Femke Bol is not the first Dutch athlete of distinction to attempt an ambitious combination over the flat and hurdles at the European Athletics Championships.
In Brussels back in 1950, the great Fanny Blankers-Koen contested the 100m, 200m and 80m hurdles, winning all three - and claiming a silver in the 4x100m relay for good measure.
Still, no woman of any nationality has accomplished the double over the 400m flat and 400m hurdles which Bol has boldly chosen to attempt at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships from 15-21 August, part of the wider multi-sport European Championships from 11-21 August.
"It’s going to be a tough week but I’m ready for the challenge," the 22-year-old insisted, announcing her intentions on an Instagram post headed ‘Double Trouble’.
The formbook suggests the 400m hurdles ought to be as much of a formality as anything can be in the cut and thrust of major championship competition.
The time of 52.27 that Bol clocked as the silver medal winner behind Sydney McLaughlin’s breathtaking world record of 50.68 at the World Championships in Oregon put her an incredible 2.66 seconds clear of the only other European in the final, Ukraine’s Anna Ryzhykova, who finished eighth in 54.93.
The Olympic bronze medallist also tops the 2022 European list in the 400m, having broken through the 50 second-barrier in Chorzow last Saturday (6) with a Dutch record of 49.75.
The two Europeans who made the 400m final in Oregon, however, will be keen to assert their specialist authority. Bol’s training partner Lieke Klaver, the former Dutch record-holder with 50.18, finished fourth in the world final.
Anna Kielbasinska, who also trains with Bol, Klaver and co under the tutelage of Laurent Meuwly, finished eighth, while Polish teammate Natalia Kaczmarek is the only woman other than Bol to have broken 50 seconds this season, with a 49.86 lifetime best to become only the second Pole after Irena Szewinska to achieve this distinction.
No Dutchwoman has won the European outdoor 400m title - or the 400m hurdles for that matter - though Bol is the reigning indoor 400m champion, having triumphed in Torun last year. And if she does triumph in the 400m hurdles, it would be a poignant win as Bol would follow in the footsteps of her now-retired training partner Lea Sprunger from Switzerland who won gold four years ago.
Behind her, the competition for medals over the barriers in Munich promises to be intense.
Ryzhykova may have reached the World Championships final but three other Europeans clocked faster times than her in the semifinals in Eugene.
Fellow Ukrainian Viktoriya Tkachuk registered a season’s best of 54.24, and was just 0.03 slower while getting the better of Ryzhykova in Monaco on Wednesday (10).
Italy’s Ayomide Folorunso set an Italian record of 54.34 in the Eugene semifinals, while Spain’s Sara Gallego ran 54.49. And Finland’s Viivi Lehikoinen clocked a national record of 54.60. Second and third behind Bol on season’s bests are Norway’s Line Kloster (53.91) and Britain’s Jessie Knight (54.09).
Bol plans to go for a third medal in the 4x400m relay, though gold in that event might be a stretch, given the presence of a British quartet that took bronze at the World Athletics Championships and the potential of a Polish squad that won Olympic silver behind the United States last year.
The Pole also won gold in Berlin 2018 courtesy of a blitzing anchor leg from Justyna Swiety-Ersetic who had won individual 400m gold earlier in the programme.
Treble champion Asher-Smith is back on the comeback trail
The star of the women’s sprints in Berlin four years ago, of course, was Dina Asher-Smith, who won the 100m and 200m and anchored Britain to gold in the 4x100m relay.
The former world 200m champion will be attempting the same treble in Munich – with justifiable hope, given her form at the World Athletics Championships, where she finished fourth in the 100m, equalling her British record 10.83, and won bronze in a loaded 200m final.
A mild hamstring pull in the 4x100m relay in Oregon persuaded Asher-Smith to sit out the Commonwealth Games but if the 26-year-old is fit and ready to go in Munich she will start favourite in both individual events.
Mujinga Kambundji was the only other European finalist in the 100m and 200m at the World Athletics Championships. The world indoor 60m champion from Switzerland finished fifth in the 100m, one place and 0.08s behind Asher-Smith. In the 200m, she clocked a national record 22.05 in the semifinals but was eighth in the final in 22.55, the Briton taking bronze in 22.02.
A possible threat to both women in the 100m could be Asher-Smith’s teammate Daryll Neita, who missed out on a place in the final at the World Athletics Championships by 0.01 and has clocked 10.90 - and a wind-aided 10.81 - this summer.
Germany’s Gina Luckenkemper, runner-up to Asher-Smith in Berlin in 2018, is the only other sub-11 sec performer in the field.
Neita is also entered for the 200m but is only seventh fastest on the list on season’s bests behind Asher-Smith (21.96), Kambundji (22.05), Germany’s Corinna Schwab (22.51), Ireland’s 19-year-old European U20 100m and 200m champion Rhasidat Adeleke (22.59), who also ranks sixth at 400m, Denmark’s Ida Karstoft (22.67) and Klaver (22.71).
Despite Asher-Smith suffering her hamstring pull on the third leg, Great Britain still managed to finish sixth in the 4x100m relay final in Oregon but in Munich they will face a German quartet high in confidence after taking world bronze behind the USA and Jamaica.
Great Britain’s Cindy Sember will be looking to follow her Commonwealth bronze medal-winning performance in Birmingham with gold in the 100m hurdles in Munich.
Fifth at the World Athletics Championships, where she broke her sister’s national record with a 12.50 clocking in the semifinals, Sember is likely to have a tough battle on her hands in pursuit of a title won by her elder sibling – Tiffany Porter – in Zurich in 2014.
Poland’s Pia Skrzyszowska, winner of the European U23 title last year, was in scorching form on home ground in Chorzow last Saturday (6), clocking 12.51 to smash the European U23 record set of 12.59 set by East Germany’s Anneliese Ehrhardt coincidentally at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
Reigning European indoor champion Nadine Visser from the Netherlands also boasts a lifetime best of 12.51 while France’s world indoor champion Cyrena Samba-Mayela and Switzerland’s European U20 champion Ditaji Kambundji, the younger sister of Mujinga, also have clear medal potential.
The Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships will be streamed live in its entirety through the European Athletics website.