In the midst of winter training and with one month to go, some of the world’s leading throwers are starting to cast their minds towards their traditional season's opener at the 22nd European Throwing Cup in Leiria on 11-12 March.
This is the fifth occasion the event has taken place in the Portuguese city and it is set to provide an intriguing glimpse into the shape and form of some of the continent’s leading athletes ahead of the outdoor season. Both days of the competition will be streamed live through the European Athletics YouTube channel.
The event typically is laden with gold standard performances, with 17 Olympic champions across shot put, discus, hammer and javelin disciplines having competed at the event since it launched in 2001. Here’s some of the highlights from previous years.
Vetter unleashes a monster
Johannes Vetter, the 2017 world champion, caused a sensation when he sent his javelin out to 92.70m to win the 2018 event in Leiria by over twelve metres, adding more than seven metres to the championship record in the process.
The German returned to the European Throwing Cup in 2021 when he sent his spear beyond 90 metres again, this time with 91.12m in Split, Croatia.
On that occasion, Vetter was surprisingly overshadowed by the exploits of Poland’s Maria Andrejczyk who launched her javelin out to 71.40m in the women’s competition to move to third on the world all-time list and come within one metre of the world record.
New age group breeds new champions
The U23 categories were introduced for the first time in 2007 when the event was held in Yalta.
The biggest success story from the inaugural U23 competitions was arguably women’s discus winner Nadine Muller with 60.35m. The German went on to enjoy a stellar senior career including world silver and bronze and two silvers at the European Athletics Championships in 2012 and 2018.
Muller still holds the European Throwing Cup championship record with victory in the senior event in 2012 with 68.89m.
A legendary career lifts off
As a three-time Olympic champion, four-time world and four-time European champion Anita Wlodarczyk’s status in the sport is secure. But it was the European Throwing Cup which became her launchpad for international domination.
She uncorked a winning throw of 75.05m in the hammer at the 2009 edition in the resort of Los Realejos on the island of Tenerife in Spain. It was a statement victory as she went on to win her first major title at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin later that summer, breaking the world record in the process.
Her winning throw from 2009 also remains the championship record at the European Throwing Cup.
At a Kanter
As an Olympic and world champion in the men’s discus, Estonia’s Gerd Kanter is one of the most celebrated athletes in his country’s history. He is also the most successful athlete in the history of the European Throwing Cup.
Kanter won the event on six occasions out of seven between 2003 and 2009, his one blip coming in 2006 when he took bronze. His best performance was in Tenerife in 2009 where his throw of 69.70m is also still the championship record.
And his legacy in the event continues. His star pupil Kristjan Ceh from Slovenia kick-started his best season thus far with victory in the discus, defeating all three Olympic medallists in the process.
Big shot from Dongmo
Another highlight from the 2022 European Throwing Cup in Leiria was victory in the shot put from home favourite Auriol Dongmo.
In cool and damp conditions, Dongmo launched a winning throw of 19.68m - a precursor to her victory one weekend later at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade where she set an outright national record of 20.43m.
Chris Broadbent for European Athletics