Preview: Meadows, Aregawi and Britton can seize the moment | 27.02.2013
|Jenny Meadows of Great Britain.
Of the 17 women from 14 different countries who have entered the 800m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Göteborg, only one of them is in the top 11 on this year's European rankings. Elena Kotulskaia is fourth on the list, with a time of 2:00.90 from the Russian National Championships in Moscow.
She will be one of the favourites for the gold medal but Kotulskaia is not the fastest in the field if the chart is made up of personal bests. That honour goes to a woman who could provide one of the most heartwarming, and touching, moments of the whole event in Sweden.
On Thursday night in their hotel, the day before the Championships start, quiet will descend as the team captain of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland squad takes to the stage. Do not expect any loud, vitriolic speeches from the woman making the address - she will probably have a smile on her face as she talks - because Jenny Meadows is a prime example of actions speaking louder than words.
Meadows is honoured to be the skipper of the British team. But more, she is just delighted even to be in Göteborg for a Championships she thought she would not be part of.
It is an uplifting tale of battling against physical and mental adversity. Meadows has a best of 1:58.43, one of only four women in the field to have broken two minutes. Kotulskaia is among that quartet with 1:59.63, but for the Briton the chance to defend a title which came her way after she finished second in Paris in 2011. The winner, Yevgeniya Zinurova, of Russia, was later disqualified for a drugs offence, but in September of that year Meadows suffered injuries which saw her miss the Olympic Games on home soil the following summer. But she is back, with a season's best of 2:02.86, the 19th quickest in Europe this year, from Birmingham earlier this month, and will her story have another unexpected twist to it?
Marina Arzamasova, of Belarus, is the first non-Russian to catch the eye on the European rankings. She is 12th on the list with a fastest 2013 time of 2:02.20 while Ireland's Ciara Everard (2013 best: 2:02.54) could also be in the mix at a distance where Russian Yekaterina Kupina, who leads the European rankings with 1:59.58, the only European woman to break two minutes this year, failed to qualify from the national championships.
In the 42-year history of this event being on the programme at the European Athletics Indoor Championships, Sweden have never made the podium. Be prepared for all that to change in Göteborg, when the national anthem is likely to blare out and the flags wave in celebration of gold.
Abeba Aregawi who will be making her Championship debut for Sweden will take some beating over the seven-and-a-half laps.
|Natalia Rodriguez (right) of Spain will be a strong
contender for a medal in the women's 1500m.
It was in her home city last week that Aregawi established her position as the fastest woman in the world this year with a brilliant performance of 3:58.40 to triumph at the XL-Galan meeting. The closest to her on the European rankings in Göteborg is Spain's Natalia Rodriguez whose best in 2013 is over 11 seconds slower.
But while Rodriguez's time of 4:09.86 makes this event look a one-woman race, so much can happen in the unpredictablity of a race on tight corners.
As Rodriguez would probably testify.
At the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, she finished first before being disqualified after a collision with Gelete Burka. It can be that tight and dramatic in an event where the pace can start off slow with much of the drama developing in the final few laps.
Rodriguez bounced back in style after that disappointment in Berlin. She won bronze at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona in 2010 before finishing third at the World Championships in Daegu the following year.
The three-pronged challenge from Russia will pose a threat too - with Svetlana Podosenova, Anna Shchagina and Eelena Soboleva all making an impression in 2013.
And though Soboleva has run a best of 4:11.02 this year, her personal best of 3:58.28 is actually 0.12 quicker than Aregawi's, just to add to the intrigue.
Two women who will be of interest also are Germany's Sujew twins - Diana and Elina. The 22-year-olds have run well this year, with Elina 10th on the rankings with 4:10.96 and Diana two places behind her with 4:11.26.
|Fionnuala Britton of Ireland will be looking to make
her mark on the track. (Getty Images)
Ireland's Fionnuala Britton, 28, so much wants to become the all-round athlete and follow in the footsteps of her country's greatest distance runner, the brilliant Sonia O'Sullivan, who won multiple gold medals on muddy terrains and indoor and outdoor.
Britton retained her crown as SPAR European Cross Country champion with a superb run in Budapest in December but on the track it has been a different story with her career.
At the Olympic Games in London she was 15th in the final of the 10,000m before failing to make the 5000m final but her 8:54.37 at the XL-Galan in Stockholm was a personal best. New territory achieved, now to see if she can turn that into glory in Göteborg.
Portugal's experienced Sara Moreira and Italy's Silvia Weissteiner can also not be ruled out.