In focus | A closer look at Rising Stars Tzengko and Alekna

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  • In focus | A closer look at Rising Stars Tzengko and Alekna

Two of the world's most exciting prospects in the throwing events took top honours at the Golden Tracks award ceremony in Tallinn, Estonia on Saturday (22).

Greece's Elina Tzengko and Lithuania's Mykolas Alekna, both of whom won gold medals at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships at the age of 19, were crowned women's and men's Rising Stars for 2022. 

Interestingly, this was the first time throwers have swept the Rising Star awards at the Golden Tracks. We take an in-depth look at the two winners and their breakthrough seasons.

Elina Tzengko (Greece) | Profile

Season in summary:

Elina Tzengko was profoundly disappointed with her performance at the World Athletics Championships where she exited in qualifying but a transformed athlete appeared a few weeks later at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships.

After a challenging baptism on the senior stage in Eugene, Tzengko had a safe passage into the javelin final in Munich where she fulfilled some of the vast promise she had displayed in recent years at U18 and U20 level. Most notably, Tzengko came to wider attention when she broke the 60 metre-barrier for the first time at the age of 16.

Tzengko set the standard in Munich with a lifetime best of 65.81m with her second throw, a mark which went unchallenged for the remainder of the competition. Tzengko won the title by almost four metres ahead of her long-time age-group rival Adriana Vilagos from Serbia (62.01m) with world record-holder Barbora Spotakova bowing out with bronze (60.68m).

At only 19 years old, Tzengko became the youngest ever European champion - male or female - in the javelin.

Ea Poty Elina Tzengko 1 X1

What they said:

On winning gold in Munich at the age of 19: "I believe age is just a number. After the World Championships and the really bad performance I had there, a lot of people told me ‘Elina, you are so young, you can compete with the elite javelin throwers.’

"After that I went to the European Championships and I won the gold medal. When you train hard, you can achieve anything.

On whether she was surprised to win gold in Munich: "From my first step on the track in Munich, I was so ready and I just threw as far as I could."

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Five best marks in 2022:

  1. 65.81m - European Athletics Championships
  2. 65.40m - Ostrava 
  3. 62.09 - Thessaloniki
  4. 61.72m - Silesia Diamond League
  5. 61.66m - Szekesfehervar 

Did you know?

Elina has described Tallinn as her lucky city. Not only was she crowned women’s Rising Star in the Estonian capital on Saturday, she also won the European U20 javelin title in the same city in 2021.

Mykolas Alekna (Lithuania) | Profile

Season in summary:

The discus has often been considered to be a discipline in which athletes peak at a later age but the performances of Kristjan Ceh and Mykolas Alekna in recent seasons are challenging this conviction.

After winning discus silver behind Ceh at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, Alekna graduated to gold at the European Athletics Championships in Munich less than one month later at the age of 19. 

In far from ideal conditions, Alekna threw a championship record of 69.78m to defeat a field of the highest calibre. Not only did he defeat Ceh who had set a championship record of 69.51m to qualify for the final, Alekna also defeated all three medallists from the Tokyo Olympic Games to follow in the monumental footsteps of his father Virgilijus who won the European title in 2006.

Like Tzengko, Alekna has made the step from European U20 champion to European champion in one season. He also has the distinction of becoming the youngest ever discus champion in European Athletics Championships history.

Alekna also holds the unofficial world record for the longest ever discus throw by a teenager. The 70 metre-line tantalisingly eluded the American-based Lithuanian but Alekna had four competitions in excess of 69 metres with his best mark coming on his Diamond League debut in Stockholm where he threw 69.81m.  

Ea Poty Mykolas Alekna 1 X1

What they said:

On his breakthrough 2022 season: "I’m very happy. It was an unbelievable season and I couldn’t ask for more."

On throwing over 69 metres at the age of 19: "I think the secret is to have the right people around you so I want to say thank you to my family, teammates and coaches who support me every day."

On taking on the mantle of his father Virgilijus: "I don’t feel any pressure. I just try to enjoy the moment."

Getty Images 1435633808

Five best marks in 2022:

  1. 69.81 - Stockholm Diamond League
  2. 69.78m - European Athletics Championships
  3. 69.27m - World Athletics Championships
  4. 69.00m - Lithuanian Championships
  5. 68.91m - NCAA Championships (qualifying)

Did you know?

Mykolas' father Virgilijus, who won two Olympic and world discus titles in his career, was crowned men’s European Athlete of the Year in 2005. 

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