Martinot-Lagarde wants gold after Sopot silver disappointment
Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, France’s exuberant showman of a high hurdler, will enter these Championships as favourite for the title following his watershed performance at last month’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, where he dipped under 13 seconds for the first time with a national record of 12.95.
But what will probably offer the 22-year-old former world junior champion most motivation is the bitter memory of his failure to win gold in the 60m hurdles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot earlier this year.
Martinot-Lagarde took silver in 7.46 behind the relatively unknown Omo Osaghae of the United States. “I did really bad mistakes this winter,” he said in Monaco. “I thought I would win easily in Sopot. Now for the European Championships I am the leader but I don’t want to think it’s already won.”
The Frenchman will need all his concentration to hold off the challenge of Russia’s defending 110m hurdles champion and 2013 world bronze medallist Sergey Shubenkov.
Shubenkov, a year senior to Martinot-Lagarde, has a personal best of 13.09 and ran 13.13 last month in Lausanne.
France will hope to have more than one athlete on the podium given the recent form of Martinot-Lagarde’s 26-year-old brother Thomas, a world finalist last summer, who is fifth in this year’s European listings with 13.38, and the competitor who stands one place above him on that list with 13.25, Dimitri Bascou.
But Britain also field a trio of athletes capable of making the medal podium. William Sharman, third in this year’s European rankings with 13.21, looks their man-most-likely given his silver medal win at this month’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 13.36. But don’t rule out 33-year-old Andy Turner, the 2010 European champion from Barcelona and 2011 world bronze medallist who will be seeking what he has hinted will be a final flourish to his career.
In terms of championship experience, Emir Bekric – European under-23 champion and world bronze medallist last year – looks the man to beat in the 400m hurdles. The Serbian has a personal best of 48.05 from last year’s Moscow final, making him comfortably the fastest man in the field, but has only managed 49.64 this season.
Estonia’s Rasmus Magi has pushed himself to the top of this year’s European rankings with his victory in Tallinn in a national record of 48.77, but he will be under pressure in Zurich from another athlete who has set a national record this season, Ireland’s Thomas Barr, who clocked 48.90 in Geneva.
Britain’s Niall Flannery also looks a strong title contender having run 48.80 this year, while Russia’s Denis Kudryavtsev, with a 48.95 time from 30 May will also contend for a medal.
Billaud could make it a double for France
France will have high hopes of a sprint hurdles double in Zurich given the current form of Cindy Billaud, who heads this year’s European rankings having set a national record of 12.56 at last month’s French Championships in Reims.
But Britain’s Tiffany Porter, with a 2014 best of 12.65 and a personal best of 12.55, showed she will also be a strong contender for gold with her silver medal-winning performance behind Olympic champion Sally Pearson in Glasgow this month.
The German pairing of Nadine Hildebrand and Cindy Roleder, respectively third and fourth on this year’s European list with 12.71 and 12.80, will also be in the medal hunt along with Anna Zagre of Belgium, who has a 2014 best of 12.83.
Following the reluctant withdrawal this month of 400m hurdles world champion Zuzana Hejnova, who has still not fully recovered from the tendon injury which has undermined her season, the Czech Republic’s hopes will rest with the 2010 silver medallist and 2011 European indoor champion Denisa Rosolova.
But the experienced Czech athlete will be hard pressed to frustrate the golden ambitions of Britain’s Eilidh Child, who took a hugely popular home silver behind Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer at this month’s Commonwealth Games and who tops this year’s European lists with 54.39, ahead of Rosolova’s 54.63.
It would also be unwise to rule out the ambitions of Russia’s defending champion Irina Davydova, who won in Helsinki two years ago in 53.77, making her the fastest in the field, although she has only clocked 55.44 this season.
ALL THE HURDLES STATS
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS GOLD MEDALLISTS 2012
110m hurdles – Sergey Shubenkov (Rus) who won in 13.16sec
400m hurdles – Rhys Williams (GB) 49.33
100m hurdles- Nevin Yanit (Tur) 12.81
400m hurdles – Irina Davydova (Rus) 53.77
110m hurdles - Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (Fra),12.95 Monaco July 18
400m hurdles – Rasmus Magi (Est) 48.77 Tallinn Aug 3
100m hurdles – Cindy Billaud (Fra) 12.56 Reims July 12
400m hurdles- Eilidh Child (GB) 54.39 Glasgow July 11
110m hurdles – Colin Jackson (GB), 12.91sec Stuttgart August 20 1993
400m hurdles – Stephane Diagana (Fra) 47.37 Lausanne July 5 1995
100m hurdles – Yordanka Donkova (Bul) 12.21 Stara Zagora Aug 20 1988 (WR)
400m hurdles – Yuliya Pechonkina (Rus) 52.34 Tula Aug 8 2003 (WR)
EUROPEAN ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIP RECORDS
110m hurdles – Colin Jackson (GB) 13.02sec Budapest Aug 22 1998
400m hurdles- Harald Schmid (Ger) 47.48 Athens Sept 8 1982
100m hurdles – Yordanka Donkova (Bul) 12.38 Stuttgart Aug 29 1986
400m hurdles – Natalya Antyukh (Rus) Barcelona July 30 2010