Miltiadis Tentoglou has so far been unstoppable this indoor season, but can the Greek star cap his season with a third straight victory at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Istanbul?
Few would bet against Tentoglou, and if the 24-year-old can do so he will join Hans Baumgartner as the only male athlete to win three European indoor long jump titles. He won gold at the last two editions in Glasgow and Torun, and the reigning Olympic, World Indoor and European champion has been in sparkling form this season, jumping 8.41m in Lievin, the longest jump in the world this year.
- Final entries for Istanbul 2023
But in Sweden’s Thobias Montler, he has a challenger who seems ready to capitalise if he’s unable to produce his best in Istanbul. Montler won silver behind Tentoglou at the last two editions of these championships and, with a best of 8.19m this season, he looks primed for a podium finish again.
Spain’s Jaime Guerra is the third man in the field who has gone beyond eight metres this year, though 18-year-old Italian star Mattia Furlani has come close, jumping 7.99m. Bulgaria’s Bozhidar Saraboyukov, France’s Jules Pommery and Romania’s Gabriel Bitan have all surpassed 7.95m.
Can anyone challenge Pichardo in the triple jump?
The men’s triple jump is another event that will feature a decorated global champion going up against a raft of worthy challengers. Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo – the reigning Olympic, World and European champion – will take to the runway as the hot favourite to win his second straight European indoor title, his outdoor personal best of 18.08m more than half a metre beyond what any of his rivals have ever jumped. The 29-year-old has only competed once this year, jumping 17.12m on his one valid effort in Pombal, Portugal, on 12 February, and a repeat of that may well be enough for gold.
Italy’s Emmanuel Ihemeje, France’s Benjamin Compaore, Germany’s Max Hess and Italy’s Tobia Bocchi have all surpassed 16.80m this year and look best placed to capitalise if Pichardo is not at his brilliant best, with Hess in particular having a proven track record at these championships, winning bronze medals in 2017, 2019 and 2021.
Fierce competition expected in the shot put and pole vault
The men’s shot put, in contrast, looks a wide-open affair. While many will go to Istanbul believing they are capable of victory, few objective observers could pick out the champion with a high degree of confidence.
Luxembourg’s Bob Bertemes is the leading European this year with the 21.93m national record he threw to win his national indoor title recently, and the 2015 European U23 silver medallist looks poised to win his first senior medal at this level. Czech Republic’s Tomas Stanek is the reigning champion and he proved he’s ready to make a strong defence of his title when throwing 21.69m in January, while more recently he threw 21.43m to win the Czech indoor title.
Ukraine’s Roman Kokoshko has thrown 21.66m this season, while Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki (21.55m), Italians Leonardo Fabbri (21.60m) and Zane Weir (21.46m), along with Croatia’s Filip Mihaljevic (21.42m), have all shown form that could land them on the medal rostrum. Poland’s Michal Haratyk, Serbia’s Armin Sinancevic and Italy’s Nick Ponzio have not set the world alight this indoor season, but if things can click for them in Istanbul, any one of them is certainly capable of a podium finish.
In the men’s pole vault, the absence of the all-conquering Mondo Duplantis has cleared the way for a horde of Europe’s best to take their shot at a golden moment. It’s a tough contest to call, with nine men clustered together between 5.80m and 5.91m based on their season’s bests. Menno Vloon of the Netherlands sits atop that particular pile, clearing 5.91m to finish third behind Duplantis’s world record of 6.22m at the All-Star Perche in Clermont-Ferrand over the weekend.
Norway’s Sondre Guttormsen, a student at Princeton University in the US, is next best with the national record of 5.90m he cleared in Albuquerque a few weeks ago. Greece’s Emmanouil Karalis endured a tough time in 2022 but the 23-year-old bounced back in style this indoor season, soaring over a Greek record of 5.86m to win his national indoor title.
Behind that leading trio, five men will go to Istanbul with a best this year of 5.82m: Germany’s Torben Blech; Belgium’s Ben Broeders; Norway’s Pal Haugen Lillefosse; Italy’s Claudio Michel Stecchi; and the Netherlands’ Rutger Koppelaar. France’s Thibaut Collet will be in the shake-up if he can replicate his 5.81m clearance from back in January, though he had a best of just 5.50m at the recent French Indoor Championships.
Poland’s Piotr Lisek has a relatively modest season’s best of 5.74m from his seven competitions to date, but he has won medals at the last four editions of these championships and the 2017 champion has the class and consistency to add a fifth in Istanbul.
An inspirational journey from Ukraine to Istanbul for Protsenko
The men’s high jump looks like a gilt-edged opportunity for Ukraine’s Andrii Protsenko to claim his first major championship title. The 34-year-old took an unconventional and inspirational path to the podium at the World Championships in Oregon last year, having been forced to relocate to a remote, secure region following the outbreak of war in Ukraine last February.
With no training facilities available, Protsenko fashioned home-made hurdles out of materials he found in a yard, lifting weights by adding car tyres to a bar he found lying around, and doing plyometric exercises, drills and sprints in a local field. His persistence paid off, with Protsenko later relocating to Portugal and then Spain and going on to win bronze in both Oregon and at the European Athletics Championships in Munich. He had a modest start to this indoor season with a best of just 2.24m in his first four competitions but he sprang to life in Banska Bystrica a fortnight ago, clearing 2.32m.
Five men who go up against him in Istanbul have cleared 2.25m or better this season, with Germany’s Tobias Potye the best among them, clearing 2.28m. Belgium’s Thomas Carmoy, Germany’s Jonas Wagner and Italy’s Stefano Sottile have all cleared 2.27m, with Douwe Amels of the Netherlands going over 2.25m. Germany’s Mateusz Przybylko and Italy’s Marco Fassinotti have both cleared 2.24m but with personal bests of 2.35m, both look capable of getting among the medals if things click in Istanbul.
Cathal Dennehy for European Athletics