Two years ago, in Torun, on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics, Portugal had its best ever participation in indoor Europeans, three medals, all gold. The bar is high for the Istanbul Europeans, which start this Thursday, but the Portuguese entourage, which will be the largest ever in the competition (22 athletes) is once again “armed” with its three 2023 champions: Pedro Pablo Pichardo, Patricia Mamona and Auriol Dongmo. All of them come to Turkey with the will to repeat the titles.
For Pichardo, the European Championships in Torun marked the beginning of a winning cycle in Portugal. After that competition, the Portuguese athlete born in Santiago de Cuba won almost everything there was to win: gold in the Olympic, World and European Athletics Games, remaining “only” for silver in the World Championships. indoor last year. And, looking at the competition he will have in Istanbul, there doesn’t seem to be anyone with the legs to challenge him.
The Portuguese jumper has the best personal mark among the 18 entries (18.08m, from the time he competed for Cuba) and, of all, he has the best mark in 2023 (17.12m). After him, the best record is that of Dimitrios Tsiamis (17.55m, mark made in 2006), but the Greek, this season, is far from this (16.52m). Even so, it is worth paying attention to what the German Max Hess (16.87m in 2023) or the Italians Bocchi (16.83m) and Ihemeje (16.99m) can do. And Tiago Pereira, the other Portuguese in the competition, can also reach the final, he who was a finalist at the Eugene Worlds.
Pichardo admits that he is not at 100% for these Europeans in Istanbul and that his participation was in doubt. “In Torun it was my first medal for the country. Coming back is an important thing. I was in doubt whether to go or not. my coach [Jorge Pichardo, o pai] I didn’t want to in principle”, the 29-year-old jumper told the Lusa agency, who, like Tiago Pereira, will be in action on the first day of competition in Turkey.
Patrícia Mamona also enters the triple women’s contest with the personal best (15.01m, national record made in Tokyo 2020) and the best mark of the year (14.41m) among the 18 entries. The Olympic vice-champion participates for the sixth time in the indoor Europeans – she is the second Portuguese with more participations in the competition, after the seven presences of the sprinter Luís Cunha.
And aims for a new personal best indoor and, who knows, a third medal in the competition, after silver in Belgrade 2017 and gold in Torun. “I remember before the Olympic Games I wrote that I was going to do 15 meters and left. Now I have written the mark I want to make, but it’s a secret, but I know that I’m worth much more than 14.53m. I’ve already proved that I’m fit for the European Championships, and I want to jump more. At the Europeans, I want to get the personal record that I think is about to come out, but it’s not guaranteed”, reinforced the 34-year-old jumper.
Like Pedro Pichardo, Auriol Dongmo, who was born in Cameroon, also had his Portuguese debut at the European indoor track two years ago with a gold medal and, since then, has reinforced his status as one of the best throwers in the world. But his favoritism in Istanbul is less absolute, due to the presence in competition of Jessica Schilder, the young Dutchwoman who has been present on the podiums of major competitions in the recent past – European champion in Munich and bronze in the Eugene Worlds and in the Worlds indoor in Belgrade.
After the three candidates for the title, Portugal still has a lot of athletes that can reach the position of finalist. There are great expectations regarding the debut with the Portuguese colors of Arialis Gandulla, Benfica’s sprinter born in Cuba. Gandulla is one of the three Portuguese entered in the 60m, along with veteran Lorene Bazolo and Rosalina Santos, being the one in the best shape – 7.18s in the winter season, one hundredth of the national record, fourth mark among the 38 entries .
Carlos Nascimento, finalist two years ago in Torun (he was 5th), will also have expectations in the men’s 60m, proof that will have the presence of the Olympic champion of the hectometer, the Italian Marcel Jacobs. In the 1500m, both in men’s and women’s, the door to the final seems open. Isaac Nader is 11th among those registered, while Marta Pen has the seventh time – the long distance runner from Benfica is in an excellent moment, having beaten her personal record of 3000m twice in the last week.