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March 8, 2023

Top 7 Moments From The 2023 European Indoor Track and Field Championships

It’s been said that the center of the sport is in Europe, and that’s probably accurate from a popularity standpoint. (If that entire continent had a dual meet vs. the NCAA, it’d be a competitive match-up.) But with rivalries stemming from border disputes following the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, the stakes feel a touch higher for this championship than one based on who was awarded a partial scholarship to compete for which school.

Then there’s the star factor. Jakob Ingebrigtsen effortlessly added two more titles to his name for an incredible eleven career championships And while there’s a part of me that wonders “don’t you have enough of these trophies by now?” an even bigger part of me is wowed that a country of 5.4 million ran, hurdled, and vaulted away from the meet with the most gold medals. Surely that will answer any doubts about whether double threshold sessions are also beneficial for 400m runners and pole vaulters.

But even if you’re a college athlete or NCAA athletics fan still seething at being slighted two paragraphs ago, there are a few great reasons to love the European Champs. First off, the arena in Istanbul has a number of cats living inside of it and apparently, the organizers refused to temporarily relocate them, even for a few days. There were just cats walking around, and the possibility that one might wander into the path of an athlete enhanced the potential for drama. But perhaps more importantly, it was so damn easy to watch the whole meet.

Every race was streamed free with fantastic commentary on AllAthletics[dot]tv. Miss something? Replays were being posted instantly. The only downside is that the European Athletics website requires making an account to see results. But I digress, if this apparent push by World Athletics to make track and field popular in the United States is a real thing, then make it that easy to watch every race, every time. An app would be nice – if RedBull has one so we can watch every dude who has ever jumped off a cliff do so with the click of a button then so should athletics.

This is not a rant against streaming platforms charging a fee to watch high school invitationals, college last chance meets, or smaller professional races. As part of a niche audience, I have no problem with fees to watch something that would otherwise be unviewable. But when there is a made-for-TV event that aims to showcase the very best talent in the world, then it should be in the long-term interest of stakeholders to make that as accessible as possible.

But that’s not what I was intending to write about. This is…

These are my top 7 moments from the European Championships:

– World Record – Nafi Thiam, the double Olympic champion from Belgium, set a new pentathlon world record with a score of 5055 points, and in the process set new personal bests in the shot put, hurdles, and 800m. The previous mark of 5013 was set in the same building by Nataliya Dobrynska of Ukraine in 2012. Thiam’s victory comes two weeks after Anna Hall narrowly missed breaking the record at the US Championships. With two additional events and five months to train, what does the gap between the pair look like come outdoors?

– That first 200 – For some perspective, 91 men have broken 20 seconds ever in the 200m, but only one has ever done it under a roof. Well, Karsten Warholm ran an absolutely bonkers first lap of 20.84 on his way to barely holding on to the lead to win the 400m in 45.35. It was a suicidal pace, and one that Michael Johnson reckons may have cost him the world record. But that’s why we love watching the Norwegian run because he wasn’t doing that math, he was just sprinting.

– Why so many guys? – Despite there being a prelim, a semi-final, and only six lanes on the track, the 800m final had eight guys in it. (The women did too, but Keely Hodgkinson made that irrelevant.) Likewise, the 1500 had 12 athletes, and the 3000m had 15 – only one dude was eliminated from the second heat during qualifications. Although it is nonsensical and downright dangerous, the men’s 800m brought all the chaotic energy as the bruisers somehow managed to stay on their feet. Spain’s Adrián Ben hung out in the back before making a huge move going into the bell and then performed a perfectly timed dip at the line to win it. This is the first major medal for the 24-year-old who finished 5th at the Tokyo Olympics and was only 4th at this year’s Spanish Indoor Championships.

– Which Italian won the 60? – Well, the Italian champion won, but not the guy who won the Olympics. Samuele Ciccarelli made what at the time seemed like a huge upset a couple of weeks ago in defeating Marcell Jacobs seem more like a reasonable outcome. His best time at the start of the season was 6.72. In the semi-finals he ran 6.47 and then held off Jacobs in the final. Ciccarelli’s personal best in the 100m is an astonishingly un-eye-popping 10.45 from last year, which would have been good enough for the 221st fastest time in the NCAA in 2022. Now he is the fastest starter in Europe. He wasn’t even on the Olympic winning Italian 4 x 100, though his odds of making the squad next time are starting to look good.

– Welcome to the club! – The reaction by Jazmin Sawyers hearing that she leaped 7.00m in the long jump to win the gold medal and set the British indoor record is my new core memory. Getting deeper into the pit than anyone else this year is one accomplishment, but getting farther out than the reigning Olympic champion and the World Indoor Champion on the one day it matters most is what makes this first global gold so special.

– Germany goes 1-2 – It’s not a surprise that Deutschland took top honors in the women’s 3000m but with 200m remaining, Konstanze Klosterhalfen had company tracking her every step. Countrywoman Hanna Klein was still there and with life left in her legs, the 14:51 5000m runner earned the biggest win of her career, running a personal best of 8:35.87. Credit to Koko, who was certainly the favorite, for being so thrilled that she and her teammate could sweep that top two spots.

– Gold for Turkey – Root, root, root for the home team! The hosts were able to come away with a single medal thanks to the triple jumping abilities and national record of 14.31m by Tuğba Danismaz. It has only been one month since the tragic earthquake that killed over 46,000 Turkish people occurred, and with so much damage and loss, this moment gave the country something to smile about if even for a moment.

The Lap Count is a weekly newsletter delivered on Wednesday mornings that recap all the fun action from the world of track & field. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the sport. There is a lot happening and this newsletter is a great way to stay up to date with all the fun. Subscribe today.

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