Championship records of 69.29m and then 69.94m in the discus by Slovenia’s Kristjan Ceh proved the high points of day two in the 2nd Division at the Silesia 2023 European Athletics Team Championships on Wednesday (21) when Slovenia cemented their promotion prospects in the Slaski Stadium.
- Full results here.
The 24-year-old world champion and European silver medallist thus very thoroughly eclipsed the mark of 68.76m set by the Estonian who has coached him since February 2022, Gerd Kanter, who greeted his efforts with a broad grin under his jaunty white cap.
On a day when Hungary increased their lead over Ukraine at the top, the efforts of the 24-year-old who looks like a version of Superman who has forgotten to take off his glasses played a huge part in keeping his nation securely in the third promotion place.
“My coach didn’t tell me to break the championship record today,” Ceh said. “It was someone from my management agency who e-mailed me saying my coach was the record-holder and I could beat his mark. But he is a really good coach with good plans. We have a strong team this year, a good team spirit and I hope we make it to the first division.”
It's Hungary's to lose after two days completed
Heading into tomorrow’s concluding session Hungary have 331 points and a seemingly unassailable lead over Ukraine 293.50 and Slovenia 266.50, with fourth-placed Lithuania a distant fourth on 231.
The difference at the top was exacerbated in the penultimate event of the women’s 4x100m where Ukraine dropped the baton in their second changeover and Hungary won in a national record of 43.49.
But the Ukrainian men’s 4x100m did their best to make amends as they won the concluding race in 39.03 from Slovenia (39.29) and Hungary (39.67).
A Hungarian team, energised by the imminent prospect of a home World Athletics Championships, had begun the second of three competition sessions leading with 159 points from Ukraine on 138.50, with Slovenia occupying the third promotion place on 121.50.
But three other nations arrived with sustainable promotion ambition – Romania on 114, Latvia on 112 and Croatia on 111.50.
Ukraine got off to a winning start in the opening field event as 22-year-old Mykhaylo Kokhan came good with 77.03m to win from Hungary’s Donat Varga, who had a best of 73.75m.
Kokhan, who said he is targeting the European Athletics U23 Championships and the World Championships this year, added: “I don't know about winning here, but I believe Ukraine will be in the top three for sure.”
Hungary’s first maximum points bundle was delivered in the women’s 100m hurdles, where Luca Kozak won in 12.89 from Mette Graversgaard of Denmark, who clocked 12.95.
“The main goal for this year is of course the World Championships in Budapest,” said Kozak. “I set a national record last year at the European Championships and I would like to do the same this time. The Ukrainian team is really strong, but the most important thing for us is to be in the top three here.”
A late run by Ukraine’s Natalia Krol earned her victory in the women’s 800m in 1:59.77, just ahead of the long-time leader Bianka Keri of Hungary, who was second in 1:59.80 – one of four personal bests set in a fast and competitive race.
Krol won despite being spiked in the course of the race, finishing with blood running down her leg.
Sutej and Ceh star for promotion hopefuls Slovenia
Slovenia’s 34-year-old European bronze medallist Tina Sutej delayed her entry to 4.30m in the women’s pole vault, and first-time clearances at that height, 4.40m and 4.50m were enough to see off all competition.
The last challenger was Hungary’s Hanga Klekner, who finished second in equalling her personal best of 4.45.
As Sutej was clearing that winning height her compatriot Ceh was being introduced as the men’s discus field appeared in a stadium in which conditions had returned to their earlier heat and humidity.
She went on to make first-time clearances at 4.60m and 4.70m before setting the bar at 4.77m, one centimetre above her current 2023 European leading mark and personal best, without managing it.
“The most important thing was to win in this competition, then I could try to set my PB,” said Sutej. “I think we've got pretty good chances for the promotion and tomorrow we’ll know much more.”
Ceh arrived as strong favourite having recorded 71.86m in Johvi, Estonia last Friday to go joint fourth on the all-time list.
But he was not about to underestimate Lithuania’s 31-year-old Andrius Gudzius, the 2018 European champion, who won the world title in 2017 and took bronze behind him in Oregon last year.
The Slovenian set about imposing his dominance from the off with a first-round effort of 67.30m that replaced the 62.22 set by Gudzius as the leading mark before establishing his record marks.
Gudzius, who has thrown 66.50 this season, improved doggedly to 63.62 in the third round and then to 64.94 to finish second.
First part of the double complete for Bekh-Romanchuk
Meanwhile in the women’s triple jump Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, who won the European title last year in a personal best of 15.02m, set about imposing her own domination on the field as she took a first-round lead with 14.44m and improved to 14.58m in round two for what proved the winning mark.
"Our team is competing here for our country, for the people. I won't say I'm happy with my result, I wanted bigger jumps, but it's important I got top points. The message from our captain [Anna Ryzhykova] was for the whole team to be strong, as all our country needs to be stronger now. I will be competing in the long jump tomorrow and I am hoping for another win," said Bekh-Romanchuk.
While Ukraine’s European champion strove for maximum points, European silver medallist in the women’s 400m hurdles, Viktoriya Tkachuk, delivered a victory in 55.87 from Slovenia’s Agata Zupin, who clocked 56.58.
Milan Trajkovic won the men’s 110m hurdles for Cyprus in the manner expected of an Olympic finalist and former European indoor champion, clocking 13.38 ahead of Hungary’s Balint Szeles on 13.68.
Another highlight was Estonia’s 31-year-old Rasmus Magi, the 2014 European silver medallist, a clear winner of the men’s 400m hurdles in 48.63, with Slovenia’s Matic Gucek earning vital points in second place in 49.48, the fastest European U23 time of the season.
Mike Rowbottom for European Athletics