The best of European athletics will be heading to northern France to compete in the Lille Métropole Stadium from 23 to 25 June 2017. The seventh edition of the European Athletics Team Championships Super League is shaping up to be a major event for the continental elite, before they set their sights on the London 2017 IAAF World Championships (5 to 13 August).
In its current formula, the competition presents the face of today’s youth. Since 2009, the European Team Championships have taken over from the former European Cup. The competition has retained the collective spirit, the passion of a mixed gender event and the spirit of solidarity. However, European Athletics was keen to make the most of the change of name and regulations and breathe new life into the event, whilst also giving it more muscle.
The European Team Championships bring all 51 Member Federations together in a comprehensive format. The top nations compete in the Super League, with a system of promotions and relegations from one edition to the next. The programme consists of 20 disciplines for the men, including two relays, and just as many for the women. The final rankings are created by adding together points awarded for position rather than results (12 points for 1st place, 11 for 2nd place, and so on, the 12th placed athlete being credited with just a single point). The competition is played out with the assurance that every position counts. A single trophy is up for grabs, awarded after three days of the Super League, and this goes to the country that has amassed the greatest number of points from all 40 races and field events, both men and women combined.
At the Lille Métropole Stadium, the European elite will come together in a familiar backdrop. Indeed, nestled in the town of Villeneuve d’Ascq, France ‘northern’ arena boasts a rich past of major events that form an integral part of both international and national meets. In fact, its covered 18,000-seat grandstand, its class 1 IAAF-approved 8-lane track and its vast warm-up area (straight line track, long-jump pit and 1km long jogging/running track…) were recently used for the Youth World Championships in 2011, and again in 2015 for the French Elite Championships.
The European Team Championships Super League 2017 will be offering a top-flight line-up: Germany, Belarus, Spain, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic and the Ukraine. Russia, the reigning champions (having won the event in 2015 on home soil in Cheboksary ahead of Germany and France), are unlikely to be allowed to participate. The All-Russia Athletic Federation is currently suspended from all international competition.
The French team has never won the trophy, its best result a third place finish dates back to the 2015 edition. However, having the advantage of being on home turf, along with the strength of its united team, means that it is very much in with a chance of an historic outright victory. Indeed, with every passing season, the Blues are going from strength to strength in the world hierarchy, a fact driven home in spectacular fashion during last year’s Rio Games, with a record haul of 6 medals. Furthermore, they have always been successful at the European Team Championships. Christophe Lemaître (100 and 200m), Yoann Kowal (3,000m steeplechase), Renaud Lavillenie (pole vault), the 4x400m men’s relay and Cindy Billaud (100m hurdles), all hold records in their specialty events. During the first edition of the championships in Leiria in 2009, Renaud Lavillenie took the pole vault by a storm, posting his first-ever 6 metre jump and break the French record in the process with 6.01m.