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On the comeback from injury, Vicente seeks to “complete the circle” in Espoo 2023

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  • On the comeback from injury, Vicente seeks to “complete the circle” in Espoo 2023

The hugely talented Maria Vicente returns to the major championship arena seeking to "complete the circle" at this week’s European Athletics U23 Championships in Espoo from 12-16 July. 

Now 22, the Spanish athlete has previously claimed gold at the European Athletics U18 Championship and European Athletics U20 Championships in her meteoric rise as one of the sport’s brightest prospects. 

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She mounted the top step of the podium both in 2018 in Gyor, Hungary and in 2019 in Boras, Sweden in the heptathlon, also adding triple jump gold in the former championships. And it is in the horizontal jumps she will make her latest quest for gold in Espoo, Finland.  

Following a challenging 2022, where she withdrew from the heptathlon at the European Athletics Championships in Munich due to injury, she is looking to get back to winning ways. 

“This year I have decided to do the long jump and triple jump because last year was very difficult for me. I was injured. (In) the heptathlon it’s necessary (to take) a long time to prepare for it and I didn’t have it. This year for me is to feel well again and try to do my best.  

“I also wanted to complete the circle by trying to win one of the events here,” she added. “To be in the European U18 and U20 Championships brings me a lot of experience, also (helps) to make me more calm and relaxed, to be competing as I know well. I want to do my best and be competitive again.” 

With a lifetime best of 14.21m at the Spanish U23 Championships in Tarragona earlier this month, Vicente is the top ranked athlete in the women’s triple jump. But in the long jump, she faces a stacked field headed by Italy’s Larissa Iapichino, European indoor silver medallist and twice winner on the Diamond League circuit already this year. 

Home hopes Kosonen and Laine cautiously confident on the eve of Espoo

Vicente is one of many athletes on whom expectations are high this week, but for Finland’s Silja Kosonen and Topias Laine the pressure has an extra intensity to it. Already a world and European U20 champion, Kosonen has proven pedigree at this level and is optimistic that experience will pay off. 

“I have been to a few international competitions now and I think it helps me more and more every time. It’s getting easier, it’s not so stressful and I just know I can enjoy it,” she said at the official pre-event press conference. 

She was also hoping to make it an occasion to remember for her closest supporters. “A few are coming to the final on Friday. So, I feel a little pressure that I have to make it to the final first, so they don’t waste their money!” 

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Defending men’s javelin champion Laine carries home hopes in an event with a rich heritage in Finland and he revealed that a former world champion has reached out. “Tero Pitkämäki has been in contact, he is one of my idols. It’s pretty cool,” he smiled. 

“It’s the first time we have had a competition like this on home soil, so I am excited. In a competition like this it is always the medals that are interesting. But I hope and I feel like I am in shape that I can throw my personal best. Hopefully I can do that on Saturday.” 

20-year-old 400m runner Havard Bentdal Ingvaldsen is the latest Norwegian athlete to be making his presence felt on the international scene.  

Having placed fourth at the Diamond League in Oslo in a national record of 44.86, underscored by winning at the European Athletics Team Championships in Silesia in 44.88, comparisons are inevitable with another one lap star Karsten Warholm, Olympic champion and 400m hurdles world record holder.  

Warholm made a big breakthrough at these same championships when winning gold at Bydgoszcz 2017 with 48.37 before going on to win his first World Athletics Championship gold in London that summer.     

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“He is one of my idols,” he said. “He is the best in the world at what he is doing. I really hope I can follow his (Warholm’s) footsteps. I don’t know if I am going to be a world champion this year but I will do my best this year and we will see.”  

But for the moment, he is focussed on Espoo. “It’s my biggest goal of the season. I have the best time going into these championships, my goal is a medal and I am really looking forward to it.”  

A championships held in a city of sports

Before the athletes took centre stage, the politicians set the scene for the championships which have returned to Finnish soil for a third time. 

Karin Grute Movin, Vice President of European Athletics said: “Finland has a great love for athletics. It’s always a pleasure to come here. For me personally, as I am a Swede, I am close. It feels like being a neighbour. I feel very confident we will once again have a magnificently-organised championships and rousing support from the fans in the stadium.” 

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She was joined by Kimmo Oila, President of the Local Organising Committee, who said: “It has been a journey. For a couple of years, we have been doing a lot of work for this event. But I am absolutely confident it will be an unforgettable event here. Ticket sales have been quite good, so I hope the atmosphere will be good and we will all enjoy this event.”  

Meanwhile, Jukka Makela, Mayor of Espoo commented: “There are a lot of children and young residents in Espoo and they all love sports. For us as a city, what is equally important than top level performances is the example by athletics for children and young people. It will be exciting for our children to see European athletes competing here on our home soil.” 

Chris Broadbent for European Athletics

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