Few athletes could have enjoyed a better build-up to a major championships than Polish high jumper Kamila Licwinko, whose season so far can be neatly summarised as three personal bests, three world leads, three national records.
The 28-year-old leapt 2.00m for the first time to win world indoor gold in Sopot last March, and is now poised to become one of field event stars of the 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague after sailing above that height three times in five meetings so far this year.
Licwinko leads the European and world standings by 3cm after clearing 2.02m at the Polish championships in Torun two weeks ago, having beaten her big rival for Prague gold, Russia’s world indoor champion Mariya Kuchina, at the Winter Indoor Meeting in Moscow on 1 February.
See Licwinko's 2.02m clearance in Torun below:
Kuchina should be the Pole’s main threat, but Airiné Palsyte is also in form having leapt 1.98m to break the Lithuanian record, while Italy’s Alessia Trost and the hugely experienced Spaniard Ruth Beitia are both two-metre jumpers at their best.
Greek dramas of one kind or another have been much in the news recently, and Prague could well be the setting for another as pole vaulters Nikolía Kiriakopoúlo and Ekaterini Stefanídi resume their firey domestic rivalry which saw them swap the national record three times in three days last month.
Kiriakopoúlo currently has the upper hand by 3cm after vaulting 4.80m in Birmingham. She’ll have high hopes of a first major championships title while Stefanídi, a former world youth champion, looks to go one better than her European outdoor silver from Zurich last August.
As ever, their main challengers will come from Russia and Germany, via Zürich gold medallist Anezhelika Sidorova and former European under-23 champion Lisa Ryzih, while Marion Flack of France and Angelica Bengtsson of Sweden have both broken national records this season.
The battle for long jump medals could be one of the fiercest of the weekend, with five women separated by just 13cm.
Event leader Katarina Johnson-Thompson has opted for the equally competitive pentathlon, but France’s world indoor and European outdoor champion, Éloyse Lesueur, will still need to be at her best to beat Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic and Lativian record holder Aiga Grabuste, as she did in Zurich last summer.
Germany’s Sosthene Taroum Moguenara could also mount a serious challenge. Her 6.86m from January is the best of the entrants. Johnson-Thompson’s teammate Abigail Irozuru is also in the form of her life.
With a world leading 14.68m to her name, Russia’s Yekaterina Koneva will be favourite to add a European gold to the world indoor triple jump title she took last March, while Yulia Leantsiuk is similarly ahead of the field in the shot after throwing 19.00m at the Belarus championships.
All eyes in the pentathlon will be on Antoinette Nana Djimou, the 29-year-old French multi-eventer who has been undefeated at European Championships over four years, winning a brace of outdoor and indoor titles.
Those trying to stop her this time include world leader Yana Maksimava of Belarus, the silver medallist in Gothenburg two years ago; Dutch world indoor champion Nadine Broersen, last year’s Zürich silver medallist; and Belgian Nafissatou Thiam, who took outdoor bronze last summer.
We shouldn’t forget Johnson-Thompson, of course, the European under-23 champion who’s been breaking British records in both long and high jump this year, and her 17-year-old teammate Morgan Lake, the precocious world junior heptathlon and high jump champion, who’s set to make her mark at senior level.