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Athletics - 14. February 2008.

European Athletics Indoor Cup: Women's Preview

In the women's teamcompetition, Russia are favourites to hold onto their crown, however as always in athletics their are likely to be some surprises with a host of fresh new talent making it's debut on the CSKA Arena's awe inspiring indoor facilities. One thing is for sure, this is guaranteed to be a weekend of exciting athletics action and to whet your appetites we will start today with a preview of the women's individual events...

Women's 60m
Russia's Svetlana Nabokina starts one of the warmest favourites of any event in the competition. The 25-year-old has improved this season by a massive 0.20, running a lifetime best of 7.16 at the winter meeting in Moscow, then backing this up by running 7.18 for the silver medal at the Russian Championships behind Yevgeniya Polyakova.

Her chief opposition will be World University Games 200m Champion Iryna Shtanhyeyeva of the Ukraine who has ran 7.27 this year. European U23 100m Champion Verena Sailer of Germany (7.30) is also entered.

Women's 400m
The host nation will anticipate maximum points from 2002 European 400m Champion Olesya Zykina. The 27-year-old Russian has endured a couple of quiet seasons since winning her gold medal in Munich but she appears back to her very best after bettering her five-year-old indoor personal best to 51.09 to win the Russian Championships.

Nataliya Pyhyda of the Ukraine is likely to be her main danger if she can approach her three-year-old lifetime best of 52.02. Also entered are German Jonna Tilgner (53.54) and Pole Agnieszka Karpiesiuk (53.51).

World Championships silver medallist Antonietta di Martino makes her
indoor debut in Moscow, heading up a fantastic field in the woman's
High Jump.

Women's 800m
One of the most intriguing events on the programme could throw up a classic four-lap battle. Leading the contenders is Spain's World Championship bronze medallist Mayte Martinez, who is making her first appearance over her favoured distance this indoor season after picking up two early season 1,500m victories. In opposition will be Italy's rising star Elisa Cusma Piccione, who despite running 1:58.63 was eliminated from the semi-finals of the World Championships. Mariya Shapayeva may have only finished fourth in 1:59.71 at the Russian Championships but such is the hosts unmatchable strength in depth in this event she will be expected to figure prominently.

Women's 1,500m

European Indoor bronze medallist Olesya Chumakova of Russia is the quickest in the field and the woman to beat in the 1,500m. Chumakova ran her season's best 4:07.41 to finish fourth in the Russian Championships and has the pedigree to claim maximum points.

German Antje Moldner could be Chumakova's strongest opponent, if she can come close to her lifetime best of 4:10.83. Italy's 800m specialist Elise Piccione Cusma is also entered in the 1,500m.

Women's 3,000m
Russia's Yelena Sidorchenkova aims to prove she can match her achievements over the barriers on the flat. The former European Cup 3,000m Steeplechase champion is the fastest in the field this year after running 8:44.61 to win the Russian Championships - this 27-year-old will be tough to beat. However, Italy's 2007 European Indoor bronze medallist Silvia Weissteiner (8.55.04) and former European Cup 10,000m Champion Sabrina Mockenhaupt of Germany (8:54.68) could be the very women who are up to the challenge.

European Indoor Shot Put Champion Assunta
Legnante (ITA) is looking to add the European
Indoor Cup title to her name

Women's 60m Hurdles
Valadzho Yauhenia of Belarus made a huge breakthrough by slicing 0.16 off her personal best to run 7.89 in Mogilyov last month and will start as the favourite in this event. The World University Games 100m Hurdles Champion, however, will not have things all her own way and she faces a strong challenge from Josephine Onyia of Spain who has twice dipped below the eight-second barrier this season. Russia's Tatyana Dektyareva, who was fourth in the Russian Championships, has ran 8.02 this season and will also threaten a podium position.

Women's High Jump

A mouthwatering field is headed by Italy's World Championships silver medallist Antonietta di Martino who makes her first indoor appearance of the season in Moscow. Opposing Di Martino will be Spain's Ruth Beitia, the World Indoor bronze medallist from two years ago, who is unbeaten in three indoor competitions this year. German Ariane Friedrich made a huge breakthrough by jumping 2.00m in Glasgow last month and is also expected to feature. Former European U23 Champion Tatyana Kivimyagi of Russia cleared a lifetime best of 1.98m earlier this season and is another danger.

Women's Long Jump
European Champion Lyudmila Kolchanova of Russia is the true class of the field having jumped 6.82m in Samara earlier this season. Kolchanova has a lifetime best of 7.21m outdoors and last year landed the World Championship silver medal.

Spain's European Indoor silver medallist Concepcion Montaner is expected to be her main rival and she has pierced the sand at 6.66m this season. Viktoriya Rybalko of the Ukraine has jumped 6.73m, but has not quite matched that form so far this year.
Spain's European Indoor silver medallist Concepcion Montaner is expected to be her main rival and she has pierced the sand at 6.66m this season. Viktoriya Rybalko of the Ukraine has jumped 6.73m, but has not quite matched that form so far this year.

Women's Shot Put
European Indoor Champion Assunta Legnante will be seeking to add the European Indoor Cup title to her name. The 29-year-old Italian has thrown 18.56m this season and is head and shoulders above the opposition in terms of her best distance this year. Russian Oksana Gaus has thrown 18.00m as is another to be respected. Watch out also for Yulia Leantsiuk of Belarus an 18.62m thrower at her very best.

Women's 2000m relay (800x600x400x200)
Russia have won the previous three editions of this event and will be strongly fancied to make it four out of four. The 2003 World 200m Champion Anastasiya Kapachinskaya is expected to run the anchor with European 200m silver medallist Yuliya Gushchina and Tatyan Firova, who climbed to third on the all-time 600m rankings earlier this year, also in the squad. Belarus and the Ukraine also field strong teams.

The European Athletics Indoor Cup, Moscow will be televised in a number of the competing countries as well as LIVE on Eurosport, commencing at 15.45 CET (14.45 GMT).

The provisional start lists are now available and the event will receive extensive coverage on this website over the weekend.
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