Who could be Europe's surprise medallists at IAAF World Athletics Championships

Julian Weber
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Germany's Julian Weber after winning the javelin at the Bydgoszcz 2019 European Team Championships Super League

Superstars like Karsten Warholm, Sifan Hassan and Ekaterini Stefanidi will be in nearly everyone’s list of potential gold medallists and certainly strong medal contenders at the IAAF World Athletics Championships which start in Doha, Qatar on Friday (27).

However, there are always a few surprises among the European medallists at any IAAF World Athletics Championships and we run the rule over who they might potentially be this time around, picking out five men and five women who might be Europe’s ‘dark horses’ in Doha.

Davide Re (ITA) 400m

Re – The King in Italian – has broken through this year to set an Italian record over one lap of the track and lead the European lists with his 44.77 in Geneva.

The 2019 summer formbook suggests that US runners Micheal Norman and Fred Kerley are the favourite to go one-two but after that it looks wide open for the final place on the podium and Re has as good a chance as any one in conditions which should be conducive to fast times.

Ludvy Vaillant (FRA) 400m hurdles

Like Re, Vaillant has really made an impact this year and the 24-year-old Frenchman reduced his personal best to 48.30 at the Diamond League meeting in Paris last month and is currently fourth on the 2019 world list.

He gained experience on the global stage when he made the semi-finals in London two years ago. “I am going to Doha feeling confident, everything I have done in training is coming together, but just because I’m fourth in the world it doesn’t mean they are going to hand me a place in the final. I’m keeping my head on my shoulders,” commented the well-rounded Vaillant recently

Andrii Protsenko (UKR) high jump

Protsenko, now 31, has been close to the top of the podium on several occasions in the past with a plethora of silver and bronze medals from continental competitions as well as a 2014 world indoor championships bronze medal and fourth place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

He produced his best performance since Rio when clearing 2.32m to take the Diamond League title in Zurich last month and in a year when all the top high jumpers appear very evenly matched,  could Protsenko finally get a major title to his name in  Doha?

Bob Bertemes (LUX) shot put

Luxembourg have never had a world championships medallist but Bertemes goes to Doha as one of eight men in the world having sent the shot over 22 metres this year and if he can reproduce the form that saw him reach his national record of 22.22m in July he could put himself, pun very much intended, into his country’s annals of athletics history.

“In Doha, I hope to just make it to the final but I’m going to take things step-by-step,” he said modestly earlier this week. “I’m first going to first focus on the qualification round. From there, anything is possible.” However, quietly many people think his ambitions may be higher.

Julian Weber (GER) javelin

Weber may have got into the German team through the back door after Bernhard Seifert decided his form wasn’t good enough to merit the trip to Doha but the 2013 European U20 champion intends to make the most of his opportunity.

After early season injury problems initially held him back, weber showed what he was capable of when winning the European Team Championships with a season’s best of 86.86m in Bydgoszcz last month. Reports emerging in the last week from the pre-Doha German throwing camp in Turkey last week suggest Weber is in fine form and ready for some big throws.

Lynsey Sharp (GBR) 800m

The 2012 European champion over two laps of the track made the final at the last IAAF World Athletics Championships in London two years ago and has a solid season, including clocking 1:58.61 to win at the Diamond League in London in July.

Sharp says that she is “in personal best shape” coming into Doha – her best in 1:57.69 when she finished sixth in Rio three years ago – and puts her confidence down to a coaching change six months ago and a move back to Great Britain after being based in the USA for several years.

Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (ISR) marathon

It seems strange to say that the 2018 European 10,000m champion should be a dark horse but given the vagaries of the marathon and the anticipated challenging conditions, nobody knows quite what will face the runners over the classic distance in Doha.

Nevertheless, Chemtai Salpeter clocked a stunning 2:19:46 when winning the Prague Marathon in May and has also set national records at 5000m, 10,000m and half marathon this year and will be bidding for her country’s first ever world champion.

Ana Peleteiro (ESP) triple jump

Spain’s reigning European indoor champion, and former world U20 champion, has had a mixed summer despite jumping an outdoor best of 14.59m at the Diamond League meeting in Paris barely a month ago.

However, Peleteiro has proven she knows how to peak at the right time. “I’ve had my problems outdoors but I arrived in Glasgow (for the 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships) little than a month after being almost unable to walk and I still won there,” said Peleteiro at the start of the month.

Fanny Roos (SWE) shot put

Roos goes into the world championships with her confidence boosted by going over 19 metres for the first time in her life while wearing a Team Europe vest at The Match earlier this month, sending her implement out to her second national record of the summer when of 19.03m

It’s likely she will have to improve on that performance in Minsk to get a medal, perhaps by as much as 30-40cm but after no Swedish woman finished in the top eight of any event in 2017, Roos’ task is to restore some credibility to the female side of the sport while her country goes crazy over Mondo Duplantis.

Ivona Dadic (AUT) heptathlon

Athletics fans, not just in Europe but around the world, have been looking at the heptathlon as a duel between Belgium’s reigning world and Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam and Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson but if the seven-event discipline does adhere to the script then the contest for bronze also appears to be wide open.

Dadic’s compatriot Verena Preiner may have improved on Dadic’s former national record by 39 points when winning in Ratingen earlier this summer, with a total of 6591, but many pundits believe that the 2018 world indoor pentathlon silver medallist has the capacity to take back that accolade with a big score and possibly get among the medals.