Olympic heroes including Adam Peaty, Max Whitlock and Laura and Jason Kenny are ready to light up Glasgow when the inaugural multi-sport European Championships gets underway today.
Big names proliferate across the six-sport programme – plus the associated athletics event in Berlin – in what promises to be a high-profile response to the inaugural – and entirely unconnected – European Games in Baku in 2015.
Also starring across 11 days of action will be cycling sprint star Mark Cavendish, Olympic diving champions Jack Laugher and Chris Mears and triathlete Alistair Brownlee, injury permitting.
Peaty may feel he has something to prove in Glasgow after a relatively disappointing Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast earlier this year, when his winning 100m breast-stroke time of 58.84 seconds was well outside his own world-record pace.
But fellow former Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington believes Peaty’s relentless hunger to push new boundaries in his sport could lead to a stunning return to form in Glasgow. Adlington said: “I think nothing is unrealistic when it comes to Adam any more. Clearly something wasn’t quite right on the Gold Coast and it wasn’t to do with his time – he just didn’t seem quite so calm and relaxed as he usually does at the big events.
“The trouble with Adam is he sets the bar so high. He’s spoken about staying unbeaten for the rest of his career but he is absolutely capable of dealing with the pressure he keeps putting on himself.
“He is such a phenomenal athlete and I think his recent results suggest he is back to being in a really good place and we could see something special in Glasgow.”
Returning to the same venue where he won his historic first world gymnastics title in 2015, Whitlock must also bounce back from a low-key performance in Australia, where he was beaten by rising Ireland star Rhys McClenaghan.
The bullish 19-year-old McClenaghan, who went on to win the second World Cup of his career in Turkey at the start of last month, is gunning for Whitlock once again on their favoured pommel apparatus.
Famously oblivious to his rivals’ performances, Whitlock will nevertheless be challenged to get the balance right as he looks to lay down his dominance for the start of the road towards Tokyo 2020.
Former triple world champion Beth Tweddle said: “Rhys has obviously got something about him if he can come out and hold his nerve when he is competing against the Olympic champion.
“But Max will have been working away on upgrades to his routine and what Rhys is doing will not concern him. If you find yourself constantly worrying about the other gymnasts, it is only going to affect your own routine.”
Becky Downie’s late withdrawal has left the Great Britain women’s team facing a tough challenge but Commonwealth champion Georgia-Mae Fenton is expected to lead the way with her unmissable uneven bars routine.
Laura and Jason Kenny will continue to strike a balance between the chase of medals and the joys of parenthood as they return to track competition alongside Scottish favourite Katie Archibald.
Laugher and Mears head a strong diving competition in Edinburgh, while Brownlee is facing a fight to be fit for the men’s triathlon after struggling since his own Commonwealth Games disappointment in April.
Rowing and a golf team competition at Gleneagles round off a competition which its respective organisers hope will evolve into a regular event on the continental sporting calendar.