Shubenkov eyes his quickest route to gold

Shubenkov eyes his quickest route to gold
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Russia's Sergey Shubenkov has high hopes to retain his 110m hurdles title at the European Athletics Championships this summer in Zurich.

If Sopot did not go quite as planned for Russia's Sergey Shubenkov, he is hoping that the summer months of 2014 might see him join two exclusive clubs.                               

Not only does he hope to retain his 110m hurdles title at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, he also wants to smash the 13-second barrier.

Shubenkov should head to Switzerland in August as the man to beat: he is the defending champion, also first European at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow when he took bronze.

And if he repeats his triumph from Helsinki in 2012, his name will go alongside Italy's Eddy Ottoz (1969 and 1971), Germany's Thomas Munkelt (1978 and 1982) and Great Britain's Colin Jackson (1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002) as the sprinters who have kept hold of this crown.

But Shubenkov is aware that he will be a marked man at the Letzigrund Stadium.

He said: "I have to defend my European championship title and, as I know, it usually is much more difficult to do than win for the first time."

Since finishing second at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Novi Sad in 2009, Shubenkov, 23, has had an outstanding record of consistency, winning the European Under-23 title in 2011 before his glory in Helsinki just months ahead of him being crowned European Athletics 60m hurdles indoor champion in Gotenburg a year ago.

This month's World Indoor Championships in Sopot was a blot on his record as he was knocked out in the semi-finals and he is ready to learn from it.

Shubenkov, speaking to Sport-Express, said: "We realised there are important conclusions from my performance in Sopot where I didn’t achieve the final. Now I have calmed down a little bit, it’s time to think what things went wrong in the way we followed my training process."

And his targets include a breakthrough time, too.

His personal best is the national record of 13:09 which he ran three times in 2012 - in Linz, in the semi-finals in Helsinki (he won the final in 13.16) and then Monaco - but now he wants to go quicker.

He added: "I also have the dream to run 110m hurdles under 13.00 and join the elite '13-sec club'.”

Only 14 men have broken 13 seconds, with the fastest of them being American Aries Merritt with his world record of 12.80 from 2012, while the European record is held by Jackson, who ran 12.91 when he won the world title in Stuttgart in 1993.

If Shubenkov keeps hold of his gold medal in Zurich and achieves the time he is looking for, it will be quite a summer.