From Jaz Sawyers and Nafi Thiam to Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Keely Hodgkinson, here are some of the best bits from the European Indoor Champs
Istanbul has made numerous failed attempts to stage the Olympics in the past 25 years. During its most recent bid – for the 2020 Games – the Ataköy Athletics Arena in the west of the city was gearing itself up to host fencing and taekwondo. But after losing out to Tokyo, Istanbul has had to put its Olympic ambitions on hold and last weekend the Ataköy venue was home to the European Athletics Indoor Championships instead.
The European Indoors is not the biggest event on the athletics calendar and is often viewed as a stepping stone to greater things for the athletes who win medals there. Yet as a standalone feast of track and field it is a popular and enjoyable meeting and the 2023 edition did not disappoint with plenty of exciting action.
Apart from pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, most of the continent’s top stars took part too. Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Femke Bol and Karsten Warholm were among the competitors, for example.
While the actual athletics was brilliant, not everything outside of the six-lane track went perfectly. There were complaints about dirty toilets, lack of food options, mercenary cab drivers, intermittent wifi for the media, plus dangerously loose wires and cables on precipitously steep rows of seating.
Whereas the arena had rusty remnants of its bids to stage the greatest show on earth with Olympic rings dotted around the venue, there was also an unsightly concrete lake, or ‘rubble reservoir’, just metres from the athletes’ and VIP entrances. Stray cats were also able to strut quite easily into the stadium, mingling with athletes and spectators.
The spectator seats were nowhere near full either although in Istanbul’s defence the organisers deliberately kept the pre-event publicity low-key as a mark of respect to the victims of the previous month’s earthquake elsewhere in the country. This national disaster undoubtedly contributed to some of the organisational issues too.
The athletics, however, was excellent and here’s my pick of the best moments.
Sawyers leads by example
The feel-good moment of the weekend as Jazmin Sawyers nailed two major goals in one jump – the first seven-metre leap of her life and victory in an international senior championship.
The performance of the championships as Nafi Thiam set a world pentathlon record of 5055 as Adrianna Sułek also beat Nataliya Dobrynska’s mark of 5013. Fittingly Dobrynska was there to congratulate them. As a moment it was all-round athleticism at its finest.
Keely in control
When Keely Hodgkinson first won this title in Torun two years ago it was a breakthrough performance. But in Istanbul she took to the track as an Olympic and world silver medallist and proved one of the most emphatic winners of the weekend with a confident gun-to-tape 800m win. Surely she is the most exciting athlete in Britain right now.
Femke on fire
If Keely Hodgkinson is the most exciting athlete in Britain, then Femke Bol is probably the most exciting female athlete in Europe. After her world record-breaking feats earlier this season, she romped to 400m victory in Istanbul and anchored her team to 4x400m gold too. Will we ever get to see Bol versus Hodgkinson over 600m though?
Courtney-Bryant persistence rewarded
Melissa Courtney-Bryant produced one of the best stories of the weekend, from a British perspective at least, as she won 3000m bronze juts two years after watching the championships from her sofa at home on crutches with injury.
Ingebrigtsen at the double
Jakob Ingebrigtsen had to use all his abilities to see off the challenge of Neil Gourley in the 1500m before having an easier ride in the 3000m as he secured the ‘double double’ of European indoor titles. Never one to beat around the bush, he then complained about not being pushed hard enough.
The world’s fastest accountant
We didn’t know much about Eugene Amo-Dadzie before Istanbul. Not surprising really as the 30-year-old GB debutant didn’t start sprinting seriously until he was 26. He only made the semi-finals of the 60m too but lit up the mixed zone with his ebullient personality and interesting back story as a part-time accountant.
“I call myself the fastest accountant in the world.”
It’s not often you reach your first major championships for GB as a 30-year-old 🇬🇧
That’s the case for Eugene Amo-Dadzie who got to the 60m semis at the Euro Indoors 💥
🎙️ @TimAdams76 #Istanbul2023 pic.twitter.com/QjwEpTbGgp
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) March 4, 2023
Warholm’s go hard or go home attitude
Karsten Warholm was congratulated in the mixed zone for his PB… at 200m after blasting through the first lap of his 400m in 20.84 before hanging on grimly to win in 45.35. The Norwegian did it the hard way but, as he explained, this ability to push himself into areas that most athletes would shy away from is partly what has made him so good.
Italian sprint domination
Samuele Ceccarelli and Marcell Jacobs did an Italian job in the men’s 60m as they finished one-two. Olympic champion Jacobs will need to get his injury problems sorted out if he is to beat the top Americans this summer, whereas it will be interesting to see how much Ceccarelli improves on his modest outdoor PBs of 10.45 for 100m and 21.60 for 200m (slower than the women’s world record).
Zany story in the shot
As back stories go, Zane Weir owns a pretty good one. The South African-born athlete moved to Italy just before the Covid pandemic broke out in spring 2020 and during the first national lockdown his new coach at the time, Paolo Dal Soglio, welcomed the athlete to live with him and his wife for a spell as he was unable to get back to South Africa. They have struck a winning partnership since and in Istanbul he threw 22.06m to take gold.
» Catch up with all our coverage from Istanbul here and look out for much more analysis and reviews in our monthly print magazine which is out next week
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