Farah, Schippers look for big Euros medal hauls
Aug. 11, 2014
ZURICH (AP) — Britain's Mo Farah wants to underscore his status as the pre-eminent long-distance runner of his age with another double in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the European Championships.
Dafne Schippers could evoke memories of her Dutch compatriot Fanny Blankers-Koen by winning a sprint triple at the six-day event opening Tuesday.
Farah has been unbeaten at the Euros since he won his first double in 2010, then defended his 5,000 meters title in Helsinki two years ago — his only race there as he prepared for the London Olympics.
Two Olympic gold medals and a similar double at the 2013 world championships in Moscow has put him on a status in distance running only slightly lower than Ethiopian greats Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele.
A late withdrawal from the Commonwealth Games early this month because of a stomach ailment has cast some doubt on his form and raised some criticism he picked the easier European competition over one which included many of the best African runners.
Still, in Switzerland he should be busy enough with one 10,000 final and possibly a 5,000 heat and final in a mere five days.
Schippers should be even busier with a possible eight races over six days — three over 100, three over 200 and two relays.
"Eight races, I am not used to that at all. But I have great speed and form," she said.
Schippers has one big thing in her favor — she is a heptathlete; athletes known for stamina and perseverance until they, usually literally, drop after the last of seven events.
This season, she shares the top European time over the 100 with France's Myriam Soumare at 11.03 seconds and is on her own with the best European time of 22.34 over 200. In the 4x100 relays, the Dutch team could give any other European nation a run for its money.
She only decided to skip the heptathlon at the Euros after an excellent training camp in Florida in April, where her speed stood out. "At that point I thought, 'who knows? Why not give it a try at the euros.' It is the ideal opportunity.
Ahead of the races this week, she was adamant she would go back to the seven-event discipline where she won bronze at the world championships last year.
Yet a sprint triple here would be the best performance for a Dutchwoman since Blankers-Koen won three gold and a silver at the 1950 Euros in Brussels.
"It was before my time but those were incredible performances. It is very special," she said.
Schippers starts out with the 100 heats on Tuesday.
Beyond the chase for multiple medals, the outstanding event with a realistic shot at a world record will be Friday's high jump, pitting world champion Bogdan Bondarenko of Ukraine against Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov of Russia.
Both are chasing the 21-year-old world record of 2.45 meters set by Cuba's Javier Sotomayor. Bondarenko set a European record of 2.42 this year, while Ukhov follows closely behind with 2.41 he jumped this spring.
In the women's high jump, the issue will not be how high, but how well athletes can bounce back.
Blanka Vlasic of Croatia won two world titles before she needed an operation on her Achilles two years ago. Her recovery was slow, but this season she has jumped 2 meters again, only .01 shy of the world's top mark by Anna Chicherova. And since the Russian is out injured, 30-year-old Vlasic could take her first title in four years.
Renaud Lavillenie coming back from injury. The French pole vaulter needed 16 stitches in his left foot after a botched attempt at a world record of 6.21 meters this winter, but the Olympic champion has confidently returned to dominate the outdoor season and will be looking for his third straight European title.
"It will mean a lot to win three titles in a row," Lavellenie said. "It will show that I can be consistent over years.
Two years ago, Germany topped the medal standings with 16 overall, including six gold, after a tight race right up to the last day with France, Ukraine and Russia. It could be close again on Sunday at the 25,000-capacity Letzigrund Stadium.
Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert