A flying Dutchman looks like he could be the biggest threat to Russia’s former Olympic champion, Yuri Borzakovsky, in Friday’s 800 metres final at the European Championships in Helsinki.
Borza’s long and illustrious career – he won his Olympic gold eight years ago – still lacks a European title, but as the Russian demonstrated in Daegu last year, when winning world bronze in an African-dominated event, his patient, fast-finishing race style is still effective.
In the absence of the two Poles, 2010 European champion, Marcin Lewandowski and season leader, Adam Kszczot, it is Rob Lathouwers of the Netherlands who looks like leading the chase for the silver medal.
The Dutchman set a career best in Hengelo at the end of May with 1min 44.61sec and looked impressive in Wednesday’s heats, which makes his 2.15 odds to win a medal look especially attractive. If you fancy he could beat 2.25-rated Borzakovsky, you can back Lathouwers at 8.00.
The other likely medallist is Gareth Warburton, of Britain, on offer at 5.75 to win, or 1.85 to place.
Otherwise, it has been so far, so good. Mo Farah duly delivered in the 5,000m on Wednesday night, as our picks filled three of the top four places.
Elsewhere, following Wednesday night’s semis, Oleysha Povh, of Ukraine, has come in to 2.05 favourite to win Thursday night’s women’s 100m final.
Povh looks uncannily similar to her countrywoman and a previous European sprint champion Zhanna Block: shortish, strong, with a very powerful first 40 metres of her race.
Verena Sailer, Germany’s defending champion, could never get within a metre of Povh in the semi-final, and even at 4.00, there does not seem to be any attraction to back her to win.
Bronze looks to be the best that the German can hope for, since Bulgaria’s Ivet Lalova appeared to be Povh’s strongest competition. Lalova’s career has been plagued by injury – including on one freak occasion, breaking a leg during a warm-up.
But on Wednesday she looked fully fit for the first time in three years. She can be backed at 2.75 to win, though I suspect Povh will have enough to add the 100m title to the European 60m title she already holds.
Unibet’s head-to-head markets may offer some value here: Lalova at 1.72 to beat Sailer; and Povh at 1.45 to beat Sailer; Povh, at 1.60, to beat Lalova is the closest match to call. If you’re very brave, you might back Lalova at 2.20.
Robert Harting, Germany’s world champion, begins his campaign to win the European discus title on Friday morning. Offered as 1.50, yu canot realistically see past him for the gold medallist.
The world No1 since 2009, Harting has already thrown beyond 70 metres twice this season, and is a deserved favourite. This is one event which will very much serve as a form guide to the London Olympics in a month’s time, with Gerd Kanter (9.00) the probable runner-up.
But if he manages to tap his immense raw power, Lawrence Okoye, the London teenager and European under-23 champion, could land a medal. At 13.00 to win, were Okoye to steal Harting’s crown, it would be among the biggest upsets of the week.