One month to go until the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul

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  • One month to go until the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul

Today (2) marks one month to go until the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Türkiye which will draw more than 600 athletes from up to 49 nations to the Ataköy Arena from 2-5 March.

Opened in 2012, and recently refurbished, the Ataköy Arena was the venue for the 2012 World Athletics Indoor Championships and, for indoor athletics, has a capacity of 7000, In addition, the Balkan Indoor Championships have been staged there over the last decade and it will be a fitting stage for the stars of European athletics to display their talents across four action-packed days.

It’s still early days in the indoor season, but many of Europe’s best have already hit the headlines with outstanding performances.

Fireworks in the women’s 60m have been provided by Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who broke the British record when clocking 7.04 in Karlsruhe last week and defeating two women who will surely be in the gold medal hunt in Istanbul: Poland's 2019 European indoor champion Ewa Swoboda and Switzerland's 2022 world indoor champion Mujinga Kambundji, both of whom spectacularly broke the seven second-barrier in 2022. 

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Swoboda scorched to a 6.99 clocking at the Polish Indoor Championships in Torun but in an electric final at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Kambundji charged to an unexpected title from lane eight in 6.96, just 0.04 shy of the long-standing world record held by Irina Privalova.

While Asher-Smith admits she is unlikely to compete in Istanbul, Swoboda and Kambundji both have their sights set firmly on expanding their medal haul at the European Athletics Indoor Championships. And given their undoubted prowess on the boards, could Nelli Cooman's championship record of 7.00 from 1986 be under threat next month? 

On the men’s side, all eyes will be Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs as he opens his season in Lodz, Poland, on Saturday (4) after he recently completed a training camp in Dubai.

The reigning Olympic and European 100m champion clocked 6.49 at this same meeting last year en route to gold at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, where he set a European record of 6.41. If he’s back in the same sort of form this season he will be tough to beat in Istanbul.

Femke Bol swept all before her at the Torun 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships, winning 400m gold and helping the Netherlands to victory in the 4x400m, and she could potentially prove equally indomitable in Istanbul.

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The 22-year-old will open her season this Saturday (4) over 500m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, USA and the world best of 1:06.31, set by Russia’s Olesya Krasnomovets in 2006, could be under threat. 

A similar mark has already fallen this indoor season with Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson powering to a world indoor 600m best of 1:23.41 in Manchester last weekend, taking 0.03 off the record previously held by Russia's Olga Kotlyarova.

After her record-breaking feat, Hodgkinson confirmed Istanbul is very much part of her plans for the indoor campaign. "It'll be my first senior title to try and defend. I'll be 21 while I'm out there so it'd be a nice birthday present," she said.

Hodgkinson burst onto the scene in Torun two years ago, and the reigning European indoor and outdoor 800m champion will be looking to defend her title in Istanbul next month shortly after celebrating her 21st birthday. One of her chief rivals could be Slovenia’s Anita Horvat, the former 400m specialist who clocked an indoor best and world-leading mark of 2:00.44 to win in Karlsruhe last week.

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Britain’s Laura Muir pulled off the 1500m/3000m double at both the 2017 and 2019 editions of the European Athletics Indoor Championships and she could make it a 'triple-double' in Istanbul. Like Bol, the Scot will open her season in Boston on Saturday over 3000m, where one of her likely rivals in Istanbul, Ireland’s Ciara Mageean, is also starting her season.

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen looked peerless when winning the 1500m/3000m double in Torun two years ago and if the 22-year-old tries the same in Istanbul, few would bet against him.

Ingebrigtsen is scheduled to race a 1500m in Lievin on 15 February and over 3000m in Madrid on 22 February, but he told Norwegian media recently that he’s doubtful for both races, saying he has only been “jogging on and off” for the past month due to illness, cutting short an altitude camp in Spain as a result.

All being well, Ingebrigtsen will be in the hunt for his tenth senior title across all surfaces at the European Athletics Indoor Championships while his compatriot Karsten Warholm also has his sights set on the indoor season. Warholm, who won European indoor 400m gold in an equal European record of 45.05 in Glasgow 2019, opens his season at the Karsten Warholm Invitational in his hometown of Ulsteinvik this evening (2). 

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Elsewhere, Poland's European 100m hurdles champion Pia Skrzyszowska could go to Türkiye as the gold medal favourite for the 60m hurdles title after flying to a best of 7.84 in Düsseldorf, Germany last Sunday. Finland’s Reetta Hurske also marked herself out as a possible title contender when clocking a national record of 7.86 at the same event.

Swedish star Armand Duplantis remains undecided about competing in Istanbul, with a decision expected in the weeks ahead.

He gets his season underway at the Mondo Classic in Uppsala, Sweden, tonight (2). However, Sweden will undoubtedly have a contender in the men’s long jump in Istanbul through Thobias Montler, who won silver at the last two editions of the championships and jumped 8.19m in Sätra, Sweden last weekend.

Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh is the only woman to jump over two metres this year and the reigning European champion – both indoors and outdoors – looks well on track to add more gold to her glittering CV in Istanbul. At only 20, Mahuchikh completed the set of major titles across all age-groups at the European Athletics Championships in Munich.

For Germany’s Malaika Mihambo, the reigning Olympic long jump champion, Istanbul will offer the chance to add one of the few titles missing from her list of honours. Having finished runner-up in Torun two years ago when she was pipped in the sixth round by Ukraine's Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, Mihambo opened her 2023 campaign with a promising 6.83m in Düsseldorf, while three-time European indoor champion Ivana Vuleta of Serbia also made a strong start to the year, jumping 6.76m in Karlsruhe.

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At the same meeting, Portugal’s Auriol Dongmo produced the leading shot put mark by a European woman this year, 18.90m, but that was surpassed earlier this week by the woman who beat her to gold in Munich last year: Jessica Schilder of the Netherlands.

Schilder, who reached a national record of 20.24 to take the European title last summer, achieved in Nehvidzy, Czech Republic on Tuesday to lay down the gauntlet to her chief rival ahead of their rematch in Istanbul.

Many of Europe’s leading multi-eventers got their seasons under way last weekend at the X-Athletics Meeting in Aubiere, France where European decathlon silver medallist Simon Ehammer from Switzerland set the pace with victory in a European-leading mark of 6292 points despite an accident in the pole vault where he banged his nose on the crossbar. 

Reigning European indoor heptathlon champion Kevin Mayer opted to compete in individual events in Aubiere and the world decathlon record-holder has also left the door open on a possible title defence next month.

Nafissatou Thiam won the pentathlon title in Torun 2021 and starts as the natural favourite if she chooses to accept her invitation for Istanbul. But if she declines, another brilliant Belgian combined event looks set to succeed Thiam. Noor Vidts won silver behind Thiam two years ago before striking pentathlon gold at the 2022 World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

"Every heptathlon I participate in is important to me and I want to give the best of myself, especially at an international championship. You are in a different phase of the build-up in March, but it is still a very important moment," said Vidts on the upcoming championships.

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Host nation Türkiye has won eight medals in the history of the European Athletics Indoor Championships, and that number could well grow at this year’s edition.

Much of that could depend on the availability of Yasemin Can, who won 3000m silver at the 2017 edition in Belgrade and who is the reigning European 10,000m champion. However, the 26-year-old has not raced since dropping out of the senior women’s race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Piemonte in December.

Other prospective Turkish medallists include Kayhan Ozer, who has already improved his 60m lifetime best to 6.58 this season, a time which would have won silver behind Jacobs in 2021 and gold as recently as 2019. Also watch out for Turkish record-holder Ersu Sasma, who finished eighth in the pole vault at the 2022 World Athletics Championships and their emerging triple jumper Tugba Danismaz, the reigning European U23 triple jump champion.

The European Athletics Indoor Championships was first held as a championship event in Vienna in 1970, then staged annually until the 1990 edition in Glasgow before switching to being held every two years.

Athletes have until midnight on 19 February to qualify, which they can do either by achieving the automatic entry standard or via their world ranking position, with the list of eligible athletes due to be released by 21 February.

Full details of the 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships can be found here.

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