Gregan the glory boy | 11.02.2013
|Ireland's Brian Gregan has emerged as a very
strong contender for the 400m title at the European
Athletics Indoor Championships in Göteborg.
In Madrid in 2005, and then Birmingham two years later, David Gillick took gold in this frenetic, dramatic two-lap race and now Gregan is warming up for Göteborg with an eye on the top of that podium.
Having soared to the quickest time in Europe this year with a run of 46.07 in Athlone, Ireland, in January, Gregan rubber-stamped his authority on Sunday with an impressive victory at the Record Bank Flanders Indoor meeting in Gent on Sunday.
It might not have been as quick as his year's best time, which was also a personal best, but his win in 46.73 saw him beat leading Belgian Jonathan Borlee, who was second in 46.83, with Luguelin Santos, the Dominican Republic's Olympic silver medallist, third in 47.11.
Gregan, 23, who was sixth at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki last summer, has powerful shoulders, an upper-body strength that he uses to his advantage in the early part of his races.
His style is to establish an early lead as the stagger unwinds and because of his build, it makes him hard to pass when his speed reaches full pelt.
Ireland have won eight gold medals in the history of the European Athletics Indoor Championships, but Gregan will go to Göteborg in just over two weeks as a worthy favourite to become the ninth.
The Borlee brothers are among the biggest names in Belgium sport, and after Jonathan's defeat in the 400m, his brother Kevin was beaten in a thrilling 300m in a clash of the past two European outdoor 400m champions.
Kevin won the title in Barcelona in 2010 and in Helsinki, Pavel Maslak succeeded him as champion.
Over the 300m in Gent, the Czech Republic runner was emphatic and impressive as he won in 32.58, the second best European time in history and just 0.11 outside of the quickest by Frenchman Leslie Dhjone in 2010.
Borlee did break a national record, though, with his 32.72 in second with American Calvin Smith Jr. third in 32.97.
The women's high jump in Göteborg will be fascinating in the rise of young Italian Alessia Trost, 19, the world junior champion.
After her victory in Barcelona in July, she has maintained her outstanding form which showed in Gent as she cleared 1.95m for victory ahead of Belgium's 2008 Olympic champion Tia Hellebaut with 1.91m followed by Ukrainian Olena Kholosha with the same height.
Trost, who leads the world rankings in 2013 with her two-metre jump from Trinec in January, tried and failed at 2.01m but it is the consistency she is showing that is proving vital.
There was something for the home crowd to cheer about with victory for decathlete Hans Van Alphen in the shot put with 15.08m while in the 60m, Angel David Rodriguez, who broke the Spanish record of 6.55 on Friday at the European Athletics Permit Meeting in Dusseldorf, triumphed in 6.57.
He beat Nigeria's Egwero Ogho-Eghene, who was second in 6.62, with German Julian Reus and French star Christophe Lemaitre both being timed at 6.64.