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News03 Nov 2022


Gyulai István Memorial: where the world's best athletes are returning guests

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Gyulai István Memorial - Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix 2022 (© Zsigmond László)

Introduced in 2011, the Gyulai István Memorial - Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix has become an unmissable summer event for sports lovers. The world's best athletes come to the event, some of them are returning guests of the highest Gold level event of the Continental Tour Series.

It is very difficult to organise a sporting event, not only in Hungary, but anywhere in the world, which year after year produces a spectacular showcase of the world's best athletes. This year, the Gyulai István Memorial has managed to do so for the 12th time in a row, making it the second longest running consecutive sporting event in Hungary after the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix.

The growing popularity of the event and athletics is demonstrated by the fact that 2022 was the first time that the event was sold out in Székesfehérvár. Fans were able to see the potential stars of next year' s World Championships Budapest 2023, such as women's 400m hurdles world record holder Sydney McLaughlin, who also excelled in Hungary: no one in Europe has ever run the event as fast as the new queen of the sport (51.68).

Sydney McLaughlin at the Gyulai István Memorial - Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix 2022

Sydney McLaughlin at the Gyulai István Memorial - Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix 2022 (© Zsigmond László)

Armand Duplantis was also here, and though he left unfinished business in Hungary for next year's World Championships with the six-metre height, his 5.80-metre result was still a meeting record in the pole vault. One of the best female sprinters of all time, everyone's favourite Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, was a returning contender in 2022. This time she took the win with a meeting record of 10.67 seconds.

In the last two years, a total of 16 meeting records have been broken, with such incredible results that even some Diamond League tournaments would envy!

The Gyulai István Memorial in 2021 has become the year's fifth most prestigious one-day athletics meeting in the world, meaning that it has actually beaten a number of other one-day events in terms of results. In a season with hundreds of meetings, there is no shame in coming 12th this year. What's more, the Memorial managed to defend first place against all other events in the Continental Tour Series Gold, making it the strongest Gold meeting of the year!

The Gyulai István Memorial has a deserved place in the 125-year history of Hungarian athletics. In the 1980s, the Budapest Grand Prix enjoyed similar popularity as the Memorial that has been revived as its successor over the past decade.

The late IAAF General Secretary Istvan Gyulai, pictured in 2004

The late IAAF General Secretary Istvan Gyulai, pictured in 2004 (© Gyulai Memorial organisers)

István Gyulai's name proved to be an excellent invitation to the world's athletes and managers, as the event was first held in the fifth year after his untimely death. The meeting thus named after one of Hungary's best-known and most respected sports diplomat, former General Secretary of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), former General Secretary of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for a decade and a half, former 28-time Hungarian champion athlete and Universiade-winning Olympian István Gyulai.

In the midst of an economic crisis, Hungary managed to develop from almost nothing a one-day athletics competition that featured in its first year reigning Olympic and world champions, as well as world record holders, who achieved their best ever results in Hungary, or even in the world in 2011. 

Veronica Campbell Brown 8-time Olympic medalist sprinter at Gyulai István Memorial 2011

Veronica Campbell Brown 8-time Olympic medalist sprinter at Gyulai István Memorial 2011

From 2011, the Puskás Ferenc Stadium - formerly known as Népstadion - was originally the venue for the meeting, just like the Budapest Grand Prix. Asafa Powell, Christian Taylor and Yohan Blake also proved their impressive skills in the iconic facility, which has since been rebuilt without a running track and solely for football.

In 2014, Memorial moved to Székesfehérvár, where it found a real home at the Regional Athletics Centre in Bregyó köz. The more intimate, yet professional atmosphere has attracted many world stars, who have become returning guests and multiple winners in later years.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Anita Wlodarczyk, Daniel Stahl, Justin Gatlin, Pawel Fajdek and Gianmarco Tamberi have all been returning guests in Székesfehérvár. Another special feature of the Memorial is star-making, which gave the world the chance to meet Grant Holloway, who competed here for the first time abroad. Or the invitation of Erriyon Knighton, whose talent has been compared by many experts to that of Usain Bolt!

Mutaz Essa Barshim's world record attempt in the high jump in 2018 was one of the most iconic moments in the history of the event. There, at that attempt of 2.46 metres, many in the stadium could see the bar would stay up. It was barely by a whisker away, but the bar dropped mysteriously.

In 2020, even the outbreak of the coronavirus could not prevent the organisers from successfully hosting the event. The biggest star of that year was Noah Lyles, who won both the 100 and 200 metres. Luca Kozák, who has since become a silver medallist at the European Championships, also ran her first Hungarian senior record in the 100 m hurdles at this event, and has since improved even further.

Hungarian Luca Kozák competes with Gabriele Cunningham of US in 2022

Hungarian Luca Kozák competes with Gabriele Cunningham of US in 2022 (© Zsigmond László)

An important aspect of the meeting is to give Hungarian athletes the opportunity to compete against the best in the world. In this way, it also helps Hungarian athletes to develop. This is why in 2022 45 local athletes, more than ever before, were able to be cheered on by a full house. Although none of the former Hungarian winners of the Memorial (Anita Márton, Balázs Baji, Zoltán Kővágó, Krisztián Pars) could join the line-up, a few days later at the European Championships in Munich, we could see that the event served as a perfect rehearsal for them.

Along with the already mentioned Luca Kozák, Hungarian hammer thrower Bence Halász also returned home from the Bavarian capital with a silver medal.

The Gyulai István Memorial - Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix next year will play a more important role than ever before as one of the final stages of the qualification for the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023.

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