Dutch dream of gold as Schippers and co get ready to run

Dutch dream of gold as Schippers and co get ready to run
Getty Images

Eelco Sintnicolaas will have work to do on Sunday if he's to catch Russian leader Ilya Shkurenyov in the heptathlon.

Prague 02 Arena could be cast in an orange glow on Sunday afternoon when Dutch favourites Dafne Schippers, Sifan Hassan and Eelco Sintnicolaas go for gold on the final day of the 33rd European Athletics Indoor Championships.

Schippers confirmed her status as favourite for the women’s 60m when she scorched through her heat on Saturday morning clocking a personal best of 7.07.

Europe’s double sprint champion from Zurich last summer demonstrated her delight and determination after setting a new European lead for the season with a yelp, a grin and a handful of fist pumps. Expect yet more exuberant signs of joy if she overcomes her rivals to take gold in the final.

Britain's Dina Asha-Smith and Germany's Veronica Sailer provide the biggest threat and they will want to lay down markers of their own in the semifinals at the start of the session.

Hassan was the Nethlerands’ other big star in Zurich where she outsprinted Abebe Aregawi to take the 1500m title. And now it’s the Swede’s indoor crown she has her sights on in Prague.

Hassan will certainly be fresh for the challenge. She withdrew from the 3000m event on Friday to concentrate on the shorter event.

The task for Sintnicolaas is rather harder. The defending heptathlon champion lies fifth after the first four events on Saturday, with his big scorers – the 60m hurdles and pole vault – to come before the gruelling 1000m.

But he needs to make up 171 points on Russian leader Ilya Shkurenyov who posted big personal bests in the jumps on day one and has 3512 altogether.

It’s not only Dutch fans who will have reason to cheer on Sunday, however, as Britons will also be in the hunt for medals, not least in the men’s 60m where world indoor champion Richard Kilty and European junior 100m champion CJ Ujah go head-to-head.

There was nothing between them in the heats yesterday when both ran 6.57 to lead the qualifiers for today’s semifinals.

Britons will be prominent in the men’s 1500m too, following impressive heat wins by Charlie Grice and Chris O’Hare on Saturday morning. Homiyu Tesfaye of Germany could be the man to beat while Czech favourite Jakob Holusa can count on the crowd’s support.

So too can Jaroslav Bába who sailed into the men’s high jump final with a clean sheet yesterday.

Now 30, the Dukla Prague athlete was a teenage star back in 2004 when he clinched Olympic bronze, but 11 years on he’s still seeking his first senior international title. How fitting it would be if this was the one.

The championships will end in the traditional way with the 4x400m relays when the hosts will be looking for a rousing finale delivered with the help of Saturday’s hero Pavel Maslák.