European Indoors 2021: Five things you need to know

Holly Bradshaw
Holly Bradshaw won gold in 2013 and silver two years ago

The European Indoor Championships, which start on Thursday, will be the first major multi-event competition for more than a year for many athletes whose schedules have been affected by coronavirus.

The BBC will have live comprehensive coverage of the four days, but before it begins here are five things you should know about the competition.

Where is it?

The arena in the Polish city of Torun will host an event-record 700 competitors - although no spectators, as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

The city's arena hosted a leg of the World Athletics Indoor Tour last month.

Do GB and NI have a strong team?

With the World Indoors in China, scheduled for later this month, postponed because of the pandemic, this event is the only chance for British athletes to enjoy some success before the start of the outdoor season.

The squad is 46-strong with hurdlers Andrew Pozzi and Tiffany Porter, as well as pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw, gold medal hopefuls.

Elliot Giles, who ran the second-fastest indoor 800m in February, withdrew from the squad to concentrate on his Olympic preparations, although Jamie Webb (800m) and Neil Gourlay (1500m) have great chances of a podium finish in the men's middle distances.

A trio of other Tokyo medal favourites - world champions Dina Asher-Smith and heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson plus 2019 1500 and 3,000 champion Laura Muir - are also absent.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland are hoping to win between six and 10 medals - although new head coach Christian Malcolm has not set an official target.

"It's an opportunity for these athletes to step up a level," said the former Welsh sprinter, 41. "It's a great stepping stone, the European Indoors."

Who is Keely Hodgkinson?

The Wigan teenager is one to watch at these championships and beyond, following a sensational year in challenging times.

The Leeds Beckett student won the British indoor 800m crown last February before adding the outdoor title in September.

Hodgkinson then caused a sensation by breaking the world under-20 indoor record in January in a time of one minute 59.03 seconds - her record was subsequently bettered by American Athing Mu in February.

Trevor Painter, Hodgkinson's coach, told Wigan Today:external-link "It's her 19th birthday [on Wednesday] - what a gift, going out to your first senior international.

"She's down to earth and taking everything in her stride."

A lot faster, higher and stronger? The shoe technology debate

The topic has already caused a stir and will continue to do so during the Olympic build-up.

Britons Giles and Jemma Reekie are among the many athletes who have dismissed links between improving marks in recent times and wearing newer shoes benefitting from better technology.

Fellow Nike-wearer Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon world record in 2018 wearing the Nike Vaporfly shoe and Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei broke the 5,000m world record last August in a pair of Nike's ZoomX Dragonfly.

"Because I've done well, people say it must be the shoes," said Giles, after impressing with his quick time in February. "It's a nonsense and a bit of an insult."

The 26-year also said he had been wearing his Nike Air Zoom Victory spikes for two years.

The US manufacturer and its rivals have begun a 'shoe war' in the sport, and these championships might give a better indication of who is winning it.

Which other star names will be in Poland?

Mondo Duplantis
Mondo Duplantis will be competing in his first European Indoors

Norway's European 1500 and 5,000m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, 20, will be looking to win the 1500m-3,000 double, which he missed out on in Glasgow two years ago.

A lot of focus will be on the men's pole vault with Sweden's world record holder Mondo Duplantis, 21, taking on four-time champion Renaud Lavillenie of France, who recorded 6.06m last month, his best clearance since 2014.

Belgium's Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam will be clear favourite to win the pentathlon title, with Glasgow winner Johnson-Thompson not present. World decathlon record-holder Kevin Mayer of France goes in the heptathlon.

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