Bol and Hodgkinson set to light up European Indoors
One-lap Dutch sensation Femke Bol and British 800m specialist Keely Hodgkinson lead the charge at the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul which start on Thursday.
Both athletes have used the winter to build the foundations for a summer that promises rich pickings.
Bol smashed the 400m world indoor record set by Czech runner Jarmila Kratochvilova in 1982 with a stunning time of 49.26sec at the Dutch indoor championships in February.
She had earlier given an indication of her impressive form when she clocked the fastest women's indoor 500m ever with a time of 1min 05.63sec at the Boston Indoor Grand Prix.
Hodgkinson has re-written the British record books this winter, improving the national 800m indoor mark to 1:57.18.
Bol and Hodgkinson, who both won European titles outdoors in Munich last year, face a similar problem when the action moves outdoors -- despite their continental superiority, they have been pipped to world and Olympic gold by Americans who dominate their events.
- Keen rivalry -
Bol, 23, has the misfortune of being in the same event, the 400m hurdles, as Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who has lowered the world record in successive years, culminating in a jaw-dropping 50.68 at the world championships in Oregon last year.
Hodgkinson meanwhile has been chasing the long-striding Athing Mu, who has beaten her to world and Olympic titles in the last two years.
The British athlete came close to pipping her to the world title in Oregon and many observers believe her rivalry with Mu -- both are just 20 -- could eventually lead to an assault on the world outdoor record of 1:53.28, also held by Kratochvilova and set more than four decades ago.
"I love being a part of the 800," defending European indoor champion Hodgkinson told Athletics Weekly in February. "The reason it's being pushed to new heights is because we're all so good."
Armand Duplantis, the Swede who improved the world pole vault record for the sixth time by clearing 6.22m in France last week, is giving the championships a miss so the focus of the men's events will be on Olympic 100m champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs in the 60m and Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who is aiming for a 1500m/3000m double.
Last year Jacobs was plagued by injuries and looked far from the athlete who shocked the track and field world by winning gold in Tokyo, but this championships is where the Italian announced himself to the world in Torun, Poland two years ago.
He suffered a surprise defeat in this year's Italian championships to 22-year-old Samuele Ceccarelli.
Ceccarelli will be competing in Istanbul, as will Great Britain's Reece Prescod whose personal best of 6.49 is eight-hundredths of a second slower than Jacobs' best of 6.41.
Ingebrigtsen was pipped to outdoor world 1500m gold by Jake Wightman in Eugene, but with the Briton recovering from injury, the Norwegian is a clear favourite for both golds in Istanbul.