Nine years ago in Marsa, Malta, Ivet Lalova-Collio won the 100m in the Third League of the European Athletics Team Championships – and it has been quite a journey since then. She also ran the third leg of the triumphant 4x100m team and finished second in the 200m as Bulgaria earned promotion into the Second League.
A similar outcome will be the target this weekend as Lalova-Collio, who has entered the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, will endeavour to add to her record of being the most successful athlete in the history of the competition.
And this time their promotion bid will come on the back of relegation in in 2017 as Bulgaria look for an immediate return to the First League. Since her double triumph in 2010, Lalova-Collio has won maximum points on seven other occasions, making her the most successful competitor in European Athletics Team Championships history.
And prior to the formation of the European Athletics Team Championships in 2009, Lalova-Collio amassed a gleaming record at the European Cup - most notably winning a sprint double as a 20-year-old in 2004, blasting to a lifetime best of 10.77 in the 100m.
#FactFriday Since 2004, Ivet Lalova-Collio has amassed 14 wins for Bulgaria at the European Cup and European Team Championships.— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) August 2, 2019
Lalova-Collio has entered the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the European Team Championships Second League in Varazdin, Croatia. pic.twitter.com/e45R42sJgI
But from Malta to Croatia, Varazdin stages the Second League on 10-11 August in what has the makings of a close two days of action involving some of European Athletics’ leading stars. Along with hosts Croatia and Bulgaria, the Second League is made up of Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia.
Due to the changes to the format which were approved last November, only the winning nation will gain promotion while the five lowest-ranked teams will be relegated into the Third League.
Along with Bulgaria, the Estonian and Danish teams were also relegated from the First League in 2017 while Luxembourg have moved up into the second tier having won the Third League two years ago ahead of Georgia and Malta.
The Bulgarians will be among the favoured teams in Varazdin having also called on the duties of Olympic silver medallist Mirela Demireva in the high jump, European indoor champion Radoslava Mavrodieva in the shot put while Gabriela Petrova will be attempting to contribute a full complement of points in both the long jump and triple jump.
And while this event is all about the team, there can be no escaping that the 12 nations are represented by some of the best individuals in the sport – and they come no bigger than the superstar of the home team.
Since Sandra Perkovic last took part at the European Team Championships in 2014, she has won four more major gold medals to confirm her position as arguably the greatest female discus thrower of all-time.
Olympic champions Sandra Perkovic and Sara Kolak have been named on Croatia's team for the European Athletics Team Championships Second League in Varazdin.— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) August 2, 2019
Final entries here: https://t.co/dEp0172sRv pic.twitter.com/3KGCfOFsqh
Now it is all about points. Five years ago Perkovic won the discus with 64.05m and finished third in the shot put but this weekend she will be focusing solely on her main event with recently crowned European U23 discus champion Marija Tolj taking part in the shot put.
Perkovic has a season's best of 64.77m from Rabat in mid-June and on that criteria, her nearest challenger will be Estonia's Katlin Tollasson who achieved a personal best of 58.12m in Tallinn, also in June.
The Croatian team will be strong in the throws as Perkovic is joined by Olympic javelin champion Sara Kolak who has returned to action after surgery. Kolak has a season’s best of 64.45m and has surpassed the 60 metre-line in three of her four competitions.
Another European champion in action is Israel's Lonah Chemtai Salpeter who was sensational in winning 10,000m crown in Berlin and she will aim for double maximum points in the 3000m and 5000m.
But the 3000m could be some race as Salpeter meets Denmark’s Anna Emilie Moller who won the 3000m steeplechase and 5000m titles at the European Athletics U23 Championships last month. Moller has entered both the 1500m and 3000m and along with Olympic 400m hurdles silver medallist Sara Slott Petersen, will be key as Denmark push for promotion back into the First League.
Estonia's Magnus Kirt is having a superb summer, with the European javelin bronze medallist leading the 2019 world list with 90.61m from June. He is the only man to break the 90m barrier this year and it would take something spectacular for him not to win at the weekend.
Another star name in action across the weekend is Cyprus’ Milan Trajkovic who won the 60m hurdles title at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March. Trajkovic will be seeking maximum points in the 110m hurdles and will also run for Cyprus in the 4x100m relay.