Men and women combine performances to crown the top European track and field nation.
Led by Olympic steeplechase champion Gulnara Galkina-Samitova and European 1500m indoor champion Anna Alminova, the Russian team hopes to capture the redeveloped Spar European Team Championships this weekend in Leiria, Portugal. In the past, men and women competed separately in this event, formerly known as the European Cup, but this year organizers have combined the competitions to crown an overall European champion. Russian women have won the last 12 competitions and the French men have won two of the past three years; Great Britain won the 2008 competition.
If the Russian men falter, there are other teams that will be sitting waiting to strike. Great Britain will send 400m Olympic champion Christine Ohurugu and 2009 European indoor champions Dwain Chambers (60m) and and Mo Farah (3000m). Germany will bring a slew of field event stars including 2009 world number-one Ariane Friedrich, while the host nation of Portugal will rest their hopes on Olympic triple jump gold medalist Nelson Évora and indoor European 1500m champion Rui Silva.
Some interesting new rules have been put in place, which are sure to make the competition more exciting to watch. For example, athletes who are in last place in the 5000m on laps seven, five and three will be eliminated and pulled off the track. This should make for some interesting races within the races and the possibility for use of team tactics to eliminate targeted athletes.
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