Poland won their maiden title at the European Athletics Team Championships Super League in Bydgoszcz two years ago and the reigning champions have the unique opportunity of being able to defend that title on home soil in Silesia on 29-30 May.
In a streamlined format which has seen the Super League refined from 12 to eight teams from 2021 onwards, Poland will face opposition from France, Germany, Great Britain & NI, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Ukraine were due to compete but pulled out after two team members tested positive for coronavirus.
Both days will also be streamed live on the European Athletics website and there will be four additional fields dedicated to the field events.
And the easing of restrictions in Poland is such that the reigning champions will be buoyed by home support. A maximum of 7600 spectators will be welcomed back into the Silesian Stadium which recently hosted the World Athletics Relays albeit behind closed doors.
The Poles won by an unassailable margin of 27.5 points ahead of reigning champions Germany and France two years ago when a near full strength team fully lived up to expectations in Bydgoszcz, winning 10 of the 40 events.
And while the Polish team is missing a few key names including Ewa Swoboda (100m), Maria Andrejczyk (javelin) and Adam Kszczot (800m) along with Marcin Lewandowski (1500m) and Piotr Lisek (pole vault) who were both late withdrawals, the hosts will still be in contention to become just the second nation after Russia in 2013 to successfully defend their title.
The Polish team includes three of their nine individual winners from Bydgoszcz two years ago including the surprise European indoor 800m champion Patryk Dobek who reverts back to the 400m hurdles. His performance in Silesia is likely to determine which event he will focus on for the rest of the season.
The bearded Michal Haratyk is also expected to produce a repeat victory in the shot put. Haratyk is the only European thrower to surpass the 22 metre-line this season with 22.17m which means he could legitimately challenge his championship record of 21.83m this weekend.
Justyna Swiety-Ersetic was the most valuable member of the Polish team in Bydgoszcz, contributing a maximum of 24 points courtesy of an individual victory in the 400m before running the anchor leg of their winning 4x400m team.
But after an auspicious indoor season which was capped with a silver medal in the 400m at the European Indoor Championships in Torun, Swiety-Ersetic recently announced on her Instagram account that her training since then has been curtailed by a bout of coronavirus in April.
Making a belated outdoor season’s opener, Swiety-Ersetic will only compete in the 4x400m in Silesia while double European U23 champion Natalia Kaczmarek, who recently shaved more than one second off her lifetime best with 51.03, will deputise for Swiety-Ersetic in the individual 400m.
The Poles also have excellent chances in both hammer competitions courtesy of Malwina Kopron and four-time world champion Pawel Fajdek while in-form Kamila Licwinko will be looking to follow up her victory in the Gateshead Diamond League with maximum points in Silesia.
On Saturday afternoon, all eyes inside the Silesian Stadium - and those watching on television or via live streaming - will be drawn to the javelin runaway where Johannes Vetter will be competing for Germany who are seeking their fourth title as a collective.
Vetter threw an incredible 97.76m in this very stadium last September, adding more than three metres to his national record and coming within one metre of Jan Zelezny’s seemingly otherworldly world record of 98.48m which celebrated its 25th birthday on 25 May.
Vetter has been ultra consistent at the highest level in the early weeks of the summer campaign and the 2017 world champion will be looking for his fifth successive competition in excess of the 90 metre-line.
Teammate and reigning European champion Christin Hussong is equally fancied to accrue maximum points for Germany in the women’s javelin after a trio of competitions in the 66 metre range this month.
The Germans will also have high hopes in the women’s sprints with the in-form pair of Lisa Mayer and Rebekka Haase named in the 100m and 200m respectively. The German pair will face strong opposition from Brits Imani Lansiquot and Beth Dobbin and the 4x100m is expected to be decided between the Brits and the Germans.
The Spaniards as ever will be particularly dangerous in the men’s middle and long distance events with Jesus Gomez (1500m), Adel Mechaal (3000m), Carlos Mayo (5000m) and Fernando Carro (3000m steeplechase) among the favourites in their respective events.
In the 5000m, Mayo will come up against a familiar adversary in Yemaneberhan Crippa from Italy who won at this distance two years ago in Bydgoszcz. Crippa is part of a strong Italian team who could push for their first podium finish in competition history.
Other contenders for maximum points among the Italian team in Silesia include Eseosa Desalu (200m), Davide Re (400m), Filippo Randazzo (long jump), Luminosa Bogliolo (100m hurdles) and Roberta Bruni (pole vault). However, European indoor high jump silver medallist Gianmarco Tamberi is a late withdrawal due to injury. Prior to 2021 their best finish was a fourth place finish in Bydgoszcz two years ago.
Portugal will be making their first appearance in the Super League in a decade and their prospects of remaining in the top flight of the biennial competition will hinge largely on the three reigning European indoor champions named on their team. Pedro Pablo Pichardo and Patricia Mamona will be in contention for maximum points in the triple jump along with Auriol Dongmo in the shot put.
The women's triple jump will be one of the most keenly contested events of the weekend as Mamona crosses paths with the silver and bronze medallists from Torun in Spain's Ana Peleteiro and Germany's Neele Eckhardt. In the men's triple jump, Pichardo goes head-to-head with Germany's former European champion Max Hess.
The First, Second and Third Leagues of the European Team Championships take place on 19-20 June.