Svoboda's Prague presence will raise the roof

Svoboda's Prague presence will raise the roof
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Petr Svoboda intends to bring his country the 60m hurdles title just like he did back in Paris 2011.

The European Athletics Championships in Prague is just days away and the home nation are ready to make their mark.

The Czech Republic have confirmed their squad of 46, with 27 men and 19 women, and it is set to be the biggest of all the nations.

And while they have leading medal hopes in the shape of defending 400m champion Pavel Maslak, it is the men’s sprint hurdles which will bring one of the most heartwarming tales.

Back in Paris in 2011, Petr Svoboda soared to gold at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in 7.49, beating France’s Garfield Darien in 7.56 and Belgium’s Adrien Deghelt in 7.57.

Svoboda was absolutely delighted with his 60m hurdles triumph in Paris 2011:

He was 26 at the time, he was in the prime of his career having won bronze in Turin two years earlier but then a heel injury struck and kept him from competing for three years.

Svoboda returned last summer to finish fifth in the 110m hurdles at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich but now he is back in the event which brought him gold and in front of his home supporters. When his name is read out, there should be some noise at the 02 Arena.

He is part of a strong Czech squad that includes Ladislav Prasil, who won shot put bronze in Gothenburg in 2013, when his teammates finished third in the 4x400m relays. They will be looking for medals again while Jakub Holusa will be a big hope in the 1500m.

Germany’s Carolin Schafer will compete in the pentathlon in Prague, despite the death of her boyfriend last week.

Schafer, 23, said: "After long conversations with his and my family, and other people I trust and after intense self-reflection, I have decided to start in Prague."

She will face defending champion Antoinette Nana Djimou, of France, World indoor champion Nadine Broersen, of the Netherlands, and Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson among others in a strong field on Friday.

Sifan Hassan was one of the stars of the European Athletics Championships in Zurich, winning the 1500m and taking silver in the 5000m, but the Dutch runner cannot decide which distance to compete in in Prague.

I now mainly train endurance. This is good for the 3000m. But during the nationals it turned out that my 1500m is already very good, so I do not know yet.Sifan Hassan

Her speed this winter at the 1500m was shown in Stockholm last month when she won in a national record of 4:00.46.