The opposing armies
06/16/2017 (15:07 00)
The opposing armies

The eleven teams competing in the Hauts-de-France region won’t be lacking resources in their bid to satisfy their respective objectives. We get the low-down on the challenges and the athletes to follow during the three-day competition at the Lille Métropole Stadium.

Third in 2015 in Cheboksary, the Blues will have the benefit of competing on home soil in front of a public audience that is fully behind them. Genuine contenders for the podium, they’ve never finished below fifth place since 2009 and have been making continual progress since 2011. However, the numerous injuries, including Jimmy Vicaut, the latest in the list, might well handicap the French team. Mélina Robert-Michon, Renaud Lavillenie and Mahiedine Mekhissi will likely be the leaders of the French collective.

Winners in 2009 and 2014, the Germans rank among the big favourites for this 2017 edition in the absence of the Russian delegation, suspended by the IAAF. Dominating the continent with their excellent throwers, they can also bank on an increasingly solid line-up in the middle-distance races, as well as a wealth of promising young talent in the other technical disciplines. The strong male contenders, Robert Harting, David Storl and Thomas Röhler, should be able to let their power do the talking in northern France.

Though they haven’t always played into the hands of the European Team Championships, the British remain a safe bet on a European scale. Even though they’ve decided not to send their prime contenders, who have been left to get some rest with a view to the Worlds on home soil, her Majesty’s subjects will be pretenders for the final podium whatever happens. Despite the numerous absences, they will still be able to count on the throwers Nick Miller and Sophie Hitchon, as well as hurdler Eilidh Doyle.

This is the rising team in Europe. Third in 2014, the Polish won the medal ranking in the last two European Championships, both outdoor in Amsterdam in July 2016 and indoor in March 2017 in Belgrade. Boasting a clutch of excellent throwers, they also rack up some very solid performances in all the sprint disciplines. The podium is clearly in their sights. Throwers Pawel Fajdek and Konrad Bukowiecki, as well as middle-distance runners Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski will be their cornerstones.

Sixth in the last edition, the Italians appear to be very well placed to secure a hold over the highest European division of the European Team Championships. To target a podium, they will need to pull a few surprises out of the bag for the transalpine contenders, but they do have a promising haul of fresh new talent. Veteran Fabrizio Donato, the top European performer of the summer in the triple jump, will be a very useful guide for them.

The Dutch are one of three promising teams in the Super League this season and their primary goal will be to retain their place at this top level. Their headline acts are likely to perform in the sprint races, starting with the reigning European champion in the 100m, Churandy Martina, who will be lining up for the 200m here.

Czech Republic
They too are making a return to the upper echelons after suffering relegation in 2014. To avoid the same fate, the Czechs will be able to count on their middle-distance runners and a few top-flight throwers. The decision might well come down to a matter of points at the close of day on Sunday. Among the athletes to keep a close eye on are Jakub Vadlejch in the javelin, Radek Juska in the long jump, Jan Kudlicka in the pole vault and Tomas Stanek in the shot put.

The Ukrainians are one of the ‘bosses’ of the European Team Championships. Seventh in 2015 after two sixth places, they have already made it onto the podium with a third place in 2011. Still posting stellar performances with their young female contingent, they also possess some young talent who are very comfortable in the various international youth championships. With Dmytro Demanyuk in the high jump, the two Olhas, Zemlyak in the 400m and Saladukha in the triple jump, they should be able to glean some precious points.

Promoted in 2015, the Belarusians confidently kept pace in Cheboksary in 2015, after reintegrating the Elite following a year of purgatory. Walking a tightrope again this year, they won’t be allowed the slightest faux pas if they are to retain their place. Their throwers will be the spearheads of the Slav delegation, like shot put specialist Aliona Dubitskaya.

The Greeks are celebrating their great comeback to Europe’s ‘high society’, as they haven’t put in an appearance at this level since the 2010 edition in Bergen (Norway), where they secured tenth place. The Greek revival involves the technical disciplines and notably the jumping competitions, where the new Hellenic wave is working wonders: Kostas Filippidis and Ekaterini Stefanidi in the pole vault, Paraskevi Papahristou in the triple jump. However, it’s not certain whether this will be enough for them to hold rank, but they will certainly be fighting tooth and nail, like javelin thrower Ioannis Kiriazis.

Eighth in the last three editions, the Spanish can count on their middle-distance runners to rack up a number of points. If they fail to post an inspired performance, they could well find themselves up against it in their bid to avoid dropping down into the second division in 2018. Usually fairly weak in the throwing competitions, they have been making progress in the jumping competitions for some years now. Naturalised Cuban Orlando Ortega will be one of the headline acts in the 110m hurdles.