Poland is aiming to win the European Athletics Team Championships on home soil for a third consecutive time ©Getty Images

Poland will set out here tomorrow in pursuit of a third consecutive victory on home soil in the Silesia 2023 European Athletics Team Championships - but under heavy pressure from Italy.

Now established within the European Games, the third edition of which is underway in Krakow-Malopolska, the Championships are about to stage action from the newly-formed first division following today's completion of the third and second division programmes.

Significant numbers of Polish spectators are expected in the Slaski Stadium for the final three days of competition, and their experience will be enriched by the unexpected presence of Italy's joint Olympic high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi, whose attendance was announced today.

At the last staging two years ago - also in Chorzów - Italy finished just 2.5 points behind Poland despite not being able to field a competitor in the men’s high jump after a regretful Tamberi suffered an ankle problem too late to be replaced.

Now the endlessly effervescent Italian will have the opportunity to give back to the a team that was already formidably strong – a clear indication of renewed ambition a year ahead of Rome’s staging of the European Athletics Championships.

Britain, whose hopes of victory collapsed in Chorzów last time round in the men’s 4x400 metres - where they failed on a handover and eventually finished third overall - will be expecting to do at least as well this time round.

As will fourth-placed Germany, five-time winners at the European Athletics Team Championships since it took over in 2009 from the previous European Cup event.

Tamberi is one of 12 European champions taking part in this event.

Femke Bol, European champion and Olympic bronze medallist in the 400m hurdles, will contest the 400m, in which she is the European indoor and outdoor champion.

And having reduced the world indoor record which had stood since 1982 to 49.26sec at the Dutch Indoor Championships in February, she will have no concerns about her sharpness.

The 100m hurdles promises to be a stand-out event with home support behind European champion Pia Skrzyszowska.

Her opponents include Finland’s Reetta Hurske, who won the European indoor 60m hurdles title in Skrzyszowska’s absence and leads the European 100m hurdles list with a recently-set Finnish record of 12.70.

Ewa Swoboda, Poland’s 2019 European 60m champion, will be seeking maximum points in the 100m.

But the sprints will also be a strong point for Italy in the men’s events.

Having secured the European indoor 60m title in Istanbul earlier this year - in a race that also included his compatriot and Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs - Samuele Ceccarelli appears capable of adding another accomplishment to his CV with victory in Silesia.

Another bemedalled Italian sprinting talent contests the men’s 200m in the form of Filippo Tortu, who ran the anchor leg for the team that won the 4x100m title at the Tokyo Olympics.

Italy's joint Olympic high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi is a late entrant to tomorrow's 1st division competition at the European Athletics Team Championships in Silesia which forms part of the 3rd European Games ©Getty Images
Italy's joint Olympic high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi is a late entrant to tomorrow's 1st division competition at the European Athletics Team Championships in Silesia which forms part of the 3rd European Games ©Getty Images

Maximum points would appear sure for Spain in the 1500m given the presence of world bronze medallist and European 5000m silver medallist Mohamed Katir, who finished second in this month’s Oslo Diamond League meeting behind the European record-breaking local hero Jakob Ingebrigtsen, clocking 3:28.89.

But the challenge of two other rising talents will make this one of the most compelling spectacles on the track.

Pietro Arese may have no family connection with Italy’s 1971 European champion Franco Arese but this 23-year-old is emerging as a potentially similar talent having broken through two years ago to become the Italian indoor 1500 and 3000m champion. 

Earlier this month Arese, who missed a European medal by one place last year, lowered his outdoor personal best to 3:33.56 in Bydgoszcz.

Meanwhile George Mills, the 24-year-old son of former England footballer Danny Mills, is also in formidable form having reduced his own personal best to 3:33.10 last month.

And further intrigue will be supplied by two of the continent's rapidly improving exponents. 

Only 18, double European U18 champion Niels Laros improved to 3:32.89 in Nice on Saturday (June 17), a time which has only been bettered by Jakob Ingebrigtsen among European U20s, and Portugal's Isaac Nader who has improved from 3:37.01 to 3:31.67 this year.

Having lowered his 5000m personal best to 12:58.60 in finishing sixth in Oslo - more than 15 seconds faster than that of any of his opponents in Silesia based on season’s best, Burundi-born Spaniard Thierry Ndikumwenayo, who is making his debut for his adopted nation, will be a threat to Italy’s European champion Yemaneberhan Crippa, who set a championship record of 13:17.23 in 2021.

Poland will look to their traditional strengths in the throwing events.

Ireland celebrate winning the 3rd league of the European Athletics Team Championships in the Slaski Stadium in Chorzow today ©Getty Images
Ireland celebrate winning the 3rd league of the European Athletics Team Championships in the Slaski Stadium in Chorzow today ©Getty Images

A mighty collision is in prospect in a men’s shot put that features their 2018 European champion Michal Haratyk, who will be seeking a hat-trick of wins at the European Athletics Team Championships.

But standing in his way is European indoor champion Zane Weir, one of the many Italian hopes for individual victory across the weekend, who threw an outright lifetime best of 22.06m to land gold in Istanbul.

Further home hopes will rest on the burly shoulders of Olympic men’s hammer throw champion Wojciech Nowicki.

And in the absence of their world hammer throw record-holder Anita Włodarczyk, who is still seeking her best form after missing last season with injury, Poland can call upon Olympic bronze medallist Malwina Kopron.

European indoor and outdoor champion Miltiadis Tentoglou helped Greece to promotion with victory in the long jump two years ago with a Championship record of 8.38m.

A mark in that region is likely to be needed to ensure victory against the likes of Italy’s precocious double European U18 champion Mattia Furlani, Swiss decathlete Simon Ehammer who beat Tentoglou in Oslo with 8.32m and Sweden’s consistent challenger Thomas Montler.

Ireland, relegated to the lowest tier of the competition when they were unable to compete in Silesia in 2021 because of coronavirus restrictions, won the third division event after earning maximum points in 14 of the 37 events. 

One of their winners today on her senior international debut was Sophie O'Sullivan, daughter of the 1995 world champion and Sydney 2000 silver medallist in the 5,000 metres, Sonia O'Sullivan, who ran in the 1500m.

A young and hungry Hungarian team earned the top promotion place to the top tier ahead of Ukraine on a day when all the second division drama attended the struggle for the third promotion place. 

Lithuania displaced Slovenia with two events remaining and went into the concluding mixed 4x400m with a lead of 3.50 points.

Slovenia's last leg runner Anita Horvat moved the team up from third to first place, but they still fell short of regaining their position by half a point as Lithuania held onto fourth place.

The Slovenians were left rueing the injury that caused their men's 200m runner Mateuz Sustarsic to hit the deck 60m from the finish, and the exhaustion, in hot and windless conditions, that overcame their men's 5,000m runner Vid Botolin at the same point on the final straight.

Botolin was sportingly supported to the line by Croatia's back-marker Dino Bosnjak, but was subsequently disqualified.