The season is shortly before its first peak: the European Championships in Amsterdam. So far, athletes’ main interest was to consolidate the form, do preparation races and qualify for the Europeans and/or the Olympics. This period is over. Time for a preview.
(Disclaimer: this is my very, very personal view. I sometimes lack insider knowledge and might be wrong… we’ll see. I’ll put a bias on those athletes that I personally know (most of them Swiss) and take the freedom to ignore others, even if they are the favourites.)
Decathlon Men: Swiss hopes are resting on Jonas Fringeli who qualified earlier this year in Götzis. Back then he showed no major weaknesses and made 7862 points – a new PB. Will he deliver even more in Amsterdam? This seems quite possible. With less than 140 points missing to the magic 8000 points margin he hopefully won’t put himself under too much pressure, though.
Who are the favourites? The best of the season, Abele (GER), Mayer (FRA), Kazmirek (GER), Uibo (EST), and Auzeil (FRA) are missing. At face value (the SB list), it’s the Austrian Dominik Diestelberger. However, the strong Dutch starters Pieter Braun and Eelco Sintnicolaas will also aim at the title, as do Hans van Alphen from Belgium and Oleksey Kasyanov from the Ukraine.
100mH Women: Two years ago, Clélia Rard-Reuse (then Reuse), broke her leg in the semifinal of the Swiss Championships. A long way back began. The 2012 Olympian tried everything to regain form. Things started to look good in early 2016, and after many races in the low 13s she eventually ran 12.87 in Thun. Before Rio, the Europeans in Amsterdam will be more than just a test for her.*
Of course all eyes will be on the comeback of the 2006 European Champion Susanna Kallur (SWE) who was injured since 2008 and seems to return to competitive strength very recently.
200m women. Three Swiss starters are in Amsterdam. The fastest on paper is Mujinga Kambundji. So far, her season was good, but a little weaker than 2014/15. What does this mean for her prospects? She is a superbe competitor who is fastest when it counts. Well, hic Rhodos – hic salta. She must play her cards now.
Swiss eyes will also be on Ellen Sprunger who is a superbe runner in the curve and who is just above the Olympic Standard. No secret, she wants to run a new PB of 23.20 in the heat. Fingers crossed for her!!
Much earlier in the season Cornelia Halbheer was one of the few Swiss sprinters who dared to compete in the cold and rainy weather. Back then, I posted she might run much faster and be one of the surprises of the season. In Thun she ran 23.46 and qualified for the Championships. Participating in Amsterdam will be the biggest moment of her young career.
The top favourite is Dina Asher Smith (GBR), but we will have to see if she can approach her tremendous PB (22.07) of the earlier years. The World Champion from Bejing, Dafne Schippers (NL) is not on the start list.
100m Men. It’s been a weird season vor Alex Wilson, the fastest Suisse. Last year he missed the Olympic Standard (10.16) only closely. This year he started into the season with 10.14! Alas, there was 0.1m/sec too much wind. Alex wouldn’t be Alex if he lost his mood. ‘I don’t mind’, he told me. ‘I’m injury free and it’s just a mater of time’. …
Well, so far it didn’t happen. Rainy conditions, and a pulled hamstring in Luzern. At the Europeans he and Amaru Schenkel will start over the 100m.
Outlook: It’s very simple. If Alex runs the desired Olympic Standard, he will make it into the final. If not, then not. Sad that rocketing Bastien Mouton had to waive the season because of a pulled hamstring.
Long jump Men. Benjamin Gföhler was one of the big surprises of the season. In June the 22-year old jumped 8.13m on a meeting in Germany.
400m Men. Joel Burgunder delivered some of the biggest entertainment in the early season. ‘I want to qualify for the Europeans’, that was his early announcement. And his form was good. The weather was not! So he missed his goal at the first serious race, but ran a huge 46.11 in his home stadium in Langenthal. The home crowd cheered and celebrated. So nice to document this in pictures.
Even better, shortly before the deadline Luca Flück joined Joel later when he ran 46.63 in Thun. So two Swiss will challenge the European Elite.
Outlook: Question mark. Two years ago, the two Swiss would have had no chance. It’s just uncertain who of the international competitors will or will not start this year. For them, a serious set of races in Amsterdam might be in conflict with a proper preparation for Rio.
400m Hurdles Men. The defending champion will start on day one of the championships. Obviously, Kariem Hussein‘s aim is to defend the title. In Bellinzona he ran his first sub 49secs of the season. Of course, he is hoping to be faster in Amsterdam. On paper, Yasmani Copello Escobar (TUR) will be his strongest opponent.
Recently, Dany Brand qualified as the second Swiss starter. With a PB of 51.32 his aims will be to run properly and, hopefully, improve his PB again.
800m Women: In 2015, Selina Büchel had a remarkable winning streak and improved her PB to 1:57.95. The problem was that she was over the peak of her form in the later season. This year, her start into the season was a little slower. However, not it will count. Will she do her first very fast race when it’s most important?
The pressure will be on others this year. Renal Lamote (FRA) is the fastest of the starting grid. And eyes will be on whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova who will run under a neutral flag.
*Clélia is qualified directly for the semifinal. So she won’t run in the morning.