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Jacobs given the green light to chase the European 100m title in Munich 2022

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  • Jacobs given the green light to chase the European 100m title in Munich 2022

The presence on the final entry-list of the Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs adds a huge and intriguing element to the sprints at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships from 15-21 August, part of the wider multi-sport European Championships.

The 27-year-old Italian was a surprise winner at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in a European record of 9.80, although his win over 60m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships earlier in the year indicated his rising potential having started his career primarily as a long jumper. 

In March this year he beat the defending world indoor champion Christian Coleman to the world indoor 60m title in Belgrade but Jacobs’ outdoor season has been undermined so far by illness and muscle problems which forced him to scratch from the semifinals at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon.

It will be a huge feature of the Munich 2022 athletics programme if he can toe the line in the 1972 Olympic stadium – and it will be fascinating to see what degree of fitness he has been able to reclaim. 

On the eve of the championships, Jacobs’ coach Paolo Camossi was optimistic about his prospects in the Munich Olympic Stadium next week. "He's running free, he's having fun, the workouts are promising. If we are here in Munich it is because he is fine and can compete…Marcell is the Olympic gold medalist and he is here to win, but it is not a race to be taken lightly," said Camossi as quoted by FIDAL.

 

Among his prospective rivals include Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes who stands ready to defend the 100m title he won in Berlin four years ago in a championship record of 9.95.

Hughes had an ultimately frustrating time at last summer’s Olympics, false-starting in the individual 100m final and then seeing the 4x100m silver-medal winning performance to which he had contributed annulled because of a positive doping test for team-mate CJ Ujah. 

Last week he indicated he is in fine racing form as he won Commonwealth silver in the 200m in Birmingham and helped England win 4x100m gold. 

While Jacobs won the Olympic title in 9.80, he has only run 10.04 this year although he did open his season with a marginally wind-aided 9.99. Hughes is second fastest this season with 9.97 but top spot goes to his enigmatic fellow Briton Reece Prescod, who ran 9.93 this season at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava – into a significant headwind. 

France’s Meba-Mickael Zeze is the third sub-10 second performer this season with 9.99 and will be in medal contention along with home sprinter Lucas Ansah-Peprah, who has clocked 10.04 this season. 

And it doesn’t do to rule out the experienced French performer Jimmy Vicaut, who has run 10.10 this year but has a best of 9.86 - the former European record which Jacobs surpassed when he blazed to the Olympic title in Tokyo last summer.

A clash of youth and experience in the 200m

Fresh from a medal at the Commonwealth Games Hughes will also fancy his medal chances in the 200m, where his British teammate Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, silver medallist four years ago, is also entered. 

Turkey’s defending champion Ramil Guliyev, who has a best of 19.76 from the 2018 European Athletics Championships where he came within 0.04 of Pietro Mennea’s long-standing European record, has run 20.21 this year. 

Zeze will also double up, and is looking good for a podium place given his 19.97 personal best this season. 

But the most intriguing presence will be that of 18-year-old Israeli Blessing Afrifah, who won the world U20 title in Cali in a European U20 record of 19.96 - to surpass Guliyev’s previous mark of 20.04 - and in so doing beat Botswana’s hugely favoured Letsile Tebogo, who had earlier won the 100m title in a world U20 record of 9.91 despite showboating over the final 30 metres. 

Afrifah was born in Tel Aviv and raised in Israel to parents from Ghana - his father came to Israel as an employee of the Ghanaian consulate – and was granted permanent residence in 2010. 

World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 2022 - Day 5

Will this hugely talented runner be able to adapt to the pressures and rigours of a senior international competition less than two weeks after his record-breaking exploits in Cali? It will be fascinating to see. 

Also in the 200m mix will be a sprinter who brought home the baton for a historic 4x100m victory at last year’s Tokyo 2020 Games - Italy’s Filippo Tortu - who has run a personal best of 20.10 this season and harbours aspirations of broaching the 20 second-barrier for the first time. 

Jacobs and Tortu are also named in an Italian 4x100m relay squad that could produce another historic performance in Munich although a squad - admittedly devoid of Jacobs who was injured - didn’t make it through the heats at the World Athletics Championships.

Reigning champions Great Britain, France, hosts Germany and Turkey will all offer strong opposition along with surprise Tokyo 2020 Olympic finalists Denmark.

A rejuvenated Hudson-Smith targeting back-to-back 400m titles 

Meanwhile in the 400m Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith appears well set to defend the title he won in Berlin. After years of injury that were so testing that he admitted he had had suicidal thoughts at one point, the 27-year-old has returned to form in a big way this year. 

Having taken 0.01 off the British record of 44.36 set by Iwan Thomas, who won the European title the following year, Hudson-Smith came away with world bronze in Oregon before upgrading to silver on his home track at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham earlier this month.

Can he complete the set of medals this year and join Martyn Rooney (2014-16) in defending his European title?

World Athletics Championships Oregon22 - Day Eight

Nobody else in the field has bettered the 45 second-barrier this season – with Great Britain’s Alex Haydock-Wilson closest on 45.08. 

But there are hugely experienced operators who have been in that territory on many occasions including Belgium’s Kevin and Dylan Borlee. Kevin, individual champion in Barcelona some 12 years ago, is still a potent force aged 34. 

His 29-year-old brother Dylan is also in the mix, and both are in the 4x400m relay list, where they will seek to earn Belgium their third successive gold medal. The nations looking most likely to deny them that ambition are the Netherlands – who are Tokyo 2020 silver medallists - the Czech Republic, Great Britain, France and Spain. 

Kevin, who has a best of 44.56, has run 45.12 this season, and Dylan has run a personal best of 45.18 this year. 

Liemarvin Bonevacia is another potential medallist, having run 44.48 and with a season’s best of 45.34. The 33-year-old Dutch runner won bronze on home soil in 2016 and is hugely experienced in the relay, where he helped the Netherlands take the European indoor title last year before their achievement in Tokyo. 

Spain’s Oscar Husillos, the European indoor champion, will be another serious challenger in the individual event and will carry through to the relay, where he helped his country win bronze in Berlin. 

Warholm: "I have been able to train without worry since the Worlds"

Like Jacobs, Karsten Warholm arrived at the World Athletics Championships short of form due to a hamstring but the Norwegian put up a resolute defence of his world title, matching eventual winner Alison Dos Santos for the first 300 metres before fading in the home straight to seventh. 

But with three weeks of uninterrupted training under his belt since those championships, expect to see a different version of Warholm to the version we saw in Oregon.

"I have been able to train without worry since the Worlds. Whereas before the Worlds, it was a race against time to be ready, very stressful. Now I was able to prepare myself more calmly, and it's a very good feeling," he told VG ahead of the championships.

The road to gold in Munich will not be without its challenges though. France’s Wilfried Happio was one of the athletes to overhaul a tiring Warholm over the last two barriers in the Oregon final, finishing fourth in a massive lifetime best of 47.41 - just 0.04 shy of Stephane Diagana’s French record - and only missing out on a medal on the dip.

There will be a strong French presence in the 110m hurdles. Reigning champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde will defend his title but he is only their fourth fastest entrant (13.40) behind his younger teammates Sasha Zhoya (13.17) and Just Kwaou-Mathey (13.27) and Aurel Manga (13.29).

A precocious junior who won European and world U20 titles in a five week period in 2021, Zhoya’s transition to the senior ranks has been somewhat jolted by injuries but the 20-year-old has adjusted to the challenges posed by the senior height barriers by clocking a joint European leading time of 13.17.

Zhoya shares the European lead with Spain’s vastly improving Asier Martinez who won a surprise bronze in a dramatic and eventful 110m hurdles final at the World Athletics Championships.

Can the European U23 champion graduate to European senior champion for Spain in the space of a year?

The Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships will be streamed live in its entirety through the European Athletics website.

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