Andreas Kramer emerged from under the radar to win the 800m title in Bydgoszcz two years ago but the reigning champion begins as one of the hosts’ foremost title favourites at the Gävle 2019 European Athletics U23 Championships from 11-14 July.
“I think I was ninth on paper so I don’t think so many counted on me as a gold medallist then,” reflected Kramer at the official pre-event press conference for the European Athletics U23 Championships on Wednesday (10).
“For me, it was my first great experience to compete at the European Championships and getting great success. When I passed the finish-line, I had my teammates and my family cheering for me so it was something special.”
Kramer’s status has only grown since winning in Bydgoszcz so while the 22-year-old won’t have the luxury of slipping into the competition unnoticed as he did two years ago, he will be able to count on the support of the crowd at the Gunder Hagg Stadium.
Since then, Kramer stepped up to win silver on his European Championships debut in Berlin last summer behind Adam Kszczot. Not only did his front running efforts reward him with the biggest medal of his career thus far and the beating of reigning world champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse in the final, Kramer also equalled his national record of 1:45.03.
A repeat performance would displace Nils Schumann’s long-standing championship record of 1:45.21 from 1999 but this is of secondary importance to Kramer. “Clearly I can do that time but this is a championship so usually it isn’t that fast. We will have to see. I know I can run faster than that time but it’s not something I am really focusing on.
“I am going for the gold medal but I’m up against some good runners who have been to international finals so I know I will face some good competitors who also want to win. It’s going to be tough,” he said.
Kamga enjoys home comforts in her bid for a discus medal
This is very much a home championships for Vanessa Kamga, the third-ranked discus thrower at the European U23 Championships.
“I really enjoyed the pre-camp in Uppsala, which is where I live. Sleeping before my own bed before a championships is quite special and also getting to train at my normal arena,” she said.
The familiarities for Kamga extend beyond just the training camp though.
“Since I was raised in Gavle, it’s really cool to have a championships here. I don’t know how many people will be supporting me but hopefully all of my classmates are coming and my old teachers will be rooting for me, my neighbours and everyone I have ever met in Gavle will be cheering for me!”
Kamga is ranked third on paper with a recently set national U23 record of 59.06m, corresponding to a one-metre advance on her previous best mark. The 20-year-old credits good training facilities and a good set-up for her improvement this year.
“I’ve stayed healthy, put in hours of training - I haven’t had too many complications. I have great training facilities in Uppsala, a great coach and really positive teammates. I think all of that combined makes for good results,” she said.
Like Kramer and Kamga, Jimmy Gressier is also making his second appearance at the European U23 Championships but his previous showing doesn’t elicit up too many fond memories.
“I have two gold medals from the cross country but I don’t have a medal on the track. In Bydgoszcz I was disqualified for a lane infringement in the 5000m so this will be a big revenge for me,” said Gressier, the winner of the individual U23 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships.
“I come here with big ambitions and I am looking to win gold medals in both the 5000m and 10,000m. I feel in really good shape and training has gone very well so I have great expectations,” said Gressier, who will be making his 10,000m debut on the track.
Gressier transcended the sport in Tilburg last December when his attempted knee slide celebration went viral on social media and while a repeat of that celebration isn't on the agenda, the Frenchman might have something up his sleeve if he wins.
“I will try to keep up the good way of celebrating! I would rather slide across the ground on my knees and do a football celebration but I can assure you it will be something else,” he grinned.