Will Norway secure promotion back into the Super League in Cluj-Napoca?
Thirteen nations will battle it out for the two promotion spots into the Super League at the 2021 European Athletics Team Championships First League in Cluj-Napoca, Romania on 19-20 June.
The event will be staged in the city’s recently constructed multi-purpose Cluj Arena, a 30,000 seater which hosted the Balkan Championships last September.
The second-tier of Europe’s foremost team competitions will feature the five relegated teams from the Super League in 2019 - Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Sweden and Switzerland - along with Estonia who comfortably topped the standings in the Second League in Varazdin, Croatia in 2019.
Other leading aspirants for promotion into the Super League in 2023 are Belarus and Norway who finished second and third respectively in the First League in Sandnes, Norway in 2019 and have both competed in the Super League in years gone by.
The Norwegians came away with a record nine victories across the programme in Sandnes - compared to the four achieved by 2019 First League champions Portugal who were rewarded for their consistency - but their challenge for promotion back into the top tier for the first time since 2015 suffered a late blow with the unfortunate withdrawal of Karsten Warholm due to a stomach illness.
A full strength Norwegian team replete with the Ingebrigtsens, Warholm as well as the rapidly emerging and multi-talented Henriette Jaeger - who broke the world U18 heptathlon best in 2020 and whose range also includes a 52.52 400m - will be strong contenders for a return to the Super League in 2023.
Hosts Romania featured prominently back in the days of the European Cup - the predecessor to the European Athletics Team Championships which made its debut in 2009 - and their women’s team even finished second to Russia in 1993 and 1999, aided by the exploits of Gabriela Szabo and Ionela Tirlea among others.
But fast forward two decades later and the Romanians only finished eighth in the First League in 2019 and just missed relegation by one-and-a-half points. However, the likes of Claudia Bobocea in the middle distances as well as Alina Rotaru and Florentina Iusco in the horizontal jumps and Bianca Ghelber in the hammer should all contend for maximum points in their respective events.
A high quota of points is also anticipated from world fourth-placer Alin Alexandru Firfirica in the discus although he is likely to come up against either world champion Daniel Stahl or his training partner Simon Pettersson in the throwing circle.
All three Nordic nations will be in action in the First League which will add an interesting sub-plot to proceedings. Other nations in action in Cluj-Napoca include Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and Turkey.
The bottom three teams will get relegated to the European Athletics Team Championships Second League in 2023. The Second League in 2021 will be held in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.