Preview: Obikwelu seeks sprint double - Russia 400m, 800m titles
By John Bagratuni Aug 9, 2006, 10:43 GMT
Gothenburg, Sweden - Francis Obikwelu is out to complete the first sprint double in 28 years at the European championships on Thursday.
The Portuguese star won the 100m in 9.99 seconds on Tuesday and now seeks first place in the 200m as well where he is the continental season leader with 20.18 seconds.
Pietro Mennea of Italy was the last man to achieve the task back in 1978 and Obikwelu is aware of the task's difficulty.
'I'm in good form, I'm ready and I want to be a double champion here in the 100 and 200m. Eight races in four days, it is going to be tough,' he said.
'I want to go under 20 seconds in final,' said Obikwelu, whose 19.84 personal best dates back to 1999.
Obikwela conserved plenty of energy in the heats, winning his race Wednesday in 20.78 seconds. His task was made considerably easier when French challenger Ronald Pognon had to withdraw with a thigh injury on Wednesday.
The 200m ends a day of six finals in and around the Ullevi stadium, with the men's 50km walk starting the action in the morning.
Denis Nizhegodorov, the world record holder from Russia, is the top pick after the retirement of Polish icon Robert Korzeniowski.
Season leader Olga Zaitseva of Russia is favoured in the women's 400m having clocked 49.49 seconds in May and naming Tuesday's heat win 'easy for me.' The biggest challenge should come from Bulgarian Stambolova.
A Russian sweep is not out of the question in the 800m where defending champion Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia crashed out in the semis with season leader Svetlana Kluyka (1:57.21) fastest in the semi-finals with 1:58.80.
'I expect the finals to be a very tactical race. But I will not be the one who will lead the race. I will wait for my moment to come,' said Kluyka.
Out to spoil the Russian show is Rebecca Lyne, who had 1:59.11 in the semis and wants to give Britain their first Euro-title over the distance since Lillian Board way back in 1969.
The women's discus sees German world champion Franka Dietzsch the runaway favourite as season leader with 68.51m, leaving the rest of the pack likely to fight only positions two and three on the podium.
The men's 400m hurdles also has an undisputed season-leader in Periklis Iakovakis, a Greek 2003 world championship bronze medallist whose 47.82 is a second faster than anyone else has run in 2006.
Thursday also sees the start of the decathlon where Czech defending champion and world record holder Roman Sebrle is the top favourite after Tuesday's withdrawal of British Commonwealth Games champion Dean Macey over a groin injury sustained in his final training pre-Gothenburg session.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur