Zane Weir will open his outdoor campaign at the European Throwing Cup in Leiria, Portugal, on Sunday (12) just nine days after setting an Italian indoor shot put record of 22.06m to win the gold medal at the Istanbul 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
- Final entries for the European Throwing Cup 2023.
Now, Weir’s attention will turn to improving his outdoor best of 21.99m, a mark achieved when he set a Cup record at the same venue 12 months ago, as well as retaining his title.
“It feels good to be finally where I am. The previous season was difficult because of the broken finger but here I am now. I am happy that I am at this level which is higher than usual,” reflected Weir in the wake of his triumph in Türkiye, looking ahead to both Leiria and the World Athletics Championships later in the year after having to miss last year’s global gathering due to his damaged digit.
“It speaks volume for my coach [former European indoor champion Paolo Dal Soglio]. I am just really thankful. I still live with my coach and I manage to see my family for maybe three weeks a year. Without Paolo there is absolutely no way I would be here now,” he added.
Weir will have some familiar faces among his rivals in what promises to be a high-quality competition in Leiria.
The men’s shot put entry list includes Ukraine’s Roman Kokoshko, who took the bronze in Istanbul, as well as Luxembourg’s Bertemes and Weir’s training partner and friend Leonardo Fabbri.
Redemption on the menu for Bertemes and Fabbri
For Bertemes and Fabbri, Leiria offers a quick chance of redemption after below-par performances in Istanbul.
Bertemes led the European indoor lists prior to the championships with 21.93m but was almost a metre adrift of that distance when finishing fifth while Fabbri made the final only to have no less than six consecutive fouls.
Also in the field is Poland’s 2018 European champion Michel Haratyk who had an equally miserable time in Istanbul and failed to register a valid mark in qualifying.
Slovenia’s reigning world champion Kristjan Ceh is the big name in the discus and like Weir will be defending his Cup crown having also won in Leiria 12 months ago.
Ceh could well have in his sights the prodigious Cup record of 69.70m set by his coach, the former Olympic and world champion Gerd Kanter, which the Estonian threw in 2009 to take the last of his six Cup victories.
Eight other men have lifetime bests of 65 metres or better including Great Britain's 2022 European Athletics Championships bronze medallist Lawrence Okeye.
A lot of eyes will be on Germany’s emerging talent Mika Sosna, who took the World U20 silver medal last summer and improved his personal best with the senior 2kg implement to 65.57m last month.
Kokhan chooses U23 event
In the men’s hammer, no less than 11 men have thrown over 77 metres in their careers but star billing goes to the five-time world champion Poland's Pawel Fajdek who will compete in the Cup for the first time since he won in 2018.
Hungary's Bence Halasz, who won world championships bronze and European silver in 2022, is also in the field. Another man to look out for could be France’s Yann Chaussinand, who showed that winter training has gone well when he won his national winter throwing title with 76.92m last month.
However, Ukraine’s reigning European U23 champion Mykhaylo Kokhan, who only turned 22 in January, has opted to compete in the U23 competition even though he is an 80-metre-plus thrower on his day and finished seventh at the World Athletics Championships and fifth at the European Athletics Championships last summer, superb performances achieved despite all the upheavals to his preparations inevitably wrought by the war in his country.
Portuguese javelin record holder Leandro Ramos, who threw 84.78m last year, is the best thrower by a distance in his specialist event and could give the home crowd a win.
Ramos is certainly familiar with Leiria and has returned to win three times in domestic meetings since he finished second in the U23 Cup competition 12 months ago.
In the men's U23 javelin, Ukraine's reigning world U20 champion Artur Felfner will be the big favourite to take the title with a personal best of 84.32m - more than 10 metres better than anyone else in the field - and he has already thrown over 80 metres this year.
A win in Leiria would be the perfect confidence boost for Felfner, who will be looking to add a European U23 gold medal in July to his growing list of accolades.
The European Throwing Cup (Senior A events and selected other events) will be live streamed with English-language commentary on the European Athletics YouTube channel.
Phil Minshull for European Athletics