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Preview | British stars and host nation hopes for middle distance races in Istanbul

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  • Preview | British stars and host nation hopes for middle distance races in Istanbul

The fate of the women’s 800m and 1500m titles in Istanbul rests on the form of two British stars who look virtually unbeatable in their respective events if replicating recent performances.

Laura Muir and Keely Hodgkinson have been unbeatable at European level for some years now, and it will come as a massive shock if that status changes this week.

Muir won the 1500m and 3000m double in Belgrade 2017 and on home soil in Glasgow 2019 but she has decided to focus on the 1500m in Istanbul where she will be a heavy favourite for gold. She has been in sparkling form this indoor season, taking wins at the World Indoor Tour Gold meetings in Boston, New York and most recently in Birmingham, where she clocked 2:34.53 for 1000m. 

She tops the entries via the 4:03.07 she split for 1500m en route to her 4:20.15 mile victory at the Millrose Games in New York. Next quickest this year is her British compatriot Katie Snowden, who clocked 4:21.19 for a mile to finish third behind Muir in New York.

Another big contender is Poland’s renowned fast finisher Sofia Ennaoui, who clocked 2:35.69 to finish third behind Muir in Birmingham and who won bronze and silver medals respectively at the 2017 and 2019 editions of these championships.

2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships - Day Three

Spain’s Esther Guerrero ran her indoor PB of 4:06.70 on her way to a Spanish indoor mile record of 4:24.92 in Boston recently, while Britain’s Ellie Baker is next quickest on the 2023 list via the 4:06.73 she ran to win the British indoor 1500m title recently. After clocking an indoor 800m PB of 2:00.86 in Birmingham last weekend, the European U20 and U23 silver medallist looks capable of winning her first European medal at senior level. 

Italian duo Sintayehu Vissa and Ludovica Cavalli, along with Portugal’s Marta Pen Freitas and Poland’s Weronika Lizakowska, are the others to have run below 4:10 this season. Romania’s Claudia Mihaela Bobocea has yet to line up in a 1500m this year, but she opened her season in impressive style with a 2:35.35 1000m in Birmingham last weekend.

Can anyone challenge Hodgkinson for 800m gold?

In the 800m, Hodgkinson has been operating on a different level to her European rivals during the indoor season, the Olympic and World silver medallist and reigning European indoor and outdoor champion taking victories in Torun, Lievin and Birmingham, clocking 1:57 for 800m each time, while also setting a world indoor 600m best of 1:23.41 to start her season in Manchester.

None of her rivals in Istanbul have ever broken two minutes, indoors or out, which means the British star – who turns 21 during the Championships – lines up as the firm favourite to take the gold medal.

Still, there is substantial depth among her opponents, with four other women running below 2:01 this year and an additional four women going under 2:02. They are led by Britain’s Isabelle Boffey, who ran 2:00.25 to finish third in Birmingham last weekend and who, crucially, has shown her championship credentials in the past, winning gold at the 2019 European U20 Championships and the 2021 European U23 Championships.

Slovenia’s Anita Horvat, a former 400m specialist, clocked 2:00.44 in Rheinstetten in January and was just behind Boffey, clocking 2:00.62 to finish fourth, in Birmingham last weekend. Swiss star Audrey Werro has shaped up as a potential champion at this level in the future, and the 18-year-old may well find herself on the podium here. The 2021 European U20 champion clocked an indoor PB of 2:00.57 in Val-de-Reuil in early February. France’s Agnes Raharolahy has a best of 2:00.83 this season, but only finished fourth at the French Indoor Championships recently.

Can holds host-nation hopes in a competitive 3000m

No championship is ever complete without a medal for the host nation, and in the women’s 3000m, Turkey will have one of its best chances in Yasemin Can.

The 26-year-old has shown many times her ability to win gold, most recently at the European Athletics Championships in Munich last year, where she powered clear to take 10,000m victory. However, the tables were turned later in the week over 5000m with Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen raising the roof at the Olympic Stadium to win gold.

1 Athletics - Day 5 - European Championships Munich 2022

Klosterhalfen will renew her rivalry with Can in Istanbul and it’s anyone’s guess which way it will go. Klosterhalfen comes in with her form proven, her season’s best of 8:34.89 run to win the German indoor title, while she finished third over 3000m in Birmingham last weekend, clocking 8:35.14.

Can, meanwhile, has not competed since dropping out of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Italy in December, but has shown in the past that’s often no barrier to success. Her performances have an up-and-down, hot-and-cold quality, but which version will we see on Friday night? The several thousand home fans in the Atakoy Arena will be hoping she’s her best self and, if so, the 2017 silver medallist could challenge for an historic gold.

But this is far from a head-to-head duel. Italy’s Nadia Battocletti looks destined to win European senior medals, having racked them up at U20 and U23 level over both track and cross country. The 22-year-old, who finished seventh in the Olympic 5000m final in Tokyo, possesses the rare blend of aerobic ability and closing speed that it takes to succeed at this level, and her season’s best of 8:45.32 belies her true ability.

Germany’s Hanna Klein won bronze in this race in 2021 and broke new ground with a PB of 8:36.42 in Val-de-Reuil in early February. The 29-year-old will be dangerous if still in touch with the leaders heading into the final lap. Meanwhile, Britain’s Melissa Courtney-Bryant has run 8:41.09 this season, while Italy’s Ludovica Cavalli and Spain’s Marta Perez have both dipped under 8:45.

Cathal Dennehy for European Athletics

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