Gianmarco Tamberi (R) and Marcell Jacobs carry home hopes at the 2024 European Athletics Championships. BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Olympic champions Gianmarco Tamberi and Marcell Jacobs are among Italy's big hopes at Rome's Stadio Olimpico as the European Athletics Championships get underway, with both men believing the hosts can finish top of the medal table.

Tamberi, who famously shared high jump gold with Qatar's Mutaz Barshim in Tokyo, is yet to make his debut this Olympic year. However, the 32-year-old is feeling "positive vibes" ahead of the European Championships - running from 7-12 June - where he will captain the Italian team.

On the eve of the competition, he told reporters about having to skip his intended seasonal bow in Ostrava on 27 May. He said, "Everything had been going very well since October. Maybe my nervous system was down - I was tired and I got some problems with my knee. I did a jumps session one week before Ostrava and it was a total disaster.

“I was getting very nervous to compete in Olympic year with a possible bad result so I decided to take a little while to get back to normal status. But I’m feeling much better now. Starting at a home European Championships is more pressure, but when things get tough it is more fun. I would love to win but my main goal is to focus on my performance. I want to come away with a good height in my pocket, and if there is gold it’s even better."

Moments after Tamberi won gold in Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, Jacobs stunned the world by taking the 100m in a European record 9.80 seconds. Injuries have hampered the American-born sprinter's progress since, and he left long-time coach Paolo Camossi to work under Rana Reider in Florida last year.

Jacobs is the defending European champion having been victorious in Munich in August 2022 where he clocked 9.95 - his last sub-10 second run - with Zharnel Hughes and Jeremiah Azu chasing him home. The British pair have opted to skip this event, but Jacobs is keen to impress in a place which means so much to him.

"You have to understand how important it is competing in this city," he said. "Rome is where I learned everything, it's where it started for me. I want to give something back to the people this weekend. There's a lot of pressure here, to be competing as Olympic and European champion."

On his coaching switch, Jacobs commented, "When you change everything in training it’s difficult, I've had to open my eyes on many things. I learned I had to change many things and start from scratch, but I'm sure this weekend we can do great things.

"Only by competing do you put pieces together. The last competition gave me a lot but still a lot is missing. Hopefully here I will fit together more pieces. We still have a couple of months until the Olympics and there is time to fine-tune a few things to get into perfect shape."

Italy finished seventh in the medal table in Munich with three golds, two silvers and six bronzes. Hopes are high for more this time with Yeman Crippa defending his 10,000m title - he is also entered in the half-marathon - and long jumpers Larissa Iapichino and Mattia Furlani expected to challenge for medals. Leonardo Fabbri and Zane Weir will both be targeting podium finishes for the hosts in the shot put while Jacobs and Filippo Tortu are among the quartet bidding for men's sprint relay gold having been surprise winners at the Tokyo Olympics.

On the home squad's prospects, Tamberi said, "My team is prepared to do crazy well at these championships. We are reaching a crazy peak. Everyone wants the others to succeed and this creates a positive bond. So I am putting the pressure on our guys!" He nodded as Jacobs added, "Our goal is to arrive top of the rankings."

Norwegian duo Karsten Warholm and Jakob Ingebrigtsen are among the headliners in Rome along with fellow world champions Femke Bol (400m hurdles) and pole vault king Armand Duplantis. World and Olympic long jump champion Miltiadis Tentoglou is also set to take part, while Croatia's Sandra Perkovic - now competing under her married name of Elkasevic - is seeking a record seventh consecutive European title in the discus.

Bol won the 400m hurdles, 400m flat and women's 4x400m relay in Munich two years ago. She will not run the one-lap flat race this time, but still has three golds in her sights starting on the opening night with the mixed 4x400m relay final.

The Dutch star said, "I am really excited to go out there first with the team and then alone. For the Olympics also, the relays are really important for us now. We are also world champions on the women’s side. I’m looking forward to this whole season, but first up, Europeans."

Femke Bol speaks ahead of the European Championships as Malaika Mihambo and Gianmarco Tamberi look on. GETTY IMAGES
Femke Bol speaks ahead of the European Championships as Malaika Mihambo and Gianmarco Tamberi look on. GETTY IMAGES

Germany topped the medal table on home soil two years ago with five golds. Four of those victors - Gina Luckenkemper (100m), Richard Ringer (marathon), Julian Weber (javelin),  and Niklas Kaul (decathlon) - will defend their titles in the Eternal City. Olympic long jump champion Malaika Mihambo will hope to regain her title from 2018 after taking silver two years ago. 

Luckenkemper may find life difficult with Britain's 2018 champion Dina Asher-Smith seemingly back to her best after making her own trans-Atlantic training switch. Keely Hodgkinson leads Britain's hopes in the women's 800m, after her win over world champion Mary Moraa at the Eugene Diamond League, with world indoor pole vault champion Molly Caudery another contender. Meanwhile, reigning world heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson is set for a thrilling duel with Belgium's Olympic gold medallist Nafi Thiam.