Preview - Men's middle distance: Will Borzakovskiy claim the missing title in Helsinki?
|Russia's Yuriy Borzakovskiy will be looking
for the European outdoor 800m title, which
has so far eluded him, in Helsinki.
Coming into Helsinki with exactly the same time and also a PB, is Britain's Andrew Osagie whose tactical awareness has improved dramatically this season and that may well stand him in good stead with an eye to the podium. The British boast a formidable trio with Michael Rimmer and Gareth Warburton also slipping under the 1:45 barrier this year.
Not to be outdone, Spain has an equally impressive line-up led by Antonio Manuel Reina whose season best 1:44: 65 from Doha is his fastest for seven years. It is now all of ten years since Reina, who has recently moved from his native Seville to Madrid, set the Spanish record of 1:43:83. European Indoor bronze, Kevin Lopez, and Luis Alberto Marco will accompany Reina.
The rising star of German athletics is Soren Ludolph, 24, whose lifetime best 1:44.80 from Hengelo is the fastest two-laps any German has run for eight years. French champion Pierre Ambroise Bosse, just 20, has set four of his five fastest times this year, his PB coming in Lille when he followed world-class Mohamed Aman home in 1:44.97. Another sub-1:45 performer this season, Andreas Bube of Denmark, finished three places down on Bosse in Lille.
But no one should discount Russia's mercurial Yuriy Borzakovskiy just because it is eight years since he lifted the Olympic title. Despite his unconventional tactics, it is worth recalling that Borzakovskiy claimed his second world bronze last summer in Daegu, suggesting that now is the time to add the European title to his two indoor crowns. It is one of those oddities of sport that a man with such limitless talent should not have European outdoor 800m gold in his display cabinet back home.
Defending champion, Marcin Lewandowski and season leader, Adam Kszczot, both of Poland, have opted not to compete in Helsinki.
Can Turkish runners overturn the Spanish domination in 1500m
Event leader in the 1500m is Turkey's Ilham Tanui Özbilen who snapped up world indoor silver this winter for his adopted country. Formerly William Tanui of Kenya, Özbilen rewrote the Turkish record books last September when he crossed the line in 3:31.37.
With two representatives in the top five in 2012, Spain has serious options to defend the gold medal won by Arturo Casado in Barcelona two years ago. Alvaro Rodriguez and David Bustos fought it out in Huelva at the beginning of this month with the former coming off best by three tenths of a second. Bustos's 3:34.77, however, was a personal best and he will clearly be looking to take a step up the pecking order in Helsinki.
Great Britain has not won this title for 26 years when Steve Cram was in his pomp, but Ross Murray probably lacks enough experience to reverse the trend. His 3:34.76 lifetime best in Hengelo puts him at the top of the country's rankings so far this year, but team-mate Andy Baddeley has better credentials to opt for a medal. Baddeley has been toying with longer distances, but his four wins over the metric mile and mile suggest his tactical nous is as sharp as ever.
Talented young Frenchman Florian Carvalho may find the elbows too sharp at this level. Owner of four European cross country titles, the European U-23 champion from last summer will gain invaluable experience. But he did take his country's senior title this month in Angers and may well surprise some more experienced rivals.
Germany's Carsten Schlangen snatched silver in Barcelona two years ago and has a vast amount of experience internationally, but he was upstaged in the German championships by Florian Orth, nine years his junior, who took over with 200m and held off Schlangen's challenge with ease.
|Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France remains
the man to beat in the 3000m steeplechase.
Mekhissi-Benabbad the overwhelming favourite in steeplechase
It is hard to see anyone depriving Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of the steeplechase title he is defending. As well as Olympic silver, the Frenchman lifted world bronze last summer and this year he has only been beaten by the all-conquering Kenyans. Nordine Gezzar and Noureddine Smail, second and third behind Mekhissi-Benabbad in the French championships, also make the trip.
Spain is turning up with the second and third fastest on the continent, Victor Garcia and Abdelaziz Merzoughi. Garcia went out in the heats of the 3000m in the world indoors this winter, but in Huelva slashed over seven seconds from his previous best over the barriers with an excellent 8:15.20. Łukasz Parszczynski, national champion of Poland, has not yet approached last year's 8:15.47 PB, but he was second European home in Rome and has yet to reach his peak.
Apart from battling Ion Luchianov of Moldova who took bronze last time round, two former champions are in the entry list, Antonio Jimenez of Spain who won ten years ago and Finland's Jukka Keskisalo, a memorable champion in Gothenburg 2006.