Preview – Men's hurdles: Shubenkov and Green's golden opportunity
|Great Britain's Jack Green has the golden
opportunity to claim the top European title in the
400m hurdles in Helsinki.
The young Russian had just won the 110 metres hurdles gold medal at the European Under-23 Championships in Ostrava when he was asked how he felt.
As was explaining his victory, he stopped, he looked at the camera and he screamed in celebration, launching into an 'Argh!, his face consumed by a smile.
He paused, he carried on talking and then mid-sentence, looked to the skies, raised both hands and yelled the word 'Yeah!'.
A star was born that day in the Czech Republic and what a fitting venue to stamp down a marker so early in a career, winning a sprint hurdles title on the track where two years earlier Cuban Dayron Robles had set the sprint hurdles world record with his run of 12.87.
Shubenkov, 21, still has a way to go to match that time, but he is heading in the right direction and it is why, just a few days away from the start of the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki, he is ready to make another impression.
At the end of last month, Shubenkov took his personal best time down from 13.35 to 13.18 with a stunning run at the Herouville-St Clair Meeting Elite in Northern France to break the Russian national record.
It was just the type of development he was hoping for, underlining how his under-23 title last year was the stepping stone to greater glories.
Is Shubenkov good enough to win in Helsinki? He is top of the European rankings and in the joint-seventh in the world – ironically with Robles - but behind him, a group of rivals will be determined to halt his progress.
Frenchman Garfield Darien has run 13.24 twice this summer while Emanuel Abate's 13.28 is an Italian record.
Abate's time came when the top three in the listings all met in Turin at the start of this month and finished in the order they are in the rankings, with Shubenkov winning in 13.21 followed by Darien, again in 13.24, equalling his personal best from Geneva.
It makes for a great race in Helsinki – with eyes also on who might break that triumvirate. Lawrence Clarke, of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a big contender while French legend Ladji Doucouré, who won gold on this track at the World Championships in 2005, cannot be dismissed lightly.
Green eyes gold in Helsinki
The men's 400m hurdles has a European as world champion in Britain's Dai Greene, but while he will not be in Helsinki, his namesake will, and with it means the presence of one of athletics' most enduring and successful characters – coach Malcolm Arnold.
In the absence of Greene, former European champion Periklis Iakovakis, of Greece, is the season's leader with the 49.04 he ran in Athens last week.
Now 33, Iakovakis has been performing at the top level for 14 years when, back in 1998, he won the World Junior title in Annecy to establish himself on the scene.
But 2006 was his greatest year. In Gothenburg, he won gold in 48.46 before running 47.92 to triumph at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart.
Jack Green, who sits fourth on the rankings this summer with a best of 49.22 behind Welshman Greene (48.96), Iakovakis and Germany's Silvio Schirrmeister (49.21), is guided by the legend that is Arnold.
At 72, even before the Championships begin, Arnold is celebrating again after being made an Order of the British Empire in last week's Queen's Birthday honours.
He has had an amazing career, coaching athletes to over 65 medals, including Colin Jackson who won the European 110m hurdles crown on four occasions between 1990 and 2002.
But it is on the one-lap hurdle event where his first major glory came with the late Uganda John Akii-Bua winning the Olympic title in Munich in 1972 under the tutelage of Arnold who then guided Greene to the world title, 39 year later, in Daegu last summer.
It is now the Green's turn, that of Jack, to carry the torch into these European Championships and as he said: "Malcolm is the best coach in the world when it comes to hurdles."
It could be an event dominated by Britons because Richard Yates (49.39) and Nathan Woodward (49.42) are fourth and fifth respectively in the rankings, one of the reasons this weekend's domestic trials in Birmingham is going to be such a captivating race.
In Helsinki, Green could take all the beating having won the European Under-23 title 12 months ago in 49.13 from teammate Woodward (49.28) and provide Arnold with yet another moment to savour.
What a fabulous story that would be.