In the absence of title holder Russia, suspended due to the IAAF’s sanctions following doping violations, Germany is being ventured as favourite for the 2017 edition of the European Team Championships. However, the French team, competing on home soil, has every intention of going for gold, given that it has not yet managed to secure the title since the introduction of the event’s mixed formula.
In the six editions of the European Team Championships, Russia
and Germany have both had a share of the top spot and are tied on three victories each. In Cheboksary in 2015, the Slavs got the better of the Germans, who were victorious the previous year in Brunswick. Suffice to say that playing ‘on home soil’ is an important criteria in the competition, a fact that has not escaped the French.
The last time the continent’s two leading nations faced off on ‘neutral’ ground, Robert Harting and company dominated proceedings in Gateshead, back in 2013. Champions in 2009 in Leiria too, they will be the bookmakers’ favourites in late May in Lille. In the bid to thwart their plans, there appear to be three stand-out teams in the race to the podium. France will have the benefit of the support of its home crowd and also managed to retain third place in the last edition of the event.
On the day in question, the Frenchies secured their bronze medal in the final event, the men’s 4x400m, against Poland. Since that time, the Polish have really made a great impression, dominating the medal ranking during the last two European Individual Championships: outdoor event in Amsterdam in 2016 and an indoor event in Belgrade in 2017. Meantime, the British are yet to dispatch their top players to defend the colours of the Union Jack. However, in 2013, on British soil, they managed to
hold out on the Germans and Russians to finish the competition with a third place, a performance they repeated in 2009. In 2010, they even managed to raise their game again to finish second behind Russia.
Third two years ago, the French have only enjoyed a podium finish the once. However, in six editions, men and women combined, they’ve never posted less than fifth place, demonstrating their consistent performance. If they want to become the third team to register their name on the list of winners, they will have to put up a particularly inspired performance given the sturdiness of the German contingent, who dominate in the throwing competitions and are formidable in all the other events.
Of the eleven teams competing in Les Hauts-de-France, Holland will be the least experienced since this will be only the second participation by Dafne Schippers and her compatriots at the top level of competition. Relegated in 2014, the Dutch team earned the right to move back up to the first division in 2015, as did Greece and the Czech Republic. For these three teams, the primary objective will be to avoid relegation, as the three Scandinavian countries did in 2015 (Norway, Sweden and Finland).
It promises to be an epic battle from beginning to end of the forty events on the programme for the weekend.