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The race for promotion is on at the First League in Cluj-Napoca

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Five recently crowned European indoor champions from Torun will be on team duties at the European Athletics Team Championships First League in Cluj-Napoca, Romania which will be held in the recently refurbished Cluj Arena on 19-20 June and streamed live through the European Athletics website.

And all five athletes are representing countries with credible chances of securing one of the two available promotion places back into the European Athletics Team Championships Super League in 2023.

The Swiss team includes Ajla Del Ponte and Angelica Moser who triumphed in the 60m and pole vault respectively in Torun and the gold medal-winning duo will helm Switzerland’s prospects of reaching the Super League for only the second time since the formation of the competition in 2009.

After winning European titles at U20 and U23 level, Moser embellished her credentials as a big time performer by landing her first senior title in the pole vault in Torun where she cleared lifetime bests of 4.70m and 4.75m. Her clash with Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson could be one of the highlights of the weekend.

Del Ponte capped her indoor season with a sparkling 60m victory at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in a world leading 7.03. However, the early weeks of her summer campaign were waylaid by a positive coronavirus test which forced her to miss the World Athletics Relays in Silesia.

But the 24-year-old is building up form again with a 11.18 season’s best over 100m in Geneva last weekend and she formed part of a Swiss team that blazed to a world lead of 42.42 in the 4x100m. That same team will be in action this weekend and they could feasibly challenge the championship record of 42.47 set by Germany in the Super League in 2017.

Along with Del Ponte, two of the Kambundji sisters will be in contention for maximum points. Mujinga won the 100m in Geneva in 11.08 but she will be contesting the 200m this weekend, the distance at which she won a bronze medal at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, along with the 4x100m.

Her younger sister Ditaji will be making her senior outdoor debut for Switzerland in the 100m hurdles. The 19-year-old has broken the 13 second-barrier twice this season and her recent Swiss U20 record of 12.94 puts her third on the European U20 all-time list.

Among others, Kambundji will face European senior champion Elvira Herman from Belarus - the holder of the European U20 record with 12.85 - and fellow newcomer Zoe Sedney from the Netherlands who reached the European indoor 60m hurdles final in Torun aged 19. 

Like Kambundji, Sedney comes from a renowned sporting family and her older sister Naomi will be representing the Netherlands, who last competed in the Super League in 2017, in both the 100m and 4x100m. 

The standout name on the Dutch team is European indoor champion Femke Bol who reverts back to the 400m flat this weekend. Bol has already set a staggering nine Dutch records across all distances - relays included - this season including the 400m indoors (50.64) and outdoor (50.56) and the championship record of 50.50 set by Perri Shakes-Drayton in 2013 could be displaced this weekend.

Bol’s training partner Lieke Klaver slots into the Dutch team in the 200m and Menno Vloon, who raised the Dutch pole vault record to 5.96m during the indoor season, is another strong candidate for maximum points this weekend.

The Czech Republic fell a meagre 5.5 points shy of remaining in the Super League two years ago but the Czechs are strong candidates for an immediate reprieve into the top tier of the competition. 

The Czech team is laden with star names on both the track and in the field, including recently crowned European indoor champion Tomas Stanek in the shot put. Vitezslav Vesely and Nikola Ogrodnikova could provide a Czech double in the javelin and former European indoor champions Pavel Maslak and Jakub Holusa have been named in the 400m and 1500m respectively.

Greece finished 10th in the Super League in 2019 to slip back down into the second tier of the competition but most of their top names will be competing in Cluj-Napoca including Miltiadis Tentoglou. Tentoglou has dominated on the European stage since the 2018 European Athletics Championships and he now sits atop the world list with a recent lifetime best of 8.60m to move to third on the European all-time list.

 

The long jump is shaping up to be a rematch of the high quality European indoor final in Toruń where Tentoglou successfully defended his title. His closest challengers are likely to be Sweden’s Thobias Montler and Finland’s Kristian Pulli, the silver and bronze medallists behind Tentoglou in Torun.

Sweden and Finland will also be looking to reestablish their positions in the Super League in 2023 along with Turkey whose team includes Jak Ali Harvey in the 100m and 200m with European 200m champion Ramil Guliyev recruited for relay duties this weekend.

Hosts Romania finished as high as second in the Super League on the women’s side in the late 1990s at the European Cup - the predecessor of the European Athletics Team Championships - thanks in no small part to the exploits of the likes of Gabriela Szabo and Ionela Tirlea.

More than 20 years later, the Romanians are unlikely to challenge for promotion but the likes of Bianca Ghelber (hammer), Florentina Iusco (triple jump) and Alin Alexandru Firfirica (discus) are all expected to challenge for maximum points in their respective events which should guarantee Romania’s place in the second flight of the competition in 2023.

Ireland’s withdrawal from the competition means they will get automatically relegated into the Second League in 2023 along with the two lowest ranked teams at the conclusion of the weekend. 




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