The European Athletics U20 Championships in Grosseto two years ago will surely be looked back on as one of the vintage editions of an event which goes all the way back to 1970 in terms of antiquity.
Some of the athletes to be crowned champions in Grosseto in 2017 included Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Armand Duplantis, Miltiadis Tentoglou, Maksim Nedasekau, Niklas Kaul, Filippo Tortu, Solene Ndama and Alina Shukh - all of whom have already made an impact on the senior stage at either continental or global level.
This year, the championships will be staged at the Ryavallen Stadium in Boras from 18-21 July and as always features a heady blend of athletes. The championships will also be streamed live here.
Some will be competing internationally in a major competition for the first time, others will be looking to cap off their junior careers on a high and many will be moving through the age-group ranks having competed at last year’s two major U18 events: the European Athletics U18 Championships in Gyor and the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
The European Athletics U18 Championships last year were highlighted by two world U18 best performances and both of those record-breaking athletes will be competing in Boras this week. Ukraine’s Myhaylo Kokhan competes in the hammer while Spain’s Maria Vicente competes in the heptathlon and has also been named in the relay pool for the 4x100m relay.
Vicente led from the very first event in Gyor and came away with a total of 6221 points to eclipse Shukh’s world U18 best of 6186 points. Her individual marks in both the 100m hurdles and long jump surpassed those of the individual winners but Vicente did come away with a second gold medal from the triple jump, bounding out to 13.95m at the end of a gruelling week of competition.
Vicente will only be contesting the heptathlon individually in Boras where she is unlikely to enjoy the 592-point margin of victory she put together in Gyor last year. Vicente is second on the world U20 list with 5900 points behind Switzerland’s Annik Kalin’s score of 5952 points but Vicente is widely tipped to break the national senior record of 5905 points and could even become the first Spaniard in history to break 6000 points.
Kokhan similarly dominated the hammer last year when all five of his valid throws would have proved sufficient to win. With the gold medal safely wrapped up, Kokhan delivered a spectacular sixth round throw in Gyor of 87.82m to break Bence Halasz’s world U18 best. Kokhan has cited the Hungarian as one of his idols and the Ukrainian surprisingly had the beating of Halasz in the U23 division at the European Throwing Cup in March when he set his lifetime best of 76.68m with the senior implement.
Despite only turning 18 earlier this year which makes him eligible for U20 competitions next year, Kokhan has been throwing predominantly with the senior implement but he did throw with the lighter U20 6kg hammer at the recent Ukrainian U20 Championships in Lutsk, reaching out to 81.11m. This puts him second on the world U20 list behind Greece’s Hristos Frantzeskakis (81.62m) who will be looking to atone for the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere where he didn’t register a valid throw in qualifying.
The Ukrainian team arrives with excellent gold medal prospects in the women’s hammer courtesy of Valeriya Ivanenko and in the women’s high jump with Yaroslava Mahuchikh - both of whom won gold medals at the European U18 Championships and Youth Olympic Games last year as well.
Despite missing the IAAF World U20 Championships last year in order to focus on major U18 competitions, Mahuchikh was by far the best U20 jumper in the world and she has made a stratospheric leap into world class territory this year. Her many season’s highlights have included a world indoor U20 record of 1.99m in Hustopece and she became the youngest ever jumper to clear 2.00m - a feat she achieved in Stanford at the end of June.
But despite her dizzying ascent up the rankings, Mahuchikh has maintained her main focus this year is the European U20 Championships. Given her propensity to set lifetime bests in major competitions - she did this at the IAAF World U18 Championships in 2017 and at the European U18 Championships and Youth Olympic Games last year - the Ukrainian could erase the championship record of 1.95m which is jointly held by Yelena Yelesina (1989) and Mariya Lasitskene (2011).
The Germans topped the medal table two years ago when their haul included gold medals from Kaul and their women’s 4x100m relay team who also broke world U20 records in the process. The standout names on the team this year include Leo Neugebauer and Malik Diakite in the decathlon and European U18 champion Leni Freyja Wildgrube in the pole vault. The Germans won three of the four relay titles at the European U23 Championships in Gavle last year and they will also be fielding teams in all four events.
The Brits have typically performed very well at the European U20 Championships are their team is laden with gold medal prospects including Jeremiah Azu in the 100m, Ethan Brown in the 400m, Joshua Zeller in the 110m hurdles and Amy Hunt in the 200m. Hunt recently set a world U18 200m best of 22.42 in Mannheim, Germany and she could challenge the championship record of 22.85 which was set by soon-to-be two-time Olympic champion Barbel Wockel at the second edition of the championships in 1973.
The hosts will have high hopes of making some impact on the medal table. European U18 champion Tilde Johansson faces significant opposition from Italy’s Larissa Iapichino and Great Britain’s Holly Mills but the Swede is the firm favourite based on recent form which has seen her surpass the national U20 record with 6.73m. Johansson also won in Varberg on Monday with 6.65m against a headwind and she also produced a foul which looked close to the seven metre-line.
Their team also features Carl Bengtstrom who is second on the European U20 list in the 400m hurdles with 50.77 and Victoria Quainoo who recently set a national U20 record of 66.29m in the hammer.
The Irish team came away with three gold medals from Gyor last year and they will be looking to surpass their best ever championship tally of three medals in Boras. Their medal prospects include Aaron Sexton (200m), Sarah Healy (1500/3000m), Darragh McElhinney (5000m) and Sommer Lecky (high jump).
Belgium could also surpass their best ever medal haul of five medals in Boras. On the men's side, Thomas Carmoy (2.24m high jump), Cedric Sorgeloos (79.82m javelin) and Tim Van de Velde (8:33.80 3000m steeplechase) all lead the European U20 list in their respective events.
World U20 leaders competing in Boras:
Matthias Orban (FRA) 5.57m pole vault
Alperen Karahan (TUR) 21.48m shot put
Yasiel Brayan Sotero (ESP) 63.68m discus
Hristos Frantzeskakis (GRE) 81.62m hammer
Cedric Sorgeloos (BEL) 79.82m javelin
Leo Neugebauer (GER) 7886 decathlon
Yaroslava Mahuchikh (UKR) 2.00m high jump
Tilde Johansson (SWE) 6.73m long jump
Aleksandra Nacheva (BUL) 14.13m triple jump
Jorinde van Klinken (NED) 17.76m shot put and 61.33m discus
Elina Tzenggo (GRE) 61.48m javelin
Annik Kalin (SUI) 5952 points heptathlon