Zurich – The incentive for Mo Farah when he hits the comeback trail at the European Championships, which open at the Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich on Tuesday, will be a place in the record books.
The 31-year-old British distance runner has already won four European outdoor medals in individual events (two golds at 5,000m, one gold at 10,000m and a silver at 5,000m) and no male athlete has ever won five. Four men have gained six medals - British duo Roger Black, Linford Christie, German great Harald Schmid and late Italian sprint legend Pietro Mennea - but their tallies were all boosted by two or three relay medals.
So Farah could take his haul from individual events to six if he finishes on the podium after the 10,000m final on Wednesday (13
August) and the 5,000m on Sunday (17 August). The big question is whether the man who won back to back 5,000m and 10,000m crowns at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the 2013 World Championships in Moscow is back in shape following the illness that forced him to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Farah said at the time: “I need another few weeks of training,” and he has since been photographed training flat out, paced by a bicycle rider, at high altitude at Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees. That, and the fact that he announced last week that he would be contesting the Great North Run Half Marathon in the north-east of England on September 7 suggests that he is ready to return to action in Zurich.
The French sprinter Christophe Lemaitre will also be chasing a place in the history books. He has five European outdoor medals (two from relays) and could finish the 2014 championships with an overall record of seven or eight. Lemaitre's compatriot Jimmy Vicaut will start favourite ahead of him in the 100m and he could be pushed close by another British sprinter, Adam Gemili, in the 200m before he teams up with Vicaut in the 4 x 100m relay.
Since 1928 the Letzigrund Stadium has witnessed 25 world records. The prospect of a 26th will depend on whether the French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie can suddenly rediscover the form that took him over a world record 6.16m in Donetsk, Ukraine, in February (his best thus far in the outdoor season is 5.92m) - and whether the Ukrainian high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko, who has twice cleared 2.40m this summer, can overcome a recent illness and find the extra 5cm he would need to match Cuban Javier Sotomayor's 21-year-old global mark.
The star turn in the women's events is likely to be Dafne Schippers, who broke the Dutch 100m and 200m records at the Glasgow Diamond League meeting last month. The 22-year-old from Utrecht, who won World Championship bronze as a heptathlete in 2013, is aiming to complete a championship sprint double that was achieved by the original Flying Dutchwoman, Fanny Blankers-Koen, in Brussels in 1950.
The race of the championship on the women's programme, however, should be between former Ethiopians Abeba Aregawi (now running for Sweden) and Sifan Hassan (a naturalised Flying Dutchwoman) in the 1500m. The women's marathon features triplets Leila, Liina and Lily Luik, running for Estonia. – Sapa-AFP