The question of how Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) – the innovative, fast and furious variant of the sport created by European Athletics – will fit into the future sporting landscape will become clearer after this weekend’s inaugural European DNA U20 Clubs competition in Castellón, Spain.
After the successful introduction of this short-form athletics model at the 2019 European Games in the Belarus capital of Minsk, and February’s international indoor debut in Glasgow where the Spain finished top, the event hosted by national DNA champions Playas de Castellón and live streamed across Europe will be a test event for how DNA can work in terms of grass roots competition.
More than 200 athletes representing teams from 11 countries will do battle in what is billed as the ‘Clash of the Clubs’ at the Complejo Deportivo Gaetà Huguet in Castellón.
“The Glasgow event and, before that, the 2019 launch in Minsk established that elite, senior athletes and hardcore fans really enjoy DNA once they experience it and see what it is all about,” said European Athletics Vice President Libor Varhanik, who is the DNA project steering group chairman.
“Now we want to learn how well we are reaching two very specific target groups: U20 club athletes and younger potential fans who will be watching on their smartphones. The results will help inform us of the direction we need to take in the future.”
A related international conference will take place online October 13 and 14. Entitled Team Athletics: The Sport’s New Offer, it will provide an opportunity for athletes, coaches, club and school leaders from across Europe to contribute their views on how DNA and classical athletics can work in parallel.
Those views are certain to be coloured by the experience of the coming weekend’s competition, which will involve many of the world’s leading U20 performers.
In addition to Spain, which will field two 18-athlete (nine men/nine women) teams – the host club and CD Surco Lucena - nine European Athletics Member Federations have confirmed the participation of their leading club athletes. while Andorra will send its national team.
How it works...
Day 1 (Saturday 17 September) will see two 2.5-hour preliminary matches with teams qualifying for either the A or B final on the following day. All the matches will be live streamed.
Tomorrow’s opening match, from 1030-1300 CET, will see home team Playas Castellón, face off against AK Škoda Plzeň of the Czech Republic, Blackheath and Bromley AC from Britain, Team Oslo og Akershus from Norway, Switzerland’s TV Länggasse Bern and Andorra.
Match 2, involving CD Surco Lucena Türkiye’s Enka Sport Club, Sparta Atletik og Lob from Denmark, Italy’s Team Lazio (a combined team from ATL Studentesca Andrea Milardi and the Fiamme Gialle Club), Clermont Athlétisme Auvergne of France, and Ratoath AC from Ireland, will take place from 1730-2000.
Sunday’s B final match takes place from 0900-1130 and will be followed by the A final from 1200-1430, after which there will be a Victory Ceremony.
Each match will comprise the following 11 disciplines – seven on the track: the 100m women, 200m men, 100m hurdles women, 110m hurdles men, 800m women, 400m hurdles men, mixed 4x400m relay, and four on the field: long jump women, high jump men, shot put men and javelin throw women.
The final team positions in each match will be determined by the 12th event – a mixed gender medley relay known as ‘the Hunt’ (600m for women followed by a men’s 400m, a women’s 200m and a men’s 800m), which starts from a staggered start with time gaps based on the points scored in the first 11 events - with three points corresponding to a second.
The team head coaches are given a special role. In addition to generally encouraging and inspiring their charges, they will be able to change the order of the runners in the mixed (two men, two women) 4x400m relay, even as the race is in progress.
In Minsk, this event created one of the high points of the competition as Slovenia gambled successfully by running its two men first and hoping the lead would be sufficient, which it was.
Coaches will also be able to give on-field advice in the men’s high jump, where the athletes must nominate the height they will attempt for each of their three attempts in the head-to-head competition.
The pre-event promotion for Castellón has been social media-focused, highlighting competitors selected by their clubs with the aim of attracting a big audience of families, friends and local fans for the live stream.
Who to watch...
Among the rising young stars entered for the event Ratoath AC’s Jesse Osas, TV Länggasse Bern’s Valérie Guignard and AK Škoda’s Viktoria Jánská have already been featured on the DNA social channels.
Osas bettered his club’s 40 year-old 100m record with his time of 10.86 which placed him sixth at the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia.
Guignard is a 13.41 100m hurdler who was a finalist at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia.
Jánská, 16, earned bronze in the long jump and was a finalist the 100m hurdles at this year’s EYOF and then made the semifinals in the hurdles at the European Athletics U18 Championships in Jerusalem.
European U18 200m champion Faith Akinbileje will be a name to watch for in the 100m for Blackheath and Bromley along with world U20 finalist Jeriel Quainoo in the 200m while European U18 3000m champion Sofia Thøgersen will step down to the 800m for Sparta Atletik.
“We’ve already seen major engagement from our clubs and their athletes on social media channels,” Varhanik added. “This hyper-local approach is a new way of marketing events for European Athletics, and we can see it is paying dividends already.”
The competition will be available via several platforms, including the www.dna.run and Eurovision’s All-Athletics sites.
On Day 1, the two matches can be watched on the European Athletics YouTube channel by clicking on the links below.
Both matches can also be seen on the All-Athletics platform here.
For further information on the DNA U20 Clubs competition, the conference and the DNA project itself see www.dna.run.