta Perez have also all run under 8:45.
Can Ingebrigtsen get his 1500m-3000m double bid off to a good start?
It’s not the first time Jakob Ingebrigtsen has attempted a distance double and, at European level, he's done it with huge success.
However, the Norwegian Olympic champion was foiled in his attempt for a 1500m-5000m double at last year’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene by a stunning victory from Great Britain’s Jake Wightman in the 1500m, while at the European Athletics Championships in Munich the following week he was able to repeat his double gold performance from 2018. He also achieved the 1500m-3000m double at the last edition of these championships in Torun.
While Wightman isn’t competing in Istanbul due to injury, Ingebrigtsen will nevertheless still face competition from a British runner in the 1500m. Neil Gourley has shown he is in fantastic shape after setting a season’s best of 3:32.48 in Birmingham last week, just 0.01 seconds behind Ingebrigtsen's season's best time.
The first round of the 1500m takes place this evening and it will be interesting to see how the athletes fare on the tight bends of the indoor straight before they go head-to-head in the final on Friday evening.
Who will come out on top in a competitive women’s 60m?
Reigning World indoor 60m champion Mujinga Kambundji, who has a personal best of 6.96 and a season’s best of 7.03, is the slim favourite for 60m gold.
However, she’ll face fierce competition from the 2019 European indoor champion, Poland’s Ewa Swoboda, as well as Great Britain's Daryll Neita who clocked 7.05 in Berlin last week.
Such is the strength of the leading contenders, it could well take a sub-7 second performance to win gold in the last event on Friday evening.
Follow all the action from Istanbul 2023 here.
Nick Howard for European Athletics