Thiam and Mayer will be chasing third title

Belgian Nafissatou Thiam and Kevin Mayer of France, will be chasing for their third European title in the European Indoor Athletics Championships in İstanbul.

It was not clear whether Nafissatou Thiam, who did not compete in the indoor season in 2023, would compete or not in Istanbul until a month ago. The Belgian athlete, who parted ways with his 14-year long coach Roger Lespagnard in late October, started training with his older brother Michael, who was also the coach of 2016 European champion Thomas Van der Plaetsen.

The Belgian pentathlete, who won the gold medal in Belgrade in 2017 and in Torun two years ago, will fight to win the European Indoor champion title for the third time at Ataköy Athletics Hall.

Thiam’s biggest rival in Istanbul will be his compatriot Noor Vidts. Vidts, who won the silver medal in Torun, became the champion by breaking the Belgian record at the World Championship held in Belgrade last year. The 26-year-old not only broke the national record with 4929 points in Belgrade, but also sealed the all-time sixth-best.

Adrianna Sułek aims for victory in Istanbul as well, leaving behind two Belgian athletes who will fight fiercely for the gold medal. The Polish athlete was content with second place at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade and the European Championships in Munich last season, falling behind Vidts and Thiam. The 23-year-old athlete, who improved the national record he broke in Belgrade at the Polish Championship last month by 9 points to 4860, is confident in Istanbul.

Saga Vanninen, who made a good start to the Indoor season, is among the names to be watched carefully. The 19-year-old athlete, who beat Satu Ruotsalainen of Finland under-23 record with 4541 points in Tallinn last month, which has not been broken for 35 years, by 122 points, was only 39 points away from the 23-year national record. Vanninen, who holds both U20 world and European championship titles, will try to show himself among the elite athletes.

Can Mayer beat strong rivals? 

Kevin Mayer, who has not competed in all multiple events since last summer, will race in Istanbul to become the European Indoor Champion for the third time after 2017 and 2021. The French heptathlete had won the gold medal five years ago in Belgrade, breaking the European record with 6479 points. Two years ago, in Torun, he cruised to victory as the continental champion for the second time, 234 points ahead of Jorge Urena. 

Simon Ehammer is expected to push Mayer the hardest on his way to the championship. The Swiss heptathlete, who was third in the world and second in Europe last year, was in second spot at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, 126 points behind Damian Warner. Completing year 2022 by breaking the Swiss record both indoors and outdoors, Ehammer achieved the best performance in Europe this year with 6292 points, which he achieved in Aubiere in the last week of January.

Second in Europe under the age of 20, Sander Skotheim became the first Norwegian heptathlete to exceed 6000 points with 6255 points at the end of February in Talliin. The 20-year-old athlete, who scored the best level of his career with 2.20 meters in the high jump this season, is among the names that can surprise in Istanbul.

Jorge Urena, who has been on the podium in all European champions since 2017, will compete to win a medal for the fourth time in a row at Ataköy Athletics Hall. The 29-year-old Spanish athlete, who won the 2017 and 2021 silver medals, became the European champion in 2019 in Glasgow.

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