A 5.60m clearance was sufficient to win the pole vault at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz on Sunday but with four vaulters competing at the European Athletics U20 Championships boasting of lifetime bests equal to – or in excess of – that mark, there is every chance this category will outperform their older counterparts in Grosseto.
Among the outstanding athletes competing in Grosseto is Sweden’s Armand Duplantis, who shattered his world U20 record at the start of the season with a 5.90m clearance which still ranks him third on the world senior lists with less than a month until the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
Duplantis has been breaking age-group records seemingly for fun and the US-based vaulter will undoubtedly threaten the championship record of 5.60m which dates all the way back to 1989 when soon-to-be Olympic champion Maksim Tarasov won gold in Varazdin.
The Swede is the heavy favourite but the competition is far from a foregone conclusion.
Ukraine’s Vladyslav Malykin and Greece’s Emmanouil Karalis - who won silver and bronze respectively behind Duplantis at the 2015 IAAF World U18 Championships and the latter won the European U18 title last summer – have both cleared 5.70m this season while the latest German find is Bo Kanda Lita Baehre, who cleared 5.60m at the German Championships to defeat former world champion Raphael Holzdeppe.
Three-way battle expected for heptathlon gold
Sybille Thiele’s championship record of 6465 points set all the way back to 1983 should remain intact but the heptathlon features three of the standout prospects of multi-eventing: Switzerland’s Géraldine Ruckstuhl, Ukraine’s Alina Shukh and Austria’s Sarah Lagger.
Ruckstuhl outperformed Shukh and Lagger at the Gotzis meeting in May when she broke the 32-year-old Swiss heptathlon record with 6291 points but Shukh had the beating of her at the European Combined Events Team Championships in Tallinn at the start of this month, scoring 6208 points in far from ideal conditions.
Shukh and Lagger are also developing quite a rivalry and only eleven points separated them at the inaugural European Athletics U18 Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia, last summer when the both surpassed the world record.
At 17, Lagger is the youngster of the triumvirate but she has also surpassed the 6000-point barrier with a national U20 record of 6012 points in Gotzis.
Germanys Niklas Kaul could challenge Kevin Mayer’s championship record of 8124 points in the decathlon.
Kaul scored in excess of the Frenchman’s mark at the IAAF World U20 Championships last summer with 8162 points, a score which he was on pace to surpass last month until a poor performance in the discus. Even so, his score of 7946 points is still the best by a junior this season.
Tortu aiming to finish on a high
Filippo Tortu hasn’t raced since the IAAF Diamond League in Rome on 8 June when he shattered his 200m best with 20.34 – which moved him to fourth on the European U20 all-time lists in the process – due to a minor ankle injury but his coach and father Salvino has said he has fully recovered from that mid-season setback.
Tortu won a silver medal over 100m at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz last season but the 19-year-old looks set to cap his junior career with at least one title to his name.
He leads the European U20 200m lists by exactly half-a-second from Finland’s Samuel Purola and Tortu has also improved his national U20 100m record to 10.15 at the shorter distance, putting him 0.16 ahead of his nearest rivals on this season’s form.
Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen has provisionally entered the 1500m, 5000m and the 3000m steeplechase and despite being the youngest entrant in two events, he is the fastest in all three disciplines.
Ingebrigtsen has followed in the footsteps of his older brothers Henrik and Filip with some fine performances this summer but his most impressive showing of the season came at the start of this month when he smashed the 41-year-old European U20 record in the 3000m steeplechase with 8:26.81 on his debut at the event.
For added context, that mark was six seconds inside the qualifying standard for the forthcoming world championships and Ingebrigtsen had run 13:49.54 for 5000m – closing with a 2:32 final kilometre – only two days prior to his breakthrough run over the barriers.
Looking at the entries, Ingebrigtsen is unlikely to be challenged in the 3000m steeplechase and 5000m but he only just leads the European U20 1500m lists with 3:39.92 from Spain’s Adrian Ben (3:40.72) and France’s Yani Khelaf (3:41.07).
Another rising star of European distance running is Switzerland’s Delia Sclabas. After winning a 1500-3000m double in Tbilisi last year, the 16-year-old is aiming to win two more gold medals over the same distances.
Hruba and Tentoglou to challenge records
Michaela Hruba will be looking to conclude her junior career with another gold medal in the high jump.
The Czech has cleared 1.94m twice outdoors this season which puts the championship record of 1.95m jointly held by two greats of the event - Yelena Yelesina and Mariya Lasitskene - into view.
Hruba’s teammate Amalie Svabikova is ranked a close second on the pole vault lists with 4.50m behind Sweden’s Lisa Gunnarsson at 4.55m but the event also features world U20 record-holder Wilma Murto from Finland, although there is a fitness doubt over the latter as she hasn’t competed since finishing eighth at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade.
At her very best, Murto is a 4.71m performer and all three might challenge Angelica Bengtsson’s championship record of 4.57m.
Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou won a silver medal in the long jump at the world U20 championships last summer but he looks poised to improve on that showing in his final season as a junior.
Tentoglou jumped within five centimetres of the world U20 record with 8.30m in June and has posted two other competitions over 8.10m.