World champion Kristjan Ceh laid a marker in the ground that he fully intends to repeat his golden year of 2022, as he dominated the discus at the European Throwing Cup in Leiria, Portugal on Saturday (10).
Taking place at the National Training Centre adjacent to the main Leiria Municipal Stadium, Ceh repeated his victory from 12 months ago at the same venue where he laid the foundations for global success with 66.11m.
This year, in a quality series, he had the three longest throws overall and won by more than four metres with his third-round effort of 68.30m.
“It could be better, but I am really happy,” he said. “We lowered the training a little for the last three weeks and now again, full training on. So, a little bit prepared for the winter season, but not too much.
“Training is going really well. Much better than last year at the same time. So, I have high hopes for this season.”
The single blot on his copybook was falling a little short of coach Gerd Kanter’s championship best from 2009 of 69.70m. “I said to him ‘I’m going to get your record’, but sadly, maybe next year?” smiled the bespectacled giant afterwards.
Romania’s world finalist Alin Alexandru Firfirica was the best of the rest with a fourth round 63.78m, former world U20 champion Martin Markovic of Croatia was third with 62.20m.
Meanwhile in the main stadium, there was a breakthrough performance in the U23 competition, won by Germany’s Steven Richter in a new personal best of 64.23m.
Tzengko in sharp form on Saturday evening
In the women’s javelin, European champion Elina Tzengko of Greece underscored her position as one of the continent’s most exciting talents.
She led the women’s javelin right from the second round with a solid 61.78m. But it was in the final round, with victory secured, where the 20-year-old showed her best form. She unleashed a mighty throw of 63.65m to finish a clear victor from Serbian duo Marija Vucenovic and Adriana Vilagos.
Vucenovic's best of 60.56 came in the fifth round and European silver medallist Vilagos produced a best of 59.83m in round three.
Afterwards, a delighted Tzengko said: “I wasn’t really well prepared for this competition because our training programme is really heavy. That’s why I had a lot of ups and downs. But I tried to fix the technical thing we had to fix and in the last throw I did it and I’m really happy.”
The women’s U23 javelin event was later won by Croatia’s Veronika Sokota with a fourth round effort of 56.82m.
By contrast, the men’s hammer competition never quite ignited with most athletes still deep in winter training and it showed with the 80 metre line under no threat.
Nonetheless, Hungary’s world bronze medallist Bence Halasz got his season off to a solid start, producing a consistent series of five throws over 73 metres. His second-round effort of 74.65m was good enough for gold.
With summer’s World Athletics Championships taking place on home soil in Budapest, this year takes on even greater significance for Halasz. Afterwards, he said: “It’s a very important year. We are organising the World Championships in Hungary, it’s pretty exciting.
“Many people are talking about it, they are excited, they can’t wait for it. My main goal is to improve my personal best at the World Championships and see what result I can achieve.”
He also revealed he had suffered with illness and injury in January, and given the circumstances, he was satisfied with his performance.
“I wanted to throw further, but knowing I was sick, I was injured, it was a good effort. It could be better. But I am very proud of the technique. The technique was very good, but the shape could be better,” he said.
Former NCAA champion Thomas Mardal of Norway took a creditable second place with a fifth round best of 73.94m and Yann Chaussinand of France third with a final round effort of 73.25m.
Five-time world champion Pawel Fajdek was sixth with a best of 72.57m.
In the men’s U23 competition Olympic and world finallist Mykhaylo Kokhan of Ukraine produced the throw of the day to win with a final round effort of 75.80m. In a high-quality competition, European U20 champion Dawid Pilat of Poland was second with 72.42m and Turkey’s Halil Yilmazer was third in a personal best of 70.45m.
With home favourite Auriol Dongmo taking a break following her gold medal winning performance at the European Indoor Championships, it was left to Jessica Inchude – fourth in Istanbul – to carry the Portuguese challenge.
She came through with a second round throw of 18.14m to take gold, a significant upgrade from sixth place last year.
Germany’s Yemisi Ogunleye and Sweden’s Sara Lennman completed the podium with 18.09m and 17.95m respectively.
Great Britain’s Serena Vincent won the women’s U23 shot put with 16.90m.
Full results here.
The first day of Leiria 2023 European Throwing Cup was live streamed on the European Athletics YouTube channel and can be replayed here.
Chris Broadbent for European Athletics